I am a Southerner, sweet tea is a way of life for me and my family. Seriously.

There was a time when you could just order a Tea, in  your best Southern Drawl (sic: Draw-well), and never had to mention the “sweet” part. It was a given that it would be sweet, because only Yankees drank “unsweet” tea. Honest.

I remember my father taking me to a BBQ joint when I was about 10 years old. The waitress came over to take our orders which we gave after a short peruse of the menu – including two “sweet” teas. The waitress was efficient and quick bringing our teas as we waited for our food. I thought my father was going to have a heart attack right there! The tea was NOT SWEET! Apparently the sugar on the table was for the tea… my father was absolutely shocked. You can’t add sugar to cold tea and have sweet tea! My father asked if they in fact had “sweet tea” and the waitress said “no”. My father got up and left – right then!

So, as you can see we take our tea seriously. Sure, there will be those apologists who will disdain their heritage – I don’t care. I love my sweet tea!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 tea kettle

3 family size tea bags

1 pitcher (at least 1 gallon)

2 cups of sugar (yes, I said TWO cups)

  • Fill the tea kettle with water (you’d think this was pretty obvious but you’d be surprised).
  • Place on the stove over medium-high heat until ready – when it whistles.
  • Take off of heat, remove the top of tea kettle, place the tea bags into the water, replace top.
  •  Let this steep (which means letting the tea bags sit in the water) for 35 minutes.
  • Remove tea bags from tea kettle and pour into the pitcher.
  • Add the sugar – yes, ALL of it.
  • Stir until dissolved then let it stand another 10 minutes
  • Add water while stirring until you have a gallon.
  • Refrigerate.

The secret here isn’t just the large amount of sugar but rather the amount of time you let the sugary tea “stand” before adding the additional water. Because the tea is still pretty hot it allows the sugar to kind of caramelize. Also, its best to let tea sit in the fridge overnight – its just plain better once it has a chance to rest. Its also traditional to serve with a lemon wedge (not peach or berry or whatever flavoring).

Tomorrow I’m making cornbread and black eyed peas for dinner, maybe I’ll put the recipe up here too.