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.
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.

No matter the recipe, always sweeten tea to your own taste.

Restaurant sweet tea is always way too sweet for me. Pro tip: Order it "half and half" - half sweet mixed with half unsweetened.  During the summer I go through so much iced tea that I now make a full gallon of a diet sweet tea. It helps to slow down the sugar consumption with The Cajun too.

This recipe makes 2 quarts of sweet tea and I used to use a cup of sugar, but then I switched to making my tea completely unsweetened and using a sugar substitute by the glass. Then I stopped using artificial sweeteners completely, then I went back to them, or I flip flop between a stevia/sugar blend, monk fruit or agave - I've pretty much tried most all of them.

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.

Sweetening aside, one thing is for certain. I believe that the perfect iced tea starts with Luzianne brand. {affil link} Period.

Now... I don't say that because I'm trying to impress the folks at Luzianne (who have no idea who I am).

I'm not saying that because I'm trying to make myself look more "Southern" by using Luzianne.

I'm saying that 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. Mama used Lipton and it's a perfectly fine tea. It's just that for what I consider to be the perfect Southern iced tea, I truly believe you need to use Luzianne.

Every once in awhile I like to toss in a bag or two of herbal tea. I really love Traditional Medicinals brand. {affil link} They have all kinds, but these are two of my favorites to add to my regular tea - Ginger Aid, good for digestion, and Green Tea Lemongrass. {affil link} Roasted Dandelion Root is another favorite I use.

Finding a restaurant, even in the Deep South, that served sweet tea was a challenge there for awhile. Restaurants jumped on the bandwagon of removing sugar from their tea and tried to pass off unsweetened tea to all of their patrons, offering sugar packets at the table.

Well, everybody in the South knows that just doesn't work.

Warm tea is what you need to dissolve sugar and iced tea just needs to be cold. Not warm. Not at room temperature. But chilled cold and served over ice and for me, with lemon.

So, thankfully, they have finally gotten back to offering sweet tea again, and unsweetened for those folks who prefer not to have the sugar. It's true, a lot of folks, myself included, sweeten with sugar substitutes these days, but still... every once in awhile, we all sure enjoy a glass of ice cold, sugared-up tea.


Follow these tips for perfect tea!

Tea Tips:

1. For perfect tea always start with fresh filtered cool water. Tap water will work, but it just taste as good to me.

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 if at all possible. I break this rule myself at times though, especially with my Milo's copycat diet iced tea. And I do love my Tervis cups.

4. If you prefer your sweetened tea more on the sweet side, increase the sugar. Some folks like as much as 1-1/2 cups of sugar, but start lower and increase for the next pitcher.

5. Of course, substitute artificial sweetener by the pitcher or per glass 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!}

For more of my favorite iced tea recipes, check out my collection on Pinterest!

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