3 ice cubes, each containing a frozen strawberry, stacked on a black surface.

Glaciers, icicles, hail, ice-cubes, veraglas, black-ice, icebergs, and Arctic ice all have something in common. They are varying forms of ice, and when touched, the sensation of cold is immediate. 

Hot And Cold 

I have been extremely hot lately. My car had been extremely hot until I was able to have the air conditioning repaired. My dogs have only been out in few minute intervals during the hottest part of the day. And my gardens have suffered due to the heat; the plants have wilted by the end of the hot day. On these summer days when the temperature climbs upwards and the heat index rises as well, my mind gravitates to staying cool. I find I have filled up my glass of water with ice and prepared iced tea in these last few weeks, more than I had all year thus far. This is out of character for me, for I generally do not use ice in my beverages. No personally divisive point, I just get chillled easily. These last few weeks have been the exception! 

Cubed Or Crushed 

A close-up of round ice cubes.

At the World Tea Expo this past Spring while walking down an expo aisle, I noticed an ice machine vendor booth. The vendor had a display of different shapes of ice. I had never really thought about different shapes of ice before looking at their display. What ensued was an interesting and esoteric discussion regarding the varying ice shapes and melting points of ice cubes. 

Well, let me clarify a previous statement. The only “ice” shapes I had pondered were the shape of diamonds, frequently referred to as ice. Diamonds have been referred to as ice for numerous reasons including their glass-like, and clear appearance. More interestingly and something I did not know about diamonds, is that they can pull heat away from items they are scored against. Their threshold of heat is extremely high, around 1400 F, before they begin to burn and breakdown. Diamonds can pull heat away from contact items during friction, in essence, they “ice” down that object. An example can be found in the diamond drill bit. While drilling with a diamond drill bit, the diamond can extract heat away from the item being drilled into. In turn, absorbing the temperature of the drilled item due to the friction between the item and the diamond. 

Diamonds are often referred to as ice.

Just like a diamond cut can affect the amount of sparkle emanating from within the diamond, the shape of the ice can affect the dilution rate of the iced beverage. The larger and chunkier the ice is, the slower the ice melts, sustaining the integrity of the beverage. The dilution rate of ice in a beverage can also be dependent upon ambient air temperature, the temperature of the drink prior to being iced, and the temperature of the glass, or mug prior to use. Shapes of ice can include oblonged ice, crushed ice, or squared ice. There are novelty shaped ice cube trays; freezing water into the shapes of cacti, guitars, roses, fish, or spheres to name a few. 

Interesting Ice Substitutes

3 forms of ice; plastic palm trees and a plastic lemon slice, ice, and stainless steel cubes.

The form of ice that I have primarily focused on in this blog has been comprised of water. There are, however, unique and even colorful ice substitutes that can be used in beverages. Ice cubes can take the shape of food grade safe lemon wedges, or fun palm trees for those summer time iced tea drinks. There are food safe stainless steel freezing cubes, and drink stones that can be used as well to ice a beverage. 

A glass teacup with ice cubes balancing on two saucers. One saucer has plastic palm trees and a plastic lemon slice on it, and the other has stainless steel cubes.

I did my own at home experiment using what I had on hand, to determine which ice substitutes stayed the coolest given its weight and material discrepancies. I placed manufactured palm trees and a lemon slice shaped ice cube in a room temperature glass along with metal cubes and ice in two other glasses. The glasses where kept at room temperature, immulating how iced tea is practically served in a room temperature glass. The cute palm trees and lemon slice manufactured ice cubes lost their coolness rapidly, within approximatly 15 minutes. The stainless steel cubes remained cold for roughly 30 minutes. The oblong ice remained the chilliest option for maintaining the tea’s cold temperature, lasting roughly 45 minutes. The tea was diluted somewhat, but not drastically, with melting ice. I feel confident in recommending old fashioned ice, made with water, to cool drinks and maintain a cold temperature throughout sipping the beverage. While the substitute ice forms did cool the drinks and add visual interest to my glass of tea, in my opinion, they did not keep my tea as cold for any length of time, as ice cubes. 

The longest lasting coolest were the ice cubes. They maintained an even coolness throughout the drink. The stainless steel cubes kept the drink cool for a little bit. The palm trees and lemon slice were a fun additive but did not cool the drink.

