How Sweet Tea It Is

“Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths.“

John Egerton

Our Love Affair With Iced Tea

All you have to do is glance at this quote to know that Mr. Egerton was born right in the middle of that genteel Southern mecca we know as Atlanta. His statement exemplifies how all true Southerners respect and reveres their sweet tea. To those of us fortunate enough to exist in that slice of existence known as the South, we share a relationship to our sweet tea that places it in the realm of more than just a beverage, but a trusted childhood friend we love to visit with on a sweltering summer day. To us, just the mention of sweet tea elicits visions of glasses sweating in the summer heat full of that amber elixir of the gods as it enfolds ice in an embrace of brotherhood. Yes, in short, we truly LOVE our tea.

A Brief History of Our Elixir, Sweet Tea

But we are not the only, or even the first, to have such a fascination with this mystical beverage. People since the dawn of time and throughout the ages across the planet have enjoyed tea in various forms. It has been referenced in ancient eastern texts as far back as 4500 years ago and was introduced to the West approximately 450 years ago. At this point it was embraced by Europe and especially in England where it has been entwined into the very fabric of daily afternoon life. Although these people technically consumed tea, it was not the soul refreshing brew we know today, it was traditional tea served hot. It arrived in America with the earliest settlers and South Carolina is the only state where tea has been grown and harvested commercially.


A Miracle Happens in the South, Sweet Tea Has Arrived!!!

Around the mid-1800s, recipe books and articles can be found showing how to make sweet tea. These recipes appear to be localized in the southern states and included adding sugar to traditional tea. The evolution of iced sweet tea follows that of ice houses and the availability of ice to the masses. And just like Mr. Egerton so eloquently stated - when these ingredients met with the breath taking heat of summer, a miracle was born in the form of our beloved iced sweet tea!

Art in a Glass

Just like the ancient tea ceremonies of the Far East, all southerners have a very specific, sacred ritual for ensuring that their tea is consistently tried and true to their family name. Although no two glasses of this amber delight will ever taste the same, a good glass of sweet tea is like beauty and art in that even if you cannot explain when it is good, you absolutely know it when you see it. No glass of tea will ever taste like the one made by your mother or grandmother, but you can definitely learn to appreciate a well-made glass of tea. We may all take various journeys to get to the end destination of that unattainable perfect glass of sweet tea, but close to perfect will more than suffice after a long hot summer day to quench that blinding thirst that only a southern lifestyle can produce.

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