Now that Summer is here, it feels almost unbearable to drink a hot coffee. So what do you do when you need some caffeine after a long day? Get a refreshing iced coffee! 

Iced coffee has been a treat at Starbucks for years and years, but where did it come from? How did it come about?

Let’s take a deeper look into the history of iced coffee and how it evolved to be the chilled, caffeinated, and sweet drink we know today. 

The First Cup of Iced Coffee

The first versions of iced coffee made their appearance in Algeria around the year 1840 during the battle of Mazagran. During this battle, the French were fighting the Arab and Berber military over Algeria. 

The battle lasted for 17 years! 

Because of the battle’s length, the French soldiers ran out of milk. They started adding water to their coffee instead as a substitute. They also started drinking their coffee cold to combat the brutal summers. 

Biggest perk:

The cold, caffeinated drink helped revive them.

The new drink became known as Mazagran, after the infamous battle and birthplace of the makeshift beverage. 

When the battle was over, veterans still craved their beloved Mazagran and started suggesting that their local cafes make it. 

To their surprise, the cafes listened! 

The drink became cafe mazagran. 

See? A good example of “the customer is always right.”

The Evolution of Iced Coffee

Naturally, iced coffee was no longer exclusive to Algeria as soldiers traveled or returned home. 

As the new drink gained popularity, different countries adopted their own take on the iced beverage. 

Soon, Mazagran became a staple menu item in cafes around the world, with a few modifications. 

Austrians found themselves creating their own special version of mazagran: 

Iced coffee, a single ice cube, and a shot of rum.

Kind of a pioneer in the realm of coffee and alcohol cocktails if you think about it...

Catalonia and Portugal served their mazagran with a slice of lemon for an extra tangy flavor. Meanwhile, Vietnam made its mazagran with sweetened condensed milk. The Germans? Their take on iced coffee was the eiskaffe:

A root beer float-style drink, but with coffee instead of root beer. 

The Iced Coffee Markup

Today’s avid iced coffee drinkers are frustrated with the difference in price between iced and hot coffee.

Get this:  Iced coffee has become more expensive.

How can it cost more to just throw hot coffee in the fridge and let it chill? Or toss in a few ice cubes?

Here’s the kicker: 

Despite what some people think, iced coffee isn’t actually hot coffee that’s been chilled. Iced coffee requires its own brewing methods which is more involved than hot coffee brewing. 


Iced coffee is brewed using cold or room temperature water.

Since the water that is being used to brew the coffee isn’t hot, brewing takes a lot longer. The extraction process takes much longer if hot water isn’t being used. 

It also means that more coffee needs to be used to get the same flavor since the coffee will be diluted with ice. 

Here’s a good analogy…

Think cold-brewed tea versus steeping tea in hot water. 

And what about the ice? 

Well, it may seem cheap but buying a lot of ice and freezing it costs more than not having any ice at all. 

On top of all this, plastic cups are more expensive than the paper cups used for hot coffee. 

The extended brewing time, the production and storage of ice, and a different kind of cup really just means one thing:

A more expensive coffee drink. 

The Rise of Modern Iced Coffee

As the popularity of iced coffee increased, newer versions cropped up all over.

This gave rise to new inventions and innovations in the world of coffee. 

Story time…

In 1964, a man named Todd Simpson went on a botanical trip to Peru. 

During his visit, he noted the way Peruvians made their coffee and wanted to be able to find a way to replicate it at home. He liked the milder flavor and decreased acidity that cold-brewed coffee offered. 

So, Todd racked his brain trying to figure out how to let Americans enjoy his favorite coffee blend, right in the comfort of their own homes. 

And like that, the “Toddy”, was born. 

Otherwise known as the “cold brew technique.”

Since Todd knew higher temperature water released the bitter, more acidic flavor elements he wasn’t too fond of, he developed a way to extract his favorite flavor compounds by using cold water, thereby leaving behind the undesirable flavors.

Once he shared the good news, people back home could brew their own Toddy without leaving the comfort of their kitchens. Not only was it less acidic tasting, but it made for a great drink on warm days!

In 1969, Tadao Ueshima introduced the entire world to the very first canned coffee. There weren’t very many people interested in the product at first. 

Frankly, most people found the idea of coffee in a can a little off-putting. 

However, Tadao Ueshima didn’t give up at the behest of a few naysayers. 

After a heavy marketing campaign, the product slowly garnered popularity before going mainstream in the 1970s. 

          Image: Ueshima Coffee, Kyoto

Even with these caffeinated innovators reshaping the way the world looked at and rank their coffee, it was still a hot coffee world.

Hot coffee remains more popular than iced coffee for the most part. 

Maybe it’s a matter of tradition that people still prefer hot over iced or cold coffee; or perhaps it has something to do with the difference in price…

Enter Starbucks:

The year was 1995, and Starbucks had just released its newest drink: the Frappuccino. That’s when iced coffee really took off. 

The Frappuccino was a combination of a frappe and a cappuccino. This became a favorite for cold coffee drinkers. 

Today, iced coffee is typically made with espresso, filtered coffee, or coffee syrup mixed with milk and ice cubes. 

A stronger coffee brew paired with ice made for a remarkably well-balanced drink:

A milder, less acidic flavor; a concentrated brew; and ice to dilute it.

Looking at the Numbers

Coffee is an unsurprising staple in fast-paced America.

Did you know...

50% of the population of America drinks espresso, cappuccino, latte, or iced coffee? (1)

Or that the average American drinks 3.1 cups of coffee a day? (2)

Understandably, 65% of coffee is consumed at breakfast time. 

We’ve all heard someone at some point say, “I just can’t start my day without my coffee.” 

Interestingly enough, that tends to be more of a male point of view. Women, on the other hand, tend to say that coffee helps them relax rather than “get the job done.” (3)

America imports an excess $4 billion worth of coffee per year. Overall, American coffee drinkers consume 400 million cups of coffee per day! (4)

So what about iced coffee specifically?

About 20% of coffee consumers drink iced coffee. (5)

Here’s something cool:

77% of iced coffee consumers say that drinking iced coffee makes them feel more productive at work! (6)

The Last Sip

Although iced coffee isn’t anything new, its popularity has been increasing over the years thanks to the likes of Starbucks and their never-ending, zany drinks and flavors.

Most people see iced coffee as a summer drink that lets them enjoy their caffeine without overheating. 

Makes sense...

There have been so many new innovations and iterations of the classic cold-brew drink that’s it’s hard to say where iced coffee will go in the future, but... 

We do know one thing:

Thanks to some French soldiers during a battle in Algeria, we can all enjoy a nice cold cup of Joe.

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