History Of Iced Tea 

A glass of iced tea on a table next to some apples. The iced tea has a straw, lime slices, and pineapple pieces.

Iced tea folklore credits a happenstance for the invention of the chilled beverage. St. Louis, Missouri was the site for the 1904 World’s Fair. It was summertime during the Fair and St. Louis was hot, humid, and muggy. A tea merchant was unsuccessful in capturing people's attention and desire for a cup of hot tea. Richard Blechynden decided to pour the steeped tea over ice, offering a cooled down beverage for heat weary Exposition visitors. Iced tea was a success at the World’s Fair and continues to be a refreshing way to enjoy tea on a blistering hot day. 

Ice History 

3 ice cubes stacked on a black surface.

The ice maker, or ice machine has been, relatively speaking, a recent modern invention. Years before the modern ice maker, or ice machine, ice was often cut from frozen lakes, or pre-made in winter by freezing water in pans, pots, or other receptacles. The immense ice blocks that were sold via an ice wagon, were chipped into chunks, and used in cellars and wooden refrigerator/cooler boxes, to keep perishables cold. 

The year was 1805, and an American inventor by the name of Oliver Evans, designed the first machine using refrigeration. Following closely behind was Jacob Perkins, an American mechanical engineer, inventor, and physicist, who won numerous patents for his design of a refrigeration machine. The user friendly refrigeration machine was built in 1834, and it cooled items down by ether in a compression chamber. Jacob Perkins is still considered the father of refrigeration. In the early 1850’s an American inventor and physician, John Gorrie, was awarded a patent for his design of an ice maker. He also constructed plans for a rudimentary refrigerator in 1840’s. The prototype of his ice maker and the detailed plans for manufacturing the machine can be viewed at the National Museum of American History, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The 1800’s and early 1900’s saw numerous developments and improvements regarding ice making machines. Alexander Twining, James Harrison, Carl von Linde, Thomas Elkins, John Standard, Juergen Hans, and even General Motors were in on developing new and improved ice makers, refrigerators, or various forms of refrigeration. In fact, in 1930 General Motors and DuPont chemical company established Kinetic Chemicals, to mass produce Freon which is used in refrigeration and ice machines. 

Chilly Suggestions 

Blocks of ice that spell out the word 'ice'.

I found, through talking to Chelsea, a bartender, that several factors contribute to the various rates that ice can melt in a beverage. Several ideas Chelsea suggested seemed obvious, but there were a few that were less straightforward to me. First, a chilled cup, mug, or glass will slow the melting point of the ice in a beverage. It stands to reason that the slower the melting rate of the ice will aid in keeping the strength of the beverage intact. Secondly, a preemptively chilled beverage maintains the integrity of the ice for more extended periods of time. 

In addition, when making an iced beverage, location matters. Just like real estate’s axiom of “location, location, location”, location matters to a beverage. If an iced tea is taken out of doors, and placed into the sun, the ice will melt faster than if the iced tea was out of doors in the shade. When dealing with a delicately flavored or blended white tea profile, dilution matters. If the ice melts quickly in a white tea blend, the flavor profiles could be drastically watered down, resulting in an almost imperceptible “flavored water.” 

I have found that when making iced tea, I feel it is better to steep a strong cup of tea concentrate. Thus, when ice is added and melting starts to occur, the drink will still have a flavorful taste and will not become diluted in the process. 

Serving an iced tea punch in a punch bowl outside during summer wedding receptions, garden tea parties, or weekend brunches, using cubed ice could cause the ice to melt rapidly. A frozen ring of ice instead of cubed ice will extend the integrity of the iced tea punch flavor. Ice rings are simple and decorative to make. Place water in a jello mold, adding berries or edible flowers for decorations, place the mold in the freezer overnight, and unmold when ready to place the ice ring in the punch bowl. 

Lastly, something I frequently fail to follow is to keep a chilled ice scoop in the ice container. Using hands, or a room temperature utensil to place ice in a beverage glass could warm up the ice considerably, even before it reaches the beverage. 

Staying cooler with the help of ice and tea,


References:, Refrigeration. 

The Cultural Library. Understanding The Universe Vol. 1. Parent’s Magazine Enterprises, 1966., Icemaker.

About The Author

A photo of Leslie on the patio wearing a pink cardiganLeslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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