Sweet Tea

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Now that I have moved home, it serves less as a touchstone and more as a drink order. Theories abound: Southerners prefer sweet tea because back in the day we used sugar as a preservative and our palates grew to crave the taste. Southerners like sweet tea because it is served ice cold and it is hot as biscuits down here. Southerners like sweet tea because we are largely descended from Celts and Brits, making a yearning for tea a genetic imperative. Southerners like sweet tea because Southerners are poor and tea is cheap.

Cheaper than beer anyway. Southerners like sweet tea because it is nonalcoholic but it still gives you a hearty, if somewhat diabolical, buzz.

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No matter the source, our affection for sweet tea characteristically reaches religious fervor. Ask any Southerner where the best sweet tea is served, and he or she will have an opinion. I once knew a man who would drive forty-five minutes to a south Georgia Chick-fil-A because it had what he deemed the tea of the gods. This is not the sort of devotion one finds with other beverages, even coffee. Coffee is an addiction. Sweet tea is an obsession.

We are similarly evangelical about how best to prepare sweet tea. The basic recipe is undemanding. You brew a handful of bags of Lipton or Luzianne or whatever pekoe you prefer, pour the hot tea over a mound of sugar or simple syrup, add water to dilute to taste, stir, and serve over ice, with or without lemon. The amount of sugar is up to the maker, but generally runs somewhere between cotton candy sweet and sweet enough to liquefy your teeth.

Some people like to get fancy. Adding raspberries, using a coffeemaker to brew the blend, sneaking in baking soda to tame the bitterness. These people are annoying. Sweet tea should be just that. Any differences should come from the alchemy of proportion and tea selection, not questionable, post-brewed, kitchen sink-ian doctoring. Save that for BBQ sauce. Also irritating: the nouveau tradition of some restaurants serving the tea unsweet, with a little jug of simple syrup on the side.

Southern Sweet Tea With a Secret Ingredient

It is a guzzle drink. The tea at the Chintzy Rose transcends the beverage category. It is more of a meal.

Sweet tea - Wikipedia

A song. A poem. Recipes for sweet tea exist from the turn of the nineteenth century on, but lessen in frequency starting around the s. By then, everybody knew how to make sweet tea, and recipes became unnecessary, like instructions for walking. In Marion Cabell Tyree published Housekeeping in Old Virginia, which many believe contains the first printed sweet tea recipe.

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By the s Americans were stocking their kitchens with specialized iced tea glasses, long spoons, and dainty lemon forks. He also brought crape myrtles and camellias. For some time, sweet tea was a sign of wealth. Sugar and ice cost money. To be able to use both in a drink was flashing serious old-timey bling. Then refrigeration happened. And any garden-variety cracker could have tea with ice.

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Sugar got cheaper, then ubiquitous, and with it, sweet tea. It is impossible to imagine eating most Southern foods without sweet tea. It takes a beverage with some oomph to cut through lard-dunked catfish. The caffeine makes it possible to drive home after a Sunday brunch of fried chicken and cheese grits. This is not to say sweet tea goes with everything—pizza requires Coke, curry requires beer—only that it marries best with the food of our people, cementing its status as the iconic Southern libation. My sweet tea addiction came into full bloom not in Georgia, where I lived for many years and enjoyed many a first-rate glass of sweet tea, but in Knoxville, Tennessee, at a modest family-run tearoom called the Chintzy Rose.

Run by Bobbie Miller and her daughter Kelly Phibbs, it offers superior chicken salad and strawberry cake, but what brings in folks from as far away as Utah is the sweet tea. Notes of orange and lemon intertwine with the sharpness of the tea, all of it buoyed by a mysterious sweetness unlike your basic simple syrup. The financial records from the exposition do not list any ledger entries for Blechynden — which raises the question of whether he actually showed up or was just late with his report.

But, if he had been there, it would have been odd that he would not have realized that his product was already being sold in hot and cold versions. Iced tea recipes begin appearing routinely in most southern cookbooks during this time. Dull , Home Ecomonics Editor for the Atlanta Journal, gives the recipe that remained standard in the South for decades thereafter. The water, as for coffee, should be freshly boiled and poured over the tea for this short time.

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The tea leaves may be removed when the desired strength is obtained. Tea, when it is to be iced, should be made much stronger, to allow for the ice used in chilling. A medium strength tea is usually liked. A good blend and grade of black tea is most popular for iced tea, while green and black are used for hot. To sweeten tea for an iced drink-less sugar is required if put in while tea is hot, but often too much is made and sweetened, so in the end there is more often a waste than saving.

Iced tea should be served with or without lemon, with a sprig of mint, a strawberry, a cherry, a slice of orange, or pineapple. This may be fresh or canned fruit. Milk is not used in iced tea. Americans came out of the war drinking nearly 99 percent black tea. The text of the bill proposes:. Such an establishment may serve unsweetened tea but in such case must also serve sweet tea.


I stumbled upon your page about the history of iced tea… pretty interesting! Not quite true! In Canada, sweetened iced tea is the standard and people drink it at almost every meal and year round, like the southern states. This is why many unsuspecting Canadian tourists have a rude shock in store for them when they order iced tea in a northern state. Thanks for the read! Sweet iced tea in the American South tends to be a regional item. Sweetened iced tea was the norm when I lived in Georgia.

Southern Sweet Tea

BTW I really enjoyed your website on iced tea! Interesting — I had to look this up. THAT is what was on the menu and that is what one ordered. THEN the consumer could sweeten it to their taste. Click here to cancel reply. Pin 1. Share Related Recipes.