With Memorial Day here to usher in the official unofficial start of summer, it’s time to dive into a subject that has long eluded me: iced tea.  The past few years have seen so many different trendy iced teas that I sorta gave up on trying to keep them straight.  But as the weather keeps getting hotter, the time has come to settle this once and for all.

(And no, I’m not including boba tea here, since that’s almost an entirely separate cultural phenomenon in of itself)


Out of all the teas on the list, kombucha has probably seen the biggest explosion of popularity.  And it’s easy to see why, as it combines the trendy appeal of fermented foods while touting a myriad of health benefits.  Also, if you’re that kind of person, you can also giggle to yourself about how it’s technically alcoholic.

The fermented tea claims to have benefits such as improving digestion, controlling diabetes, reducing blood pressure, preventing cancer, and detoxification.  However, the only one of these claims to have been tested (diabetes) was done in a poorly executed study with no control group, and it’s generally believed that the tea itself has pretty much the same amount of antioxidants as any other tea.  Also, and this is pretty much just my own conjecture here, your body already has a built-in detox, it’s called your kidneys.  But even if the health claims are bullshit, it’s not doing any harm.  Except for one woman who allegedly died from drinking homemade kombucha (which has a lot of homemade kombucha enthusiasts claiming that it’s just a conspiracy being spread by Big Kombucha). 

Yerba Mate

I’m no longer sure if this one counts, as apparently it’s not even technically tea.  The term “yerba mate” itself technically refers to the plant, a relative of holly indiginous to South America, while “maté” refers to both the drink made from steeping its stems and leaves and the gourd-shaped mug it is traditionally steeped in. Offering a unique vegetal flavor and caffeine contents similar to espresso, yerba mate has become wildly popular in its traditional loose-leaf form, bottled as an iced tea (ish) product, and as an additive in new-age energy drinks.

[Insert Nationality Here]-Iced Tea

I’ve noticed in recent years there’s also been an uptick in iced tea varieties with various different nationalities attached.  Thai iced tea seems to be the most common, being found in pretty much any Thai restaurant. It starts with strongly brewed black tea, sometimes steeped with star anise, orange blossom or tamarind, then is mixed with sugar and condensed milk.  

Another variety that has begun to gain some traction is Moroccan iced tea.  Also known as Maghrebi mint tea, it is brewed with “gunpowder tea-” green tea where each individual leaf has been rolled into a pellet- that is then poured over spearmint leaves.  Traditionally served hot, the iced variant is typically attributed to the Spanish, who spread it to the rest of the West. (I was prepared to say something here about “fucking European colonizers” when I remembered that, given the Moorish occupation of Spain, it’s just as likely to be the other way around.  Oops.)

And that’s the tea.

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