Tea on the Road: Herkimer Diamonds and Improvised Iced Tea

Leaving wine country behind us (see previous post), we continued our road trip, traveling east to Herkimer, a small town along the Mohawk River in upstate New York, and named after Nicholas Herkimer, a general in the American Revolutionary War.

With Herkimer, we have a link to both tea (the Boston Tea Party of 1773, one of the precursors to the American Revolution) and “diamonds.”

Because if you don’t mind being hot and dirty, Herkimer diamond mining might appeal to you.

herkimer diamonds-web
Herkimer diamonds—actually quartz crystals—from Ace of Diamonds Mine, New York

These transparent and usually colorless quartz crystals are double-terminated, with their natural facets making them shimmer in the sunlight—like diamonds.

crystal in rockMade of silicon dioxide and found in dolostone outcrops, these pretty crystals are used in jewelry or just collected.

They form with the double termination because they grow with little or no contact with their host rock.

Found here, they are called Herkimer diamonds, but these crystals have also been found in Arizona as well as in a few other regions of the world. Still, their double termination makes them rather rare.

diamonds closeup

While these sparkly crystals are a lot of fun to find, it was an intensely hot and muggy day so upon arriving back at our hotel, we really wanted a glass of iced tea!

keurig pod

We quickly found a K-cup of Earl Grey—perhaps not totally patriotic, seeing as we were, after all, in Revolutionary War-linked Herkimer. At that time, Earl Grey would definitely not have been an option!

Rather, colonists were brewing homegrown herbs instead, such as thyme or raspberry leaves.

Patriot Susannah Clarke penned these verses in 1773:*

We’ll lay hold of card and wheel,
And join our hands to turn and reel;
We’ll turn the tea all in the sea,
And all to keep our liberty.

We’ll put on home-spun garbs,
And make tea of our garden herbs;
When we are dry we’ll drink small beer,
And FREEDOM shall our spirits cheer.

But having won the war, we are free to have whatever tea of whatever quality we want, so here’s our strategy for desperate people willing to settle for anything remotely resembling actual iced tea, in two easy steps.

  1. Brew your tea using half the amount of water you normally would. Here we used the hotel’s Keurig but the customary hotel room teabag will also work. keurig-web
  2. Locate the hotel ice machine and add ice to the hot tea. Enough ice will immediately melt to bring the tea to the correct strength.
    adding ice-web
  3. Enjoy—at least it’s icy cold if not actually good!

    alissa-web
    This beverage has been approved by my daughter

*Source: Tea Leaves: Being a Collection of Letters and Documents Relating to the Shipment of Tea to the American Colonies in the Year 1773, by The East India Tea Company, by Francis S. Drake, Smith & Porter, Printers, Boston, 1884.

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