“Sweet Tea” Explained (Sort of)

Having lived in the Southeastern part of the U.S. for several years, I never quite managed to understand the phenomenon known as “sweet tea.” Now, after moving away, I think I finally get it. In short, it’s sort of a brown Kool-Aid, especially when made with the teas that have fruit flavors added to them.

Awhile back, southern gal and author CurtissAnn Matlock showed us her secrets to proper sweetened “ice tea.” (Image from CurtissAnn Matlock, used with permission)
Awhile back, southern gal and author CurtissAnn Matlock showed us her secrets to proper sweetened “ice tea.” (Image from CurtissAnn Matlock, used with permission)

A typical “sweet tea” recipe:

  • Steep up a double strength batch of your black or green tea of choice (usually about half a gallon).
  • Add a cup of sugar to the hot tea and stir well to dissolve.
  • Fill a pitcher of sufficient size (a gallon or more) with ice cubes.
  • Pour the hot tea into the pitcher over the ice cubes.

Some “sweet teas” I have tried when we first moved here tasted more like a five-pound bag of sugar was added in. That plus the fruit taste (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, etc.) makes for that “brown Kool-Aid” experience.

Kool-Aid was something we drank a lot of when I was one of those little “rug rats” (or “crumb crunchers” is another term) running around outside and then rushing inside to get a cool beverage. The fruit flavor suited my kiddie tastebuds, and the sugar would hit my bloodstream and recharge me for more running around in the yard.

In my adult years, I lost my taste for so much sweetness and changed to drinking my cold tea both without ice and without sugar. It refreshes much better that way and avoids that Kool-Aid impression. I also don’t get an excess of sugar in my system, not having that childhood, high-gear metabolism.

“Sweet tea” is most definitely a style of tea enjoyment where swigging is encouraged and expected, just as I swigged that Kool-Aid. And now that that has been explained, start swigging. Enjoy!

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5 thoughts on ““Sweet Tea” Explained (Sort of)

  1. Pingback: The Best of the English Tea Store Tea Blog in 2013 | Tea Blog

  2. B.J. Terry

    You may have lived in the southeastern United States for a few years, but you obviously don’t understand sweet tea. True Southern sweet tea does not contain fruit. It’s brewed strong and then poured over ice. Nothing refreshes better than a tall glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. The sugar energizes us, and the tea makes our minds sharper. If you had ever had sweet tea made by your Southern grandmother or mother, you would understand.

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Sorry, B.J., but it’s the restaurant owners you need to chide, not me. They were the ones serving up raspberry, blueberry, lemon, and other fruit flavored sweet teas.

  3. Ah yes, the first time I had it I thought I would need an emergency dental visit. My son has tried to convince me of it’s worth, but I remain steadfast. I like mine the way you do, unsugared, uniced. Sometimes a bit of lemon or lime. My dear Himself likes it with ice, sugar and Milk! But I ‘ll keep him, anyway.

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Himself seems to like his cold tea the way they drink it in some Asian countries! You sound quite sensible about yours. 😉

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