Is There Also An Iced Coffee Line--In Virginia?
Many thanks to Steve Hendrix for two weeks of superb posts in the Guest Blogger slot here on the big show--Steve showed fabulous range and took us all on some delightful journeys, including his last contribution, last Friday, in which he explored the ancient and contemporary mysteries of the Iced Tea Line, that uncharted boundary between the Land of Sweet Tea and the Nation of The Unsweetened, a border that defines much of what's still distinctive about regions of the United States, and, Steve posited, a line that likely runs through Virginia.
Sure enough, just minutes after Steve posted his piece, a reader--"Tucker"--came up with a link to what appears to be a semi-scientific study mapping out the Iced Tea Line, and indeed it runs smack across south central Virginia. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule: We can all cite places here in the Washington area that didn't get the memo about being north of the Iced Tea Line, but in general, the data points on that site look reasonable enough. (The anonymous researcher who created the Iced Tea Line map also informs us that sweet tea is a remarkably recent invention, reportedly winning widespread popularity only at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis. But a more nuanced version of that story, here, argues that sweet tea was fairly common for many years before that, yet even this account concedes that the Fair did play a role in spreading the word about the thirst-quenching power of the drink.)
Which leads me to the next phase of our research project: Iced coffee. It was just a few years before the Starbucks Era that my friend Ed and I found ourselves in Vicksburg, Miss., one summer morning, where, after a naive attempt to order iced coffee resulted in three different servers concluding that we were joking with them or that we were utter morons, we ended up giving out step-by-step directions on how to create an iced version of the good old American cup of joe.
Now, of course, iced coffee has been added to menus not only at Starbucks and its competitors, but also at Burger King and other fast fooderies. But prior to the spread of $3 coffee, the iced drink was a regional phenomenon, not quite the north-south divide that sweet tea represents, but nonetheless another geocultural marker.
So, once again, we appeal to you in another bit of crowdsourcing on a pressing world issue: Did iced coffee exist where and when you grew up? My early sense from a few probes around the Washington region is that the drink was fairly common in the pre-Starbucks era in Maryland, but far less so in Virginia. But the drink's northeastern roots in this country also meant that iced coffee was a commonplace in Florida, California and other such places that drew lots of transplants from the northeast in the mid-20th century, so this map is not likely to be a clean north-south cut. Any and all guidance on the geography of iced coffee is welcome.
True connoisseurs of iced coffee contend, as they do with so many aspects of the Starbucks culture, that the behemoth chain has done some damage to the pure method of creating iced coffee. Here's a breakdown of the difference in how the drink is brewed, and here's a visit to a Houston company that contends it invented--or at least adapted--the cold-brewing process for iced coffee in the 1960s.
Come on ahead with your testimonials as we search for the Iced Coffee Line.
By Marc Fisher |
August 18, 2008; 8:13 AM ET
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