Sweet Iced Tea - Only in the SOUTH..... but why?

Reply Sun 11 Jun, 2006 07:38 pm
Found this on Tea Muse.

Tea connoisseurs gasp at the mention of it. Atkins' followers tremble at the mere thought. At the very least, however, they will all acknowledge that it has a longer tradition in America than nearly all tea-related beverages. If you don't know what I'm referring to, you haven't spent much time in America's South. Deep in Dixie, served everywhere from McDonald's to the classiest of restaurants, the staple beverage on everyone's menu is Sweet Tea. In fact, if you order iced tea in the South without specifying a preference, chances are you'll be served Sweet Tea.

Sweet TeaTea may be "hot" now, but Sweet Tea has been popular in the South for many, many decades. Long before a time you could walk just a few blocks to find a café serving a boiled brew, Southerners were reveling in the sweet taste of this saccharine sensation. Sweet Tea is the Southern version of the "regular" iced tea most Americans are familiar with. It is prepared in the same way as normal iced black tea - with one addition: sugar. Lots and lots of sugar.

The history of Sweet Tea dates back to the 19th century, when Americans first attempted to grow tea in the United States. The area that bore the essential tropical climate conditions for cultivation of the common tea plant, Camillia Sinensis, and that was most similar to the most prolific tea-growing countries, India, China and Sri Lanka, was found on Wadmalaw Island off the shore of South Carolina. Founded by Dr. Charles Shepard, the plantation was later purchased by tea industry giant, Lipton. After relatively little success, Lipton sold the land and the estate became known as the Charleston Tea plantation. Tea grown by this company was sold under the name "American Classic Tea," and was the only tea ever commercially grown in South Carolina, or anywhere else in North America. As an unfortunate side-note, the Charleston Tea plantation's profit margin was considered too narrow to continue operations and was purchased by another tea industry leader, Bigelow, in 2003. Now known as Charleston Tea Gardens, it still remains the only working tea estate in the United States.

More Sweet TeaOur other main ingredient in Sweet Tea, sugar, was made widely available and affordable in 1846 thanks to Louisiana native Norbert Rillieux, son of a French inventor and a slave mother. The process of widely refining sugar from cane was hazardous and rudimentary, requiring strenuous effort (and was therefore quite costly). Rillieux's contribution was to design a method that took most of the labor out of the refining process. This new technique produced an inexpensive and deliciously pure final product.

The unison of our two ingredients, as legend would have it, occurred in the summer of 1904. The location was the World's Fair in St. Louis. An Indian tea merchant found himself unable to move his product due to the sweltering summer heat. As a desperate (and somewhat sweetly serendipitous) act, he cooled his customers down by putting his tea on ice and adding sugar.

A more accurate story probably goes something like this: In the relatively poor South, most folks could not afford the luxury of the expensive leaf, but found that, when mixing it with sugar (which was plentiful in the South at the time-Louisiana was the country's biggest producers), they had created an inexpensive means of extending the amount of tea. A similar factor was at work in Japan, where the abundance of rice and the relative expense of tea had produced a unique combination we now know as Genmai Cha.

It comes as no surprise that Sweet Tea quickly became part of the culture in the South and remains a lasting legacy, often called the "house wine" of the South.

Loads of SugarAs a young boy growing up in Dixie, my first exposures to tea accompanied every lunch, with a big, icy glass of Sweet Tea (well, if you believe my family's stories of my mischievous past, then it may have closer to 3 or 4 glasses). As the years went on (and I became a naturalized Yankee), my tastes (and behavior!) matured (slightly!). I began exploring more "gourmet" varieties of tea. Nevertheless, on each sojourn to my native soil, I still insist on having pitchers and pitchers of Grandma Cason's Sweet Tea.

To make Sweet Tea, boil approximately 4 cups of water. After boiling, add double the amount of tea leaves (I recommend a Ceylon) that you would normally use (about two tsp. per glass of tea) and steep as usual (five minutes in most cases). After steeping, add approximately one to two cups (that's right-CUPS!) of sugar while it is still hot. Finally, dilute with an equal amount of cold water and/or ice and let chill (the best Sweet tea is served ice-cold). And don't worry if the final product is not judged sweet enough. You may always sweeten it later, even when chilled, by adding liquid sugar, such as a product called Sugar Shots

Another essential aspect to consider is the quality of your water. Everybody knows that water quality is crucial to make a really good tea. This is especially important with iced teas. Iced tea cannot hide behind the water temperature, unlike hot beverages, which dull your taste buds (so you can't taste how bad that tap water is!). So, when making Sweet Tea, brew respectfully and thoughtfully, with all the grace and hospitality the South is famous for!
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Reply Mon 11 May, 2015 06:09 am
I'm from the north and I didn't drink sweet tea simply because it wasn't around. No one talked about it, no one asked for it, no one offered it... When people would talk about it on TV and movies I would think, "what's the big deal, tea with some sugar?" But I moved to Louisville about five years ago and found out it's not just cold tea with a few sugar packets mixed in. It is its own drink!
though i like drinking some best loose leaf tea like rooibos, oolong etc
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Reply Thu 25 Jun, 2015 03:49 am
Most of the people prefer to avoid sweet due to health issues. Green tea is highly compared with its taste, refreshing quality and health supporter which it serves along numerous types of flavors and its types known under the world.
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Reply Mon 16 May, 2016 01:41 pm
True to rumor: It gets hot.....REALLY HOT in the south during the summer.
And when it's hot, people gotta hydrate, right?
Well, my answer to your question would be that it is part economics, part taste, and part tradition.

If you didn't grow up in a hot region, what did your parents give you to drink in the summer?
Soda? That is rather expensive, and just consider what all that syrup will eventually do to a kid's kidneys after the copious amount necessary on a scorching August afternoon in northern MS.
Water? It gets bland after a while.
Kool Aid? (or similar) Yes, I was given gallons upon gallons of the stuff and as a kid, I loved it and had and still have my personal favorites. But.... as I grew up, Kool Aid was eventually edged out for the more satisfying, complex and superior taste of sweet tea over artificially sweetened sugar.

And let's face it: All sodas are basically glorified, artificially sweetened, carbonated Kool Aid.

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Reply Mon 4 Jul, 2016 10:30 pm
Ever since, I have my ice tea prepared with sugar or either I buy flavored tea ( sweetened) in the groceries here.
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Reply Tue 23 May, 2017 01:29 am
People in different regions have different tastes, doesnt need to argue about that, we just like what we like.
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