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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about tea. Only 96 summers ago, modern day iced tea was invented as a popular thirst quencher. But the history of tea and its leaves goes back more than 5000 years.


CURWOOD: For many people, nothing hits the spot on a hot summer day like a frosty glass of ice tea. The first ice tea is said to have first been served in 1904 in an act of commercial desperation. As the story goes, a tea vendor at the St. Louis World's Fair was having little luck selling regular hot tea during a heat wave. So, he finally got the idea to pour ice into the brew and hit the jackpot. Tea leaves come from a pointy green plant by the name of Camellia sinensis, that's native to India and China. Wild Camellia can grow up to 30 meters high. And centuries ago, monkeys were recruited to pick the leaves and drop them into baskets. The flavor of tea depends upon the soil, the climate, and the altitude where it's grown, as well as the way it's processed and blended with other teas. The world's first hot cup of tea is also the stuff of legend. A Chinese emperor was reclining under a tea tree nearly 5,000 years ago while his servant boiled some water. A leaf fell from the tree and landed in the pot. When the emperor drank from the pot he discovered a taste that would eventually captivate much of the world. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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