Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Make Perfect Southern Sweet Iced Tea

Sweet Iced Tea - The Elixir of The South. I'm pretty sure if everybody drank sweet iced tea on a regular basis, we'd have world peace.

How to Make Perfect Southern Sweet Iced Tea

I enjoy a nice cup of hot tea pretty regularly, but iced tea is pretty much a year-round staple here in the south - probably mostly because it's so darned hot down here most all of the year. Besides, tea - unlike soft drinks - is loaded with benefits.

Tea contains high levels of antioxidants - polyphenols, flavonoids, and catechins - that help to boost the body’s defenses against diseases. Some studies have shown that tea may also lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease and may help to protect against cancer.

Just like seasoning recipes to taste, you definitely should adjust to your own sweetness level with sweetened iced tea. Some folks like it real sweet, some not quite so sweet and you can certainly exchange sugar for an appropriate sugar substitute, even making the tea completely unsweetened, and adding it per glass.

I used to use a cup of sugar for this recipe, then I switched to making my tea completely unsweetened and using Splenda by the glass, but I recently quit using artificial sweeteners completely. When I went back to using regular granulated sugar, I found a cup to be too sweet for me. Eventually I reduced that cup of sugar to 3/4 cup, then 2/3 cup and now I find about 1/2 cup of sugar for the whole pitcher works pretty good for me. In restaurants I find sweetened tea generally far too sweet for me, so I order it "half and half" - half sweet, mixed with half unsweetened.

One thing is for certain. I believe that the perfect iced tea starts with Luzianne brand. Period.


I don't say that because I'm trying to impress the folks at Luzianne, or because I'm trying to make somebody believe I've used it all along when I know I didn't, or that I'm trying to make myself look more "Southern" by using Luzianne. I use it because, in my opinion, it is the tea for Southern iced tea - whether it's sugared up or made with sugar substitute. Not that other brands don't make a good pitcher of tea. It's just that for what I consider to be the perfect Southern iced tea, I truly believe you need to use Luzianne.

Finding a restaurant, even in the Deep South, that serves sweet tea can sometimes be a challenge, and a lot of folks sweeten with sugar substitutes now, but still... every once in awhile, we all sure enjoy a glass of sugared-up tea.

Sweet.

If you think this sounds yummy, I'd sure it if you'd click to pin it, tweet it, stumble it, or share it on Facebook to help spread the word - thanks!

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Recipe: How to Make Perfect Southern Sweet Iced Tea

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 10 min | Yield: About 8 servings

Ingredients:
  • 5 to 7 individual Luzianne brand tea bags
  • 1 quart of cool filtered or bottled water
  • Pinch of baking soda, optional
  • 1 4-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup for steeping
  • 2 quart glass pitcher filled with ice
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups of sugar, more or less, to taste
  • Fresh lemon, sliced or wedges, and some mint sprigs, also optional
Instructions:

Grab a pot and pour in one quart of cool filtered or bottled water, bringing to a full, rolling boil. For a milder tea, use 5 bags; for a more robust tea, go with 7. Spin the tea bags together so all the strings wrap together and set them inside a 4-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup with the tags hanging on the outside. Pour boiling water into the container and dip the tea bags in and out to begin releasing the tea leaves. Stick a plate on top and set the timer for exactly 9 minutes for a full bodied tea, 5 minutes or less if you prefer a lighter version. Let the tea bags steep. Do not go longer than 9 minutes or you risk burning your tea leaves and will end up with a bitter tea.

I almost always do 5 teabags, steeped for 5 minutes, sweetened with 1 cup of sugar, and that's a most excellent glass of iced tea!

After the steeping time is up, take a wooden spoon and press the tea bags up against the side of the Pyrex cup and toss the tea bags into your compost pot. For insurance against bitterness you can add just a pinch of baking soda - no more than 1/8 teaspoon - to the steeped tea. It will not affect the flavor, but will take away bitterness if you happened to have burned your tea leaves.

Fill your glass pitcher with ice, pour the sugar on top of the ice and slowly and carefully pour the hot, steaming tea over the ice. If you prefer a sweeter tea, go with 1-1/2 cups of sugar. Don’t pour hot tea directly into a glass pitcher without ice in it!! To conserve your ice and use the tea per glass, fill the 1/2 gallon pitcher with 1-1/2 quarts of water instead of ice, and top with the steeped tea.

