Sweet Tea for Sweltering Southern Summers
I wouldn’t be surprised if stated somewhere in the heavily-amended Alabama Constitution is a rule that an Alabama-based blog can’t do a series on tea without a post on iced sweet tea. So I don’t break any obscure law, I figured I’d better highlight this southern staple on this next-to-last day of the series.
My earliest memories involving sweet tea have to do with my aunt, who would make peach sun tea by setting out the pitcher in the front yard. The first time I saw that sparkly beacon, I knew we were in for something special. I wasn’t disappointed. She had somehow managed to use only the sun to brew a deliciously refreshing afternoon. I was a very outdoor-loving, science-y kid, and I was fascinated with earth ovens and other ancient no-tech cooking techniques, and I found using the sun to brew tea really idyllic.
The time and place of my next sweet iced tea experience is less defined, but it wasn’t great. You might predict why. When you ask for iced tea at a restaurant, you get two options: sweet or unsweet tea. Sometimes, such as at a buffet, tea comes automatically unsweetened, and you have to sweeten it to your liking. I, of course, didn’t know that then, and was in for a shock–here was what I now know to be a black-tea brew without any sweetener. I did not delight in that glass of tea.
Even though today is sunny, I’m on a deadline so not patient enough to sun-brew today’s tea. I decided to make it the conventional way. If you are new to sweet iced tea, I think Julie from The Pioneer Woman provides a nice primer for classic sweet tea.
I decided to experiment and came up with this concoction:
Heart of Pixie’s Better-than-Kool-Aid Sweet Tea
First, the teabags. I haven’t yet highlighted any fruity infusions in this series, so since I have quite a few on hand, today’s “tea” is a mixed infusion of three different varieties:
- Tazo’s “Passion,” which is a lovely juicy blend that contains hibiscus, papaya, mango,apple, lemongrass, rose hips, blackberry leaves, and passion fruit. This infusion is really delicious on its own, and the sachets and loose-leaf herbs make for a luxurious glass. (2 bags)
- Tazo’s “Wild Sweet Orange,” which contains blackberry leaves, spearmint leaves, orange, hibiscus, rose, ginger, and licorice. I don’t really enjoy this tea on its own, but I knew its tangy flavours would pair well with the other two. (3 bags)
- Celestial Seasonings’ “Raspberry Zinger,” which contains hibiscus, rose hips, chicory, and raspberry. This is another that I don’t really enjoy hot–its reminiscent of cough syrup–but as an iced tea, it’s yummy, especially when infused with other tea. (3 bags)
Since all three teas have a bit of rose hips and I already had about a cup of that rose syrup from a few days ago, I skipped the simple syrup that The Pioneer Woman suggests in the recipe I linked above. I also skipped Julie’s awesome tip about adding baking soda as the tea steeps. This is an excellent tip that I had never heard of that works well when you’re making sweet iced tea from black tea.
The tannin content is quite a bit lower in my concoction (though some berries and hibiscus do contain tannins), so I omitted the baking soda this time.
What I ended up with was a rosy raspberry, orange, and passion fruit medley that tasted like–no joke–like the best Koolaid you’ve ever had, and without any of the artificial flavour.
Want to try?
- Bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil. Add 8 tea bags of your desired flavour (see my #s in the list above). Turn the heat off and let the bags steep.
- Pour your syrup into the pot and let cool.
- Once its cool enough to add to the pitcher, pour it in and add 3-4 cups of water.
- Put it in the fridge for some hours and serve with or without ice.
P.S. Welcome, new subscribers! I’m so grateful for your support. Let me know your favorite sweet tea flavour in the comments. <3