Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Sweet Tea Odyssey

How do you define “tea?”

What is the first image that comes to your mind?

  • Do you automatically think of fresh brewed sugary sweet, diabetic-inducing tea?
  • Do you think of hot tea?
  • Do you think of unsweetened cold tea, that you add sweetener to?
  • Do you think of instant tea mixed with water?

This morning I received an email from my wonderful long-time friend Jodi, a Jersey girl transplanted in Florida, who was raving over Dunkin Donuts new “Fresh Brewed Sweetened Iced Tea.” I had to laugh!

While, I myself didn’t grow up drinking sweet tea, I married into a completely southern sweet-tea-drinking family. They don’t just drink sweet tea… it is their life-sustaining liquid… and (probably to my detriment) has become mine! As a matter of fact, one of the first things Michael and I bought as a married couple was a Mr. Coffee Tea Maker. I tried for a month or two to make tea from scratch on the stove, for Michael, but he said it just didn’t taste the same.

(His mom Carol, usually makes tea with her tea maker, which probably creates a more “even” tasting tea every time -- tea made on the stove can become more or less bitter depending on how little or long you boil it.)

SO, with a little help from our Mr. Coffee tea maker, Michael and I have brewed fresh tea at least every other day since we’ve been married! In our house (and probably most eastern NC homes) tea = water!

We use 2 decaffeinated Lipton family size iced tea bags for every 3 quarts of tea we make. We add about ¾ cup of sugar to 3 quarts of fresh brewed tea… which in comparison to many southern tea makers, isn’t much at all! Our tea probably tastes a little diluted compared to others because I don't like my tea as strong as most "tea" recipes call for. We also don't use lemon in our tea. I like lemons and I like lemonade, but I don't like lemon in my tea!

When you ask for tea at a restaurant in eastern NC, or in just about any home here, they will assume you are asking for a glass of cold, iced, sweet tea. Not hot tea, not unsweetened cold tea (why would anybody drink that? ;-) But sweet tea , that was sweetened as soon as it was brewed, thus infusing the sugar with the hot tea, then cooling it. Tea that is sweetened after it has been cooled doesn't have the same taste, and the sugar doesn't infuse with the tea (though I've learned from places that didn't serve "southern" sweet tea, it's awful good to drink that last swig of sugar at the bottom of the glass!)

Jodi grew up drinking tea made with Lipton Instant Iced Tea Mix… which as true sweet tea drinkers know, tastes nothing like real tea. But I love her anyway!

What are your experiences with tea? How do you like your tea? Share your sweet, un-sweet, and hot tea stories in the comments below!

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  1. As a southern import I did not grow up drinking tea. Tea for me was warm tea with milk and sugar which my Mom and Grandma drank every morning. We did not drink coffee at my house, ever. However, now that i've live in the south for going on 5 years I've learned to love sweet tea. The sweeter the better. We don't drink it at home, only when we're out to eat. I think that's mostly due to never being able to get it right at home.

  2. Carrie...I was the same as Jennifer..."tea" meant hot tea in the morning with breakfast and hot tea at night with desert...Your blog made me laugh! Love ya girl! Jodi

  3. I am one of those people who likes unsweetened, strong iced tea.

    I totally gross out at how sweet my(southern) boyfriend drinks his tea and don't really care for sweet tea. [or pecan pie! but don't tell him or I'll be disowned, haha]

    I have seen those tea makers and I thought they were unneccessary but I guess they are kinda handy when you make it a lot!

  4. Carrie....I make tea almost the exact same way as you do. I am a southerner (from Texas) and I grew up drinking tea. I can drink a whole pitcher in a day. I use a tea maker, which is the best invention in the world because it makes it perfect every time without the souring. I use Lipton's Decaf and I put 2 family size bags and one small mint tea bag in 3 qts. of water. I sweeten it with 1/2 c. suger while it is still warm. Then I pop it in the fridge and drink on it all day long. It's my "water" as with you guys. I love it. I drink so much of it that I sometimes worry about it staining my teeth, so over the past few years I have been trying to use a straw when I drink. It makes less tea hit your teeth.

    I have recently discovered your blog and I love the recipes. I have already made your GF choc. chip cookies and your choc. cake. They were hits at our house. The choc. cake was the first recipe that my husband couldn't tell that it was GF. I was so excited! Tonight my 2 sons and I scarfed down our first batch of the choc. chip cookies.....delicious!

    Thanks for all of your hard work. People out there are enjoying it!

  5. jacobithegreat -- yes... we just had to buy a NEW tea maker because our old one finally went Kaput and Michael still doesn't like my stove tea! lol... So we broke down and bought another tea maker. He's a happy man again! lol

    Ps.. I can't believe you don't like pecan pie girl!! lol

    Anonymous-- Southern teamakers unite!! Thanks for your very kind comment! I've heard about other poeple adding a small bag of mint to their tea. I tried adding a flavored tea to one of my brews before and Michael wouldn't touch it. He just said, "WHAT did you put in this tea???" lol... So no more "flavors" go in the tea! But I think I'll have to make some tea with mint in it just for myself! I love mint!!

    I'm so glad you have enjoyed the chocolate cake and the cookies! They are definitely favorites around here!

    I truly appreciated your kind words!! Thanks again!!


  6. Hi! I found your site through googling recipes for a cookie cake. This is the first thing I looked at as I was going through and I'm looking forward to browsing and trying your other recipes.

    I too am a southern girl from Mississippi and absolutely love sweet tea! I used to make it the way you do with sugar, but have recently switched to using a cup of splenda instead of sugar. The weird after taste used to bother me, but I've gotten used to it and my husband and I love it. It's saved us a lot of money since we were buying a lot of diet soda before we switched to tea.

    I don't know what I'd do without my Mr. Coffee ice tea maker. I bought it after seeing the 5 full pitchers of sweet tea my sister has to keep for her husband (from Tennessee). He uses a cup and a half of sugar! Yikes! We keep two pitchers (which are pretty stained now) and have to make tea every two days just between the two of us.

    Thanks for the cool blog!

  7. You described how I make and drink sweet tea. In fact, sweet tea is the only tea I drink, other than green tea occasionally for the health benefits. And I totally agree with your lemon statement. In fact, I do not like any other tastes with my sweet tea.

  8. Having grown up in the South, I admit that I was rather skeptical when I saw your link for Southern Sweet Tea. However, the way ya'll make it is pretty similar to the way my great-aunt in the Deep South taught me. Her recipe? Put 2 family-sized iced tea bags (or 7 regular size tea bags) and 1/2 c. sugar in a pottery pitcher (pottery is critical to the taste). Boil 2 cups of water; pour in prepared pitcher. Go off and do something else for a while (those were literally her instructions to me!) while it steeps. Add 2 cups of cold water. Remove tea bags if desired. Cover with foil and store in fridge. Enjoy! :)

  9. well, i Must add my 2 cents' worth on tea...
    i use 3 regular lipton decaf tea bags, and one bag of good earth original decaf tea, for about 1/2 gal 'good' water.... filtered or distilled, Not nasty city water...
    please don't iggie me forever, but i put it in a (stained) tupperware container, in the micro for 10 min....... and let it sit out on the counter to steep for about 20 soon as it's sorta cool, store in the fridge...
    i drink this rather than water, with sweet n low...... can't use splenda or aspartame, since my body goes wild with pain if i use those.... just Love the non-gluten recipes, and collecting the ingredients for the sandwich bread right now.... made one batch and it was as good as that loaf of specialty bread from the health food store.......:) judy in so cal