Stir well and serve in a glass, preferably a crystal glass, over even more ice, garnish with a sprig of mint leaves and a nice juicy slice of lemon. Savor.
Tea Tips:

1. For perfect tea always start with fresh filtered cool water - never tap water!

2. Cloudiness is often caused by putting hot or still warm tea directly into a cold refrigerator. My method prevents this since you are pouring your steeped tea directly over ice cubes.

2. Bitterness in tea is caused by overcooking and burning the tea leaves - that is why it is important not to boil the teabags and not to steep them too long in boiling water. To counter, a pinch of baking soda - only about 1/8 of a teaspoon - can be added to the hot, steeped tea after you remove the bags. It will not affect the taste of your tea, and provides insurance against bitterness.

3. Use wooden spoons to squeeze your tea bags, a glass container - like a large Pyrex measuring cup - to steep your tea, and store it in a glass pitcher, not metal or plastic. After all that it seems proper to serve it in a tall, iced tea glass and not plastic, but that's up to you. I do like my Tervis cups.

4. If you prefer your sweetened tea more on the sweet side, you'll probably want to go with 1-1/2 cups of sugar.

5. Of course, substitute artificial sweetener per glass, or use one Splenda Quick Pack for the entire pitcher, if you don't want to use sugar. I use the granulated Splenda in the large bag, about 3/4ths cup is enough for me.

6. If you like lemon in your tea, try making ice cubes out of lemonade to use in the individual glasses. As they melt, they will infuse the tea with lemon flavor! {a tip from Susan of our Facebook Family!}
Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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Posted by on November 14, 2008

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51 comments:

  1. Mmmm mmmm good, I love me some good sweet tea! And great pic!

    Jamie :)

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  2. We use the Lipton GALLON size teabags. We buy them at Sam's. Most grocery stores don't carry them. Makes a gallon of iced tea and my husband and I drink a gallon per day. Sweetened in the pitcher with Splenda! We make it in a coffee maker. Sooo good!

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    Replies
    1. I use the exact same tea bags! But we have a tea maker. It's red and white. Made by mr. Coffee I believe. And I use C &H sugar only.

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  3. Gallon bags? Who knew!! I never go to Sam's anymore since it's kinda far for me. Probably a good thing for my budget LOL!! Nice tip though!

    I used to use my coffeemaker too and let it drip, turns out great! But now I use a French press to make coffee so I boil the water. Some people like to microwave too. Thanks for swinging by!!

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  4. You are so right about how hard it is to find good sweet tea in a restaurant, but I think I've found it! If you're ever in Atlanta, go to Pittypat's Porch and order a glass of Southern Sweet Tea. You will never go hungry (well, be thirsty) again!

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  5. LOL Scarlett, I mean Auraleigh ... love that play on words - thankfully we do still have sweet tea around at many restaurants here, but I will certainly check out Pittypat's Porch you know it! How can I not with a name like that?!! I SO love eating in Atlanta.

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  6. Try adding one, single serving sized teabag of Cinnamon Stick or Orange and Sweet Spices when brewing your tea. DESSERT!

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  7. I have NEVER liked tea. The only tea I would drink was from Chicken Express and its on the expensive side. But my husband on the other hand LOVES tea. Any kind. Sweet or unsweet, green or black... ANYTHING! So I decided to make this recipe for him and I decided to try it just for the hell of it and I FELL IN LOVE! I have made it everyday for the last 3 days LOL! I cant believe I like it as much as I do. Thank you soooo much for posting. I am so glad I found your website. I am making the mac and cheese right now. Will let you know how it comes out! God Bless

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  8. Stephy, you just made my day! I even tweeted about you! http://twitter.com/#!/DeepSouthDish/status/5024790389719041 Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and leave a comment. Please do let me know what you think of the mac & cheese.

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  9. Mary: FABULOUS tea! My hubby thanks you that I can now make a consistent, delicious tea! :-)

    I blogged about your recipe HERE.

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  10. Thanks so much for the link to your sweet tea!! I cannot wait to try it!!! :)

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  11. 5 Luiseanne decaft tea bags,6 mins in microwave,lid on top to steep for 5 mins,5 scoops of real cane sugar,pour in pitcher,serve over ice,sit out on the porch and let the world roll on by.

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  12. This iced tea had ruined me from tasting others. Nothing can beat a southern-style iced tea :)

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  13. Can you convert the number of individual size bags to family size bags? I can't find the individual size bags anywhere near where I live.

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    Replies
    1. I think it varies among brands but generally 3 to 4 bags will equal a family sized bag. The conversion may be listed on the box - not sure because I buy the individual bags since I like to have a cup of tea occasionally! ;) I'd say go with 2 family sized bags for my recipe & that should be good - enjoy!

