Iced Sweet Tea, the House Wine of the South

03 Apr

If anyone can tell me from what movie that quote originates and who says it, I’ll grant them 50 cool points.

In the South, we drink tea. And I mean, we drink a lot of tea. I’m not sure how to explain exactly how much tea we drink, but chances are, nine times out of ten, if one were to go into someone’s home and be offered something to drink, one of the predominant and consistent options would be tea.

Southerners drink their tea a specific way- heavily sweetened and ice-cold.

When I say "heavily sweetened," I mean it. Our tea usually has 3 or even 4 cups of sugar per pitcher, and certainly no less than 2 cups.

Multiple pitchers of tea may be prepared in the same day.

Honestly, there’s nothing quite as refreshing on a sweltering day as having an ice-cold glass of sweet tea. The first sip is a burst of pure ecstasy, and the rest of the drink just makes you feel at home.

Cold tea is good; ice-cold tea is even better.

Tea is suitable to drink with any meal and at any time during the day, and most often it is the beverage of choice, especially in more traditional-minded Southern households.

As a child having Sunday lunch at my grandfather’s house, I would put lemon juice in my tea. This came mainly from observing my grandfather put lemon juice in his tea, and of course children love their parents and grandparents and want to imitate them. So lemon in my tea, it was, and to this day I love lemon in my tea.

Also, I should mention that we like to serve our tea in tall glasses. No cups, please- give us the whole enchilada or give us death!

Traditionally, in other countries and cultures, tea is taken hot, and often unsweetened. In Britain, tea is often taken with cream, sugar, and lemon, another combination I enjoy.

In Japan, green tea is served hot and unsweetened. While I find the taste personally refreshing and cleansing, I can imagine a good number of people from the South would be turned off by the rather potent and sometimes bitter taste of hot, unsweetened tea.

To my own credit, I recently invented a recipe for tea that I enjoy- hot cinnamon tea.

When I was a child, I enjoyed drinking hot tea as much as I enjoyed drinking cold tea. Most people, however, don’t opt for the heated variety in the South, so I think it’s prudent to forewarn everyone.

Hot cinnamon tea is made by boiling cinnamon with the tea, and then whipped cream into it. The result is an exotic taste.

Above you can see the frothy goodness that is cinnamon tea.

I’ve heard that the origins of drinking cold tea have to do with the Revolutionary War and the protesting the British by changing the practice of drinking hot tea to that of drinking cold tea.

However, I would guess that in the South, as often as not, it was simply too hot to take any heated beverages, and thus the tea was served chilled. We do have some incredibly sweltering summers in the South, and I’ll detail that more in a later blog.

As far as I know, most restaurants in the South serve their tea sweet, though you can probably request it unsweetened. I’ve also been told that in other parts of the USA, tea habitually comes unsweetened and one simply sweetens it one’s self. I don’t recall often ordering tea when I’ve been out of Alabama, so either someone else will have to verify this for me, or I’ll have to verify it myself some day.

So, if you’re ever in the South, or you ever need to cool down, have a glass of ice-cold sweet tea- it isn’t far away, and you’ll be happier that you treated yourself.

Happy tea drinking!


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Posted by on April 3, 2010 in food


8 responses to “Iced Sweet Tea, the House Wine of the South

  1. pocketsofempty

    April 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm


    • enamouredslave

      April 3, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      Congrats! You officially get the aforementioned number of cool points for naming the movie!!

  2. pocketsofempty

    April 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    And, by the way, I’m another Southerner who doesn’t have a problem with unsweetened tea, or hot tea.

    • enamouredslave

      April 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm

      I’m glad to know there are more of us out there!

  3. Doc

    April 4, 2010 at 4:44 am

    I’ve no idea of the origins of iced tea, but I do know that the British occupying forces of some rather hot places – India, Afghanistan, and so on – routinely kept up the civilized tradition of taking their tea hot. And I’m given to understand that hot beverages in hot climates have the effect of raising one’s internal body temperature which, in turn, somehow, has the effect of one feeling the heat less – I suspect that’s due to increasing perspiration, which is of course how the body cools itself. As far as sweetening, I’m weird: I prefer my iced tea unsweetened with lemon, but I take my hot tea with milk and (being a tragic victim of diabetes) Splenda. A friend of mine (whose mother was born and raised in New Orleans) cannot or will not drink unsweetened tea – and the amount of sugar he uses raises the eyebrows of even the most committed sweet tea drinkers. Seriously, the way he makes his tea, it’s right next door to tea-flavored pancake syrup! I can’t face it, regardless of the sweetening agent he uses – it’s almost so sweet, you can’t taste the actual tea, even though he boils the livin’ shit out of it when making it! He has made something like your cinnamon tea, Stevo, but without the milk (maybe there’s no room for milk, with all the sugar he uses…). Many of the restaurants I’ve been to ask you whether you want sweetened or unsweetened – but I’ve also been to a few where, when I ask for unsweetened tea, look at me like I suddenly grew an extra head and tell me they’ll have to brew some.

    • enamouredslave

      April 4, 2010 at 6:42 pm

      Excellent history lesson, Doc- thank you for the clarification, as I and I’m sure many of my readers will find it informative.

  4. Van Tilden

    April 6, 2010 at 4:28 am

    cinnomon tea looks yummy. sorta reminds me of chai.

    it:s wierd how unknown sweet tea is here. they just….cant:…..digest….the idea.


    i love sweet tea, especially sun brewed.

    • enamouredslave

      April 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      Well, sweetened green tea honestly doesn’t taste good at all. There are some brands of green tea that come pre-sweetened, but they’re horrible to me.


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