The place, which is known nowadays as Middleton Place Gardens, was the first place in the South Carolina, where the French explorer and botanist, Andre Michaux, planted tea in the 18th century. In the 19th century tea was already served cold. The tea drink was called punch, and it was a mixture of green tea with liquor or some other alcohol drink. The punch varieties were given regional or sometimes patriotic names, such as Chatham Artillery Punch or Charleston's St. Cecilia Punch. American typical punch recipe was as follows: first, it was necessary to make very strong tea (a pint and a half), then add 2 cups of sugar and half a pint of generous sweet cream, and stir everything gradually with a bottle of claret or champagne. The drink could be served either hot (boiling) or cold.
The oldest recipe of ice tea comes from a community cookbook under the title "Housekeeping in Old Virginia", by Marion Cabell Tyree (1879). This is an ancestor of contemporary ice tea with sugar and lemon. From the very beginning of the 20th century different types of ice tea have been described in cookbooks and black tea have begun to replace green tea in ice tea preparation. With the gradual spread of ice tea popularity, Americans were buying special tall ice tea glasses, lemon forks and long spoons. Ice tea gained immense popularity during the years of American Prohibition (1920-1933), for the sales of beer, wine and other alcohol were restricted.
If you have heard of ice tea but never tried it, it is better at first not to go to some cafe or restaurant, because not every cafe offers a real ice tea. It can be no more than a tea drink somewhat resembling ice tea, and it will ruin all your expectations. It would be better to prepare tea yourself using the recipe that follows. To make one and a half quart of iced tea, put a quart (that is 4 cups) of fresh, cold water in a teapot or pan or whatever and bring it to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, pour it over five small tea bags in a heatproof container. Do not pour gently; let it splash down on the tea bags. Set the container aside and allow the tea to steep for at least an hour. Then take the teabags out. You can squeeze them to get that last drop of flavor. If you want "sweet tea," add a scant cup of sugar and stir it until dissolved. Then add two more cups of cold water, stir, and chill. Cut a lemon into several wedges and serve a wedge with each glass.
If you want to prepare the finest ice tea, you should take into consideration the following instructions. The best tea brand for ice tea is Orange Pekoe, as it gives dark amber color and generous flavor. It is important to use a glass or glazed pitcher, not plastic or metal containers, as they often impart flavors which mar natural tea flavor. It is advisable to make fresh tea every time, but not to keep an old one in the refrigerator, as it looses its natural taste and flavor. Finally, it is necessary to cool the tea until cold before adding ice cubes to it, for if you put ice into warm tea, it will melt and spoil the drink.