Grits, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy. All are quintessentially Southern foods. Nothing is more Southern, however, than sweet iced tea. Making Southern sweet tea is relatively simple-steep some tea bags and add an inordinate amount of sugar–but there’s a bit more to making a perfect glass.
Here are three ways to achieve sweet-tea perfection.
Quick Sweet Tea
Just like Maw Maw made it. This is the fastest way to get sweet iced tea into the hands of your neighbor who has stopped by to sit on the porch for a spell.
Boil 4 cups water in a large saucepan. Remove from heat, and wait until the water stops bubbling but is still very hot. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add 2 family-size tea bags, preferably Luzianne brand. Steep 10 minutes then remove tea bags. Stir 1 cup sugar into the hot tea. Add 6 cups cold water. Transfer to a pitcher. Refrigerate or serve immediately over plenty of ice.
The relatively long steep time gives Southern iced tea a strong flavor, but it can also highlight tannins, astringent compounds that make tea taste bitter. To minimize bitterness, never place the tea bags into boiling water. Also use baking soda to reduce the tea’s acidity and, therefore, its bitterness.
Cold-brew Sun Tea
Start this slow-brew tea before you leave for church, and it will be ready when everyone comes over for Sunday lunch.
To make sun tea, you use a sunny location rather than your stovetop. You’ll need a 3-quart lidded jar or pitcher. To the container, add 2 family-size tea bags and 10 cups water. Put the lid on the jar and walk away for 3 or 4 hours. After the tea steeps, stir in one cup sugar and serve over ice.
Although people have been making sun tea for decades without issue, there is a small chance that the beverage can harbor bacteria because the water is not heated to boiling. When you enjoy sun tea, take a few simple precautions. Clean the container thoroughly, use distilled water, and make only as much tea as you will drink that day.
Southern Green Tea
When you think of green tea, you probably don’t think of the super-sweet iced beverage favored in the American South. But that’s what Southerners drank until the late 19th century.
Green and black teas come from the same shrub. The difference is oxidization. After harvest, the leaves can be gently heated to preserve their delicate green color. Or, to make black tea, the leaves can be allowed to darken, which produces a stronger taste.
Green tea is less acidic and less likely to taste bitter. When Southern cooks add a bit of baking soda to their black tea, they’re mimicking the original green-tea beverage. Less bitter green tea also requires less sugar.
To make iced green tea, you need a pitcher and 6 regular (not family-size) tea bags. Steep the bags in 4 cups hot water, not boiling, for 8 minutes. Remove bags, stir in 1/2 cup sugar, and add 4 cups cold water.
You can adjust steep times, number of tea bags, and amount of sugar to suit your taste buds. Serve Southern iced tea with slices of lemon, or use these three basic recipes to create fruity, minty, and spiked variations.
” History of Iced Tea and Sweet Tea.” Whatscookingamerica.net.
” Tannins in Tea.” Ratetea.com.
” Steep Risk.” Snopes.com.
” 19 New Ways to Enjoy Sweet Tea.” Southern Living.