Every Southerner worth their weight in gold knows how to make a good pitcher of sweet tea. As Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias said “it’s the house wine of the south”. Like the use of the word coke for all types of sodas, many Southerners simply use the word tea to mean sweetened iced tea. It’s the quintessential southern drink and its popularity is catching on in other areas of the country.
Over ten years ago when my then fiancé and I were eating out and I mistakenly ordered sweet tea at a midwestern restaurant, the waitress gave me a blank stare. Fast-forward to 2012 and this sweet elixir can now be found in McDonalds nationwide as well as various dine-in restaurants including the one where I received the blank stare. Iced sweet tea is a sign of hospitality that almost any household can offer. Done right, it can make a lasting impression on your guests.
Several years ago I discovered a great recipe for sweet tea that has always turned out well. The color is just right and it doesn’t have the “trash” commonly found at the bottom of some pitchers of sweet tea.
Here it is the recipe for your delight:
6 regular or 3 family size tea bags (I normally use good old-fashioned Lipton tea bags
2 cups boiling water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups cold water
In a glass measuring cup or saucepan large enough to accommodate 2 cups boiling water, add tea bags and baking soda. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags, being careful not to squeeze the bags (this adds bitterness). Pour the concentrate into a 2-quart pitcher and add sugar. Stir until almost dissolved. Add 6 cups cold water. Cool and serve over ice.
*It’s important to remember to add the sugar while the concentrate is hot or warm otherwise it won’t dissolve and you’ll end up with a bunch of sugar at the bottom of the pitcher. One other note; I know the baking soda might seem strange, but it softens the natural tannins, substances found in teas that can cause an acid or bitter taste.
There are many ways to serve sweet tea but one of my favorites is in an old-fashioned mason jar. You can’t get much more hospitable than that! This welcoming drink would be great used during a cocktail hour of a country chic wedding or as a wedding favor as shown below.
What about you, do you enjoy a cool glass of sweet tea? Do you have a favorite recipe?