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    2. *Most* family sized bags are good for making one quart of Iced Tea each.

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  14. Can you convert the number of individual size bags to family size bags? I can't find the individual size anywhere near where I live.

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  15. Mary, thank you SO much for this recipe! My husband grew up with real sweet tea and we have found many recipes that were CLOSE, but not quite right. Yours was exactly what he was craving - shoulda known that any recipe starting with Luzianne tea bags would be a hit! Love your site! :)

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  16. Mary,
    Two family sized tea bags is the conversion of your individual tea bags.

    Try this: Use two family sized tea bags, and one standard bag of Celestial Seasonings Cinnamon Apple Spice. Now make the tea as you've described. Bright without a cinnamon overload. Garnish with a thin slice of cored Granny Smith apple.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds divine! Is that the conversion for Luzianne?

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  17. I made this yesterday for a meeting and it was very well received. Everyone loved it.

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    Replies
    1. I'm so happy to hear that - thank you for letting me know!

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  18. Recently found your website from a Pinterest pin of your Stawberry Sweet Iced Tea. I decided to make your Southern Sweet Iced Tea first to see what the basic was like. My goodness it is delicious! I used Lipton because that is what I had and 1/2 cup real sugar. I have made iced tea before but was never careful about the process. Sometimes it was good others fair. I think your recipe makes it turn out perfectly. I look forward to trying the Strawberry version as well.
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Beverly and welcome!! There's not a thing wrong with Lipton - I have used it myself though I do think that Luzianne is even better. I'm so glad you enjoyed the tea - I just finished making a pitcher myself! Hope you enjoy the strawberry too.

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  19. This recipe is exactly how my great-grandmother (who is the person who first introduced me to tea, hot and cold)always made iced tea.

    I recently started using the Lipton Cold Brew tea bags and they make a really good (and quick) iced tea. To make 2 qts, fill pitcher almost to the top with cold water, put in 3 tea bags, add sugar water, and stir. (Since sugar doesn't dissolve inn cold water very well, I just put about a cup of hot water from our water dispenser in a large glass measuring cup, add 1 1/4 cups sugar and stir until it dissolves.) Within 5 mins, you have iced tea!

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    Replies
    1. I haven't tried them yet but when I opened a discussion about the Luzianne cold brew bags on the Facebook page, they got mixed reviews so that's why I've not given them a try yet. Thanks for the tip!

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  20. I read an article once that said we shouldn't squeeze tea bags. There is something that grows on or is naturally occurring in the leaves that we shouldn't ingest. The bag filters this out. But squeezing the bag can open the bags pores and let it through. Ever heard of this?

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    Replies
    1. Well, you don't need to squeeze the devil out of those bags, but I'm pretty sure that's just one of those old wive's tale myths. My "squeeze" suggestion is mostly to keep you from dribbling tea all over your kitchen. :) Some will say that squeezing will force out oils & tannins - nothing dangerous - but things that some say can cause bitterness in tea. Since I always squeeze the bags and my tea is never bitter, I'd disagree, but use a light, gentle squeeze, or just skip that step altogether if you prefer!

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  21. I just made this. It's the first time I've ever made Southern sweet tea (being a northerner). I used Bigelow green tea with lemon, the pinch of b. soda & 1 cup sugar. It is SOOOOOOO good! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome Nana & thanks for stopping by!!

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  22. I always heard that "true southern sweet tea" was made by boiling the sugar to "invert" it. It gives a different sweet taste. You can not boil the artificial sweeteners as that produces toxic results!

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    Replies
    1. I don't know that you can say there is any "true" southern tea since every Southerner makes it different. This is just my way! :) Have you tried it?

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  23. well the absolute best sweet tea comes from any bojangles restaurant.... they by far have the best tasting tea period.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't had the pleasure Allen, but the closest Bojangles is 120 miles for me so I'll have to stick with homemade till I pass one in my travels I guess!

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  24. Mary,

    Thank you for the very informative post! As the owner of a company that blends our own custom crafted loose leaf teas I guess I know a few things about brewing up Sweet Tea (being from the South that is!).

    You've laid out the information here in a very easy to understand format, and that's great because to me Sweet Tea is all about the simpler things in life! :D

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  25. Love your recipe I add a bit more sugar I been making this since childhood I got it from mom and we ain't no where near southern,LOL. I'm from Michigan call us southern if you like though we love our sweet tea.. Recently my sister came up with adding fruit juices to it like she adds the juice of two limes one orange and a lemon OMG this is good! I recently boiled down some raspberries and added the juice from it after straining it also added fresh lemon juice the flavor cant be beat from both of these ways.

