If you are not being offered a glass of iced sweet tea, then you are not in the south. The sweet beverage is a staple that can be found in every southern restaurant and home, and every eatery and family has it’s own signature flavor or serving variation to make the brew unique. Here are the basics for making southern-style sweet tea and a few flavor variations so you can make the brew at home, adding your own twist, regardless of which side of the Mason-Dixon line you live on.
Place 3 cups of water in a sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil. Add 2 family-size tea bags and continue boiling the water for 1 minute. Remove sauce pan from heat, cover and allow tea to steep for 10 minutes.
Discard tea bags and add ¾’s cup of sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a 1 gallon container and finish filling the container with cold water (about 7 cups of water). Serve over ice with a slice of lemon on the side.
This basic recipe can be tweaked to suit individual tastes – add another tea bag for stronger tea, more or less sugar to taste or use honey instead of sugar as the sweetener.
Blackberry Sweet Tea
Blackberry sweet tea is a delight during blackberry season in the south (or use frozen blackberries). Place 3 cups of blackberries and 1 ¼ cup of sugar in a large glass bowl (blackberries and tea stain plastic) and crush berries with the back of a spoon. Stir in 1 pinch of baking soda and 1 chopped mint leaf. Make sweet tea using the basic recipe and pour hot tea over blackberry mixture and let stand for 1 hour before serving. Pour over ice and top with a few fresh blackberries.
Blueberry Sweet Tea
We are blessed with several ‘berry seasons’ in the south and we take full advantage of every juicy berry we pick by serving them every way imaginable, even in our ice cold beverages. To make blueberry sweet tea, place 12 ounces of blueberries and ½ cup of lemon juice in the sauce pan you use to make sweet tea. Bring the mix to a boil over medium heat and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the berries will release all their juice. Remove from heat, pour berry mix through a wire mesh strainer, pressing with the back of a spoon to squeeze out all juice. Discard solids. Make basic sweet tea in the same sauce pan so none of the berry flavor will be wasted. Stir in blueberry juice into warm tea after it is poured into the gallon container. Top with a few fresh blueberries when serving.
Lemonade Sweet Tea
Make the basic sweet tea recipe and homemade lemonade (recipe found in a previous article of mine) and combine the two beverages half-and-half or according to taste. Serve in a chilled, sugar-rim glass and topped with a slice of lemon.