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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Southern Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea is a rich part of history. In 1795 the first tea plantations in the United States arrived in South Carolina and a few tea plantations survive today. One of the earliest, if not the first, sweet tea recipe appeared in the Housekeeping in Old Virginia cookbook by Marion Cabell Tyree in 1879. It is true that sweet tea is richly ingrained in the history of the south. The movie Steel Magnolias has Dolly Parton proclaiming that sweet tea was "the house wine of the south"

One difference that has taken place in sweet tea from the early days is the type of tea used. Green tea was commonly used in iced tea until World War II. After that time green tea that was imported was replaced with Americans black tea from India. Many are not quite sure what sweet tea is. Some refer to sweet tea as a glass of tea that has had a spoonful of sugar to a glass of iced tea which may be sweet tea to some but sweet tea is normally made in large batches and kept chilled in the fridge prepared ahead of time for visitors.

3 family-sized black tea bags (or 12 individual tea bags), such as Lipton or Luzianne
1 cup granulated sugar
Fresh mint leaves or lemon slices (optional)

Boil the water. Bring 4 cups of the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.
Steep the tea for 5 minutes. Dunk the tea bags a few times in the water to fully hydrate, then leave submerged with the strings hanging over the side of the pot. After 5 minutes, remove the bags and discard.
Add the sugar to the tea. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
Pour the tea base into the pitcher. If using multiple pitchers, divide the tea evenly between them.
Top off the pitchers with water. Add 3 more quarts of water to the tea base to make a gallon of sweet tea and stir to combine.
Refrigerate until very cold. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or, ideally, overnight.
Serve over ice. Pour the sweet tea into ice-filled glasses. Add a sprig of mint or a slice of lemon to each, if desired!

Sweet tea is best kept cold in fridge. Tea will stay fresh for about a week. If you prefer a stronger tea pour the tea and sugar at the same time. Stirring will help dissolve sugar and allow the tea to steep up to 3 hours. Do not remove tea bags but let them remain the entire steeping time.

How sweet is up to the sweet tea drinker. Add a bit of extra sugar 1/4 cup at a time to the full batch of tea before placing in fridge to add sweetness. Stir tea so the sugar dissolves and then place in fridge. If you prefer less sugar that can be done as well.

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