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    Replies
    1. Sweet tea in Michigan? Mercy! I love it!! I love fruited iced tea - I have a recipe up here too but it's pretty standard.

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  26. I grew up on sweet tea, but we've always used Red Rose teabags. I don't know why, maybe my family likes the little figurines.

    I definitely cannot drink it nearly as sweet anymore. I visited Alabama last year (Mobile) and EVERY restaurant we went to had sweet tea... (really really sweet tea, I might add) so it's interesting that it's not as common elsewhere in the south (in restaurants anyway)

    I'll have to try these tea bags. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luzianne is what would be considered a Southern tea though it's probably more popular here in Mississippi and Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast than elsewhere around the South because it was born in New Orleans. It's still a family owned company and a very smooth tea, blended especially for iced tea. It really makes a great pitcher of iced tea.

      I'm with you on the sweet. When I am out somewhere I always get a half and half tea now. Sweet tea is still fairly common, but you do have to specify if you want sweet or unsweet. You used to not have to do that - it was automatically sweet!

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    2. I grew up drinking sweet tea. My sister, in fact, makes it in three gallon amounts and keeps the decanter with a spigot in the fridge. When my husband moved here from Canada, he thought sweet tea was the stuff you buy in a can (made by nestea)...blech! He has now grown to love sweet tea--and greens--although that took much longer. When he was working at a convenience store and would have to make the big urns of sweet tea, he would add a whole bag of sugar to the tea (making it almost into a syrup). There were people who would come to the store and would not buy tea unless he made it. But it was far too sweet for me. At home, he makes it sweet...but not syrupy. We tend to use Luzianne family sized or Community family sized. We tend to steep it a bit longer than 9 minutes (There was the time we forgot it was steeping and came back to very dark steeping liquid a few hours later--it didn't taste bitter but had a very strong TEA flavor). I am also a "squeezer to avoid the mess." One thing I tend to be fairly militant about is pouring the sugar in the steeping liquid immediately after steeping while the water is still HOT before adding the cooler water. In my family we call it "Ninny tea" after my great-grandmother who was the sweet tea maker in the family (She used the 1 cup per half-gallon ratio).

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  27. Replies
    1. Well Martin... I don't put vodka in my sweet tea typically, but I do have this marvelous Southern Iced Tea Cocktail you should try. It's wonderful on a hot & humid Southern summer day!

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  28. This is kind of funny. I am in a facebook community called "you might be from Memphis..." and today we were talking about sweet tea. If any of you'all are from Memphis or were, and you have fond memories, you can apply to join the group. They are picky, no prejudices, no complaining, just happy thoughts.

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  29. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been trying for nearly 30 years to make good Southern sweet tea (I'm a transplanted Yankee) and, apparently, the only thing I've been doing correctly is using Luzianne. Since my husband and I are both diabetic, we'll have to go the Splenda route, but it's STILL got to be better than what I've been making! Thanks again!

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    1. You're welcome - please let me know what you think!

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  30. Wow...being from the south I took it for granted that everybody knew how to make tea! (We have tea and UNsweet tea...we don't call it sweet tea in our family...just tea) The box gives directions but everyone steeps for a different time frame or uses a different amount of sugar. (And of course some people still swear by sun tea! )
    The one thing everyone can agree on, in Arkansas, is they gotta have (sweet) tea! We have a catering business and for our first event we showed up with (gasp) unsweetened tea, with plenty of sugar and other sweeteners for people to sweeten it themselves. Big mistake! HUGE! We quickly had to make sweet tea or we were gonna have a riot on our hands--even though about half of the guests were from other states! The people from up north were wanting "true" southern sweet tea!!! (Being local, I knew better!)

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    1. And yet, somehow you also landed here on this page for a recipe for southern iced tea!! ;)

      Truth is, there are cooks of all levels searching out recipes and blogs such as mine are here to help them - from beginning cooks to more experienced cooks looking for something different to make Why, I even have a recipe for egg salad and you'd be surprised how many folks come looking for that because they aren't sure of ingredients or proportions.

      As to sweet & unsweet tea, I don't know of an event or a local restaurant here in South Mississippi that doesn't offer both these days. Sweet is often still the most popular - but if you ask for simply "tea" they are going to ask you if you want sweetened or unsweetened - although many folks such as myself prefer to mix the two & that's how I order mine in a restaurant - half and half. I find other folks sweet tea to be too sweet very often.

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