If you don’t know much about Pennsylvania, know that its people are passionate.

If you don’t know much about Pennsylvania, know that its people are passionate. They’re passionate about their “Iggles” (the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) and Steelers, their Phillies and Pirates, Tastycakes, cheesesteaks and, maybe more than anything else, their iced tea. 

Now I’m from New Jersey, and iced tea for me was home brewed, usually unsweetened and garnished with freshly cut lemon slices. 

But when I met my future husband and his family, who hail from a Philadelphia suburb, I was introduced to the religion that is Pennsylvania iced tea. My father-in-law and brother-in-law would each take a gallon jug of a dairy-made, ready-to-drink iced tea to work every day. Each family member had a favorite flavor, pushing the fridge’s capacity to the limit and often requiring daily trips to restock.

I’m not exaggerating. Google “Pennsylvania iced tea” and see what comes up – Internet forums, Facebook and MySpace pages devoted to the topic. At City-Data.com, a database of U.S. metro areas, you’ll learn about the favorite brands and read posts glorifying their attributes. 

But what begot this tight regional passion? Some say it could have started with the Amish and their refreshing mint tea; others claim it was a result of dairies pushing bottled tea to absorb excess plant capacity.

When Jim and I visited Rutter’s Dairy in York, Pa., the folks there had their theories but no definitive answers. But during the recent East Coast snowstorms, when Pennsylvanians rushed to their supermarkets to stock up on staples, stores didn’t run out of milk – they sold out of iced tea.

Go figure.

-- Amy Vodraska, associate publisher