Posted in Kafevend Blog

The summer of 2015 has been something of a mixed bag so far. We're making iced drinks one day and reaching for a steaming hot mug of cocoa the next. Let's not get despondent though; it's only the first week in August and going on past experience, September can often be very warm indeed. Most of us probably have trays of ice cubes on standby in the freezer at this time of year and it's iced drinks that are the topic of today's blog.

Unless you know your social history like the back of your hand, it would be fair to assume that iced drinks didn't really exist prior to the introduction of the domestic refrigerator with its handy ice compartment. However, ice serves a wider purpose than just cooling drinks. It's role as a preservative for fresh food has been valued since long before the common era, with the remains of ice pits found by archaeologists in China dating back to 700 BC. In South America ice was collected from the Andes, in India from the Himalayas and so forth. In the UK ice houses were introduced in the 1600s, although it was obviously only the very well to do who had the means to build and use them.

During the nineteenth century, thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of an American named Frederick Tudor, ice caught on commercially. The USA today would seem to have the highest regard for iced drinks of any nation and it's undoubtedly due to Tudor's commitment to the promotion of ice that this is the case! Frederick came from a wealthy Boston family who already enjoyed access to ice, but it occurred to him that there were places in the world where colonists would greatly appreciate it too. He harvested ice from frozen ponds and lakes in New England, secured a ship and sent his first consignment to the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1806. The enterprise didn't go terribly well to begin with, but by 1810 he had begun to turn a profit and he spent the following decade promoting the use of ice in the USA itself. Iced drinks such as tea caught on, as did ice cream, and soon people couldn't do without Tudor's ice.

The UK had begun to import ice from the United States by the 1840s. Our other source, a little closer to hand, was Norway. Horse drawn ploughs were used on both sides of the Atlantic as the best means to harvest ice from frozen lakes. Then, metal saws were used to create manageable blocks. These blocks were manoeuvred with huge metal tongs and sawdust was commonly used as an insulation material during transport.

At its peak the ice industry was providing the cold stuff to places as far flung as China and Australia. Gradually though, as technology advanced, naturally harvested ice was replaced by that produced mechanically in ice plants and between the first and second world wars the global trade in ice completely melted away.

Finally, the advent of domestic refrigerators in the 1920s meant that the public itself has the means to preserve fresh food and manufacture ice cubes at their own convenience, though it took a long while for them to become affordable to most. In 1948 there were still only 2% of households in the UK with a fridge and it took until into the 1960s for them to become widespread here.

We hope you've enjoyed our potted history of ice today and don't forget to refill the ice tray- tomorrow could be a scorcher!

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