Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sweet Tea

     If you are in Starbucks you drink coffee.  If you are in Italy you drink wine.  If you are in the Southern region of the United States you drink sweet tea.  What you may not realize is that, just like coffee and wine, there are more varieties of sweet tea than you can shake a stick at.  And I am here to share with you some of the ins and outs of great sweet tea.

     Let's begin with the basic recipe, shall we?  It seems obvious that we are talking about water, sugar, ice, and tea bags.  But for anyone who has marveled at a delicious glass of tea in a great BBQ restaurant and wondered how they do it, let's start with the basics.

     The first step is going to be choosing your tea.  This is a personal choice and you are going to have to do some experimenting and discover for yourself which brands you prefer.  My favorite is Luzianne, which is followed by Tetley as my second choice.  Actually, these two teas are made by the same company, so it shouldn't be surprising that I would like them both. There are many other brands out there without having to leave the grocery store.  If you investigate specialty tea retailers, the options grow even larger.

     The second decision you are going to have to make is your sweetener.  For the sake of this post, I am going with plain, ordinary white sugar.  Personally, since I drink sweet tea on a daily basis, I use an artificial sweetener in the majority of the tea I make.  However, I have no interest in a major debate over which is the best choice in artificial (or organic, or whatever else) sweeteners.  So, with that said, you work with whatever makes you comfortable and adjust your quantity accordingly.

     Now that you have your tea bags and your sweetener, let's get to work.  How about a half gallon for our first batch and you can adjust from there?  You want to start your water to boil.  You are going to want 3 cups of boiling water to start, so I recommend putting a little more than that into a pot and setting it up on the stove.

     While you wait for your water to boil, put your sweetener in your pitcher.  Personally, I use 2/3 cup of real sugar for a half gallon of tea.  My mother and grandmother use 1 cup.  Again, this is a personal choice.  If you like McDonald's sweet tea and are looking for that level of sweet, I suggest using the full cup.  Personally, I tone mine down a notch from there.  Since your water is probably not boiling yet, go ahead and get your tea bag ready.  If you purchased family sized bags, you will need one.  Two will be necessary if you are using individual sized tea bags.

     When your water is boiling, it's time to pour it into the pitcher.  I said that you are looking for 3 cups, but this isn't a situation that calls for precision.  Just fill the pitcher somewhere in the realm of 1/3 with hot water.  Give it a quick stir with a spoon to help the sugar melt into the boiling water.  And now add your tea bag and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Remove the tea bag.  Add 3 cups cold water.  Top the pitcher off with ice.  Voila!  Sweet Tea!

     Lately, I've been drinking more sweet tea than usual.  I'm not sure how that's possible, but it seems like I'm making it more often, so someone in the house obviously is.  So, I've started to make a variety of flavored iced teas to keep things around here interesting.  This is extremely easy and only adds one step to the recipe above.  After your tea has steeped for 10 minutes, throw in a single flavored tea bag and let it set for an additional 5 minutes.  Finish your tea as listed for regular sweet tea above.

     There are so many amazing tea flavors out there that the combinations are practically limitless. My favorite flavor that I tried recently was from Stash Tea Company.  I used their lemon ginger tea for a very unique flavor of sweet tea.  My husband and son are crazy about the fruit flavors by Celestial Teas (Raspberry, Wild Berry, Blueberry and Peach are all terrific).  And I like a variety of lemon and mint teas to give a light and refreshing flavor sometimes.

     Tea is one of the most versatile drinks I have found.  You can serve it hot, cold, unsweetened, or sweet.  The variety available is almost limitless.  The next time we discuss tea, how about looking at a terrific Darjeeling?  See you then.



  1. My wife thinks I'm crazy to say that there's a "right" way to make ice tea like you suggest in your article. The sugar just doesn't mix well if you skip the heating up/boiling part of the process and do it cold.

    At any rate, great article! I enjoyed reading it!

  2. Hey now! I refuse to tell your wife there's a "right" way to do anything. Ha! Ha! You're going to get me in trouble with potential readers that way. :-D But I will say that melting the sugar in is definitely part of what makes traditional sweet tea taste the way it does. The "sweet" incorporates itself as part of the tea when you do that.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Soon I'm going to test out some traditional hot teas and see how they work for a nice iced sweet tea. I'll definitely post and say how they turn out.