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authentic southern sweet tea? can someone help a yankee

  • c

Can anyone tell me how to make sweet tea? Should I just brew tea and add a ridiculous amount of sugar. I can never get it quite right.

Thank you.

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  1. s
    southern chick

    My grandma uses Luzianne and karo syrup!

    1. Secret here is that you can't add the sugar to cold tea. For true aficianados of "sweet tea," adding sugar to cold tea will bever get it sweet enough.

      Take a saucepan and bring some water to the boil. Put it off heat and drop in some tea bags. Set it back on a low burner (but do not boil again), wait three minutes and remove bags. Whisk in an enormous amount of sugar. The sugar will completely dissolve and be absorbed into the hot tea.

      Pour sweet tea over ice cubes - add a little more water if you want, but it's best if you have enough ice cubes that the tea melts them to create the proper strength.

      I know restaurants that make up a very strong simple syrup to add to the cold tea for people that want it "Southern Sweet."

      The Karo idea might work as well, although it has added vanilla which one might or might not like in their tea.

      1. "Should I just brew tea and add a ridiculous amount of sugar."

        Pretty much, yeah. Are you making it for guests, or yourself? If someone else, you might ask them how they like it... if for yourself, just try it a coupla times until you get the parameters (strength & sweetness) the way you want them.

        I'm sure that their are other churches in this religion, but my personal belief is that Luzianne and Red Rose are the only truly correct teas. Powdered teas are not fit for human consumption. The amount of sugar is a matter of personal taste, and perhaps region. I like a lot of sugar, but I find that sugar rapidly vanishes from restaurant tea as I travel north from the Carolinas. Curiously, I also had trouble finding sweetened tea when I visited Austin, TX.

        As an alternative to heating the water, many people make "sun tea", which requires puttin the tea bags in a big ol jar of cold water with the sugar and settin it out on the porch in the sunlight for a long time (a porch is mandatory in this recipe; you DO have a porch, don't you?). Over many hours, the warmth of the sun will help heat the water, steep the tea, and dissolve the sugar.

        Of course, I haven't made tea in quite some time now that I have relocated northward. If I make a pitcher, it will only last a few hours, at best, so I try to keep my cravings in check.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ADL

          For another (lazier) alternative - I use 4-5 tea bags in the coffee maker for a full pot. Then add the sugar to taste to the hot tea (that's the real key as someone else said) - pour over a glass of ice cubes or put in pitcher in the frig.

          1. re: Barbara

            I also make tea in my coffeemaker, using 6 teabags, when finished brewing add 1 cup sugar, stir to dissolve. Pour over full glass of ice and squeeze in a wedge of lime. I grew up drinking unsweetened tea and still usually prefer it that way, but after spending a few years in the south I occasionally crave the sweetened kind. For me though the lime is essential.

        2. I spent two years living in rural middle JoJa... my Joja and 'bama roommates berated me until I got my Swee tee recipe jus right. Take 6 family size Liptons tea bags. Put in a sauce pan with 2-3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and lower to simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a gallon jug and add 2 cups of sugar. Stir 'til sugar is melted. Add ice to fill jug onr third to half way. Add water to fill. Stir until ice is almost gone. Pour over ice in tall 16+ oz glasses. You can add more sugar but 2 cups per gallon is pretty darn sweet. Anyway a gallon only lasts a few minutes since you tend to average 2-4 16 oz glasses per meal on a hot summa day.

          1. Is the brand of tea generally optional in order to be considered authentic? Has anybody tried China Mist tea?

            4 Replies
              1. re: T.Davis

                "Has anybody tried China Mist tea?"

                Good God, man! Nothing with the word "China" in it could make Southern tea!

                Actually, the answer to this question is actually that it's the *type* of tea that matters. Earl Grey or Green tea might make nice English or Chinese tea, respectively, but real Southern tea can only be made with Orange Pekoe & pekoe cut black teas. Flavored teas are strictly verboten.

                IMHO opinion, Luzianne is the optimal brand, and Red Rose is nominally acceptable, but Lipton, Tetley, and *anything* in powdered form is unfit for consumption by human beings.

                1. re: ADL

                  Have you tried American Classic Tea? Only tea grown in US, on an old Charleston Plantation. No pesticides. It has a fabulous, fresh, flavorful taste. And what could be more properly Southern? (I assume you can still find it, I haven't bought any in a few years. I'm southern enough that I can't drink it un-sweet, and too worried about calories to drink it the way it's meant to be)

                  1. re: ADL

                    Hooray for you! Orange pekoe is the ONLY way to make iced tea, sweet or un-sweet. And you are also dead-on about Luzianne ("Clear as a bell" said Burl Ives...82% of folks in Birmingham prefer Luzianne!(I forget the exact figure in %age.) As to how to get it sweet, one needs simple syrup or else the sugar will settle out.

                    Sun tea makes excellent iced tea, by the way.

                    We're un-sweetend folks in my family but, when lunching at Th' Dinner Bell in McComb MS its hard not to get into the spirit with a saccharine-sweet slug of the stuff. And in other areas (say Jackson MS) it seems to augment the sugar rush you get from salad with Jell-O cubes in it.

                    As to powdered and flavored teas, well, users of such infamies are as lief to use instant "grits." In the same vein as Instant Coffee which, as I have observed elsewhere, caused my father to exhort that the inventor of such should have been "drowned in his crib."