When he was in high school, my brother Reid had a band called Sweet Tea and the Carolina Soul. The name of the band is so fitting, you see, because the two are so intertwined. As a southerner, few things are more important or more staple in our lives than sweet tea. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. It breaks my heart every time I go to a restaurant in the north and see “iced tea” on the menu.
Sweet tea is traditionally made with black tea, and is sweetened during or right after the water has boiled. I recommend Luizanne brand tea bags, but any other will do. If you’re looking to flavor your sweet tea, it works nicely to add a flavored bag along with the the regular black tea bags. It’s important to steep the tea while it’s boiling, not only does it cut time a little, it makes sure the tea is nice and strong.
Personally I prefer my sweet tea with lemon. Some people don’t, but I find that it cuts the sugar taste nicely so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Sweet tea is made with ice, which helps cool and dilute it. I make an amount of tea to fit the pitcher I’m using, so I fill my pitcher up 3/4 of the way with water to boil. Then, when it comes time to measure out the ice, I fill my pitcher a little less than half full with ice. I go ahead and add the lemon to the ice, so that the hot tea has to pour through the lemon skin, enhancing the flavor.
5 cups of water
3 family size bags of black tea
1 cup of granulated sugar
3 cups of ice
Bring water to boil, with tea bags steeping (Be careful how you hang the tea bag strings, I’ve had experiences where the paper tag got too close to the burner (gas or electric) and caught on fire). Once the water has boiled, turn off the heat and let steep for five minutes. Fill your pitcher a little less than halfway through with ice. Squeeze lemon juice onto ice, and leave the lemon in the pitcher. Slowly stir sugar into hot tea, until fully dissolved. Pour tea over ice, and refrigerate.
Serve cool, with more ice and a wedge of lemon.