All right, all right… a little sweet tea blog. This is for Piper, who sent me to his sweet tea post from March of 2007. (Note, reader—his blog http://foodndrink.blogspot.com/)
I have lived in six states, this last one I fear, as much as I love it, will not be the last, but so long as I remain in the land of sweet tea, I will be okay. I once lived in the Midwest for a while. Midwesterners don’t have sweet tea there. They are, as are most people above the Mason Dixon line, sadly mistaken. I asked for sweet tea when I first moved there and was offered raspberry tea instead. Midwesterners think this is an acceptable cultural replacement. It’s not. It comes from a powder mix, for crying out loud.
I got used to living without my tea in restaurants, still made it at home on occasion, but mostly drank tea plain. Then one day, my little family relocated back to the South. On our drive here, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel and ordered lunch.
“I’ll have tea, please,” I asked without thinking.
“Yew wont thayat sweet er unsweet, darlin’?”
I stopped and was immediately thrown back in the vacuum that is the South, the land where, as someone once told me, we are afflicted with bucolic diaeresis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaeresis), endearments are tossed into speech like sprinkles on cupcakes, and tea, by the good Lord Jesus, comes sweet.
Years have passed since that moment, and ironically, I have grown to like my tea much less sweet-- not as syrupy. I cannot tolerate all that sugar anymore. Even my southern-born spouse says the same. He has his plain (but look in his coffee, because that is where he hides all the sugar). Still though, the very availability of our sweet tea is a comfort here. And true to our roots, we flavor our tea in the summer with homegrown mint, regardless of the sugar level that may or may not have been brewed.
If you Yankees out there don’t know how to brew your own sweet tea, here is one method, written just for you:
6-8 regular bags Lipton Black tea or 2-3 family bags
1 cup sugar (smack kids’ hands as they reach for the sugar while you do this, and say “Gee yonouttaheyah.”)
One of those big glass jars with a spigot on the bottom—the 2 gallon variety is nice if you can find it.
Put your sugar on the bottom of the jar. If you have mint, break a few sprigs off, rinse, and toss on top of the sugar. Fill the big jar up with water, knot the strings of the tea bags together and hold the strings to the side as you drop the bags in and screw the jar lid on. You don’t want to have to fish around in there for tea bags later. Then find a nice, sunny, ant-free spot outside and leave the jar there till the brew is a rich amber. The sunlight will pass through it like a jewel. You might pass the time watching this happen, or better yet, take a nap, play horseshoes or drink a mint julep, but when the time is right, bring that big jar back into the kitchen, and with a wooden spoon strain the tea bags against the jar lip, toss the bags into the trash, then put the jar in the fridge or serve over ice immediately.
Recommended with a side of barbeque, pulled pork, or maybe ribs.