LOOKING for: Southern style Sweet Tea

eileenlaunonenMay 6, 2008

Ok I admit im addicted to McDonalds new Sweet Tea...I go the drive thru only for that! Now I ve made tea all my life with tea bags sugar and lemon and chilled it in the refigerator but this taste totally different the kids love it too! Whats the secret trick...if there is one...I thought it had Corn Syrup in it instead of sugar..LOL!!!

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Well, I'm Southern (by the grace of God), although transplanted to the West (lovit too). They have a thing out here about saying "Sweet Tea" almost like a joke: "Do you drink *sweetea*? - almost as if it is some kind of colloquialism, and maybe it has become that. Sweet tea in the South to my knowledge is only tea with sugar, as opposed to unsweetened tea. That's it as far as I know. But it will be interesting to see what some of you current Southern cooks have to say.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 11:10AM
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Eileen I live in North Carolina where sweet tea is consumed more than water. I was born and raised in Pa. and have been drinking unsweet tea all my life. I find that if I get sweet tea by mistake I can't drink it, it's just too sweet. I have been told by many local restaurants that they use a simple syrup and add it to their tea. I don't know if that is the difference or not. Gina

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:13PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

I do prefer Luzianne tea bags or brands specifically for iced tea. I make it strong because the ice cubes in a glass dilute it.

To a 4-5 quarts I use 6 family sized tea bags and 1-2 cups sugar. In a stock pot, I add sugar while the water is boiling then add the tea bags (remove the tags) and let it steep all day on the counter. Or overnight. I don't measure the water or sugar so it's a guesstimate.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:17PM
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Thanks thats similar to how I make mine Bumblebeez butI think that a simple syrup may be the change in flavor...hmmm...Ill have to try it and see.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 12:33PM
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I have lived in the South all my life and Sweet Tea is on all tables in Georgia (Home and Restaurants). I was told that sweet tea was created back during WWII because sugar was rationed and it took more sugar to sweeten cold tea than hot tea, therefore the it was presweetened.

Sweet Tea*
Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
3 large tea bags
1 1/2 cups sugar

Bring to a boil about 10 cups of water with the 3 teabags then turn the heat off and let the tea sit for about an hour. Add the sugar to the brewed tea, and finish filling a gallon pitcher with water. Keeping the refrigerator as It can sour if kept out too long and has a tendency to become sweeter if kept into the second day. Some add lemon/mint/oranges, but just pour it over a big glass of ice.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 1:21PM
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Don't think we let the tea brew for as long as an hour, all day or overnight. Just checked with my mom who makes tea every day, year 'round, and she steeps her teabags in the boiling water for about 5 minutes. We think the tea tastes 'stewed' if it steeps for a long time.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 3:14PM
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My southern neighbor brought iced tea to my house one night and I asked her for her secret. She said her grandmother taught her to boil 4 cups of water and add 6 Lipton tea bags to it (assuming these are regular-size tea bags) and let them stand for 30 seconds. Don't squeeze them, or the tea will be bitter. Then add 4 cups of cold water.

I've been making my own variation, adding 3 family-size Lipton tea bags and letting them steep for about a minute. (Not very long, but maybe I'll gradually start bumping that up.) So far, it's been tasting good.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 5:56PM
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Great tips thanks!!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 8:07AM
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Here are the ingredients from the McDonalds website:
Water, sugar, orange pekoe and pekoe cut black tea

And FYI, a large has 230 calories. Since I'm pretty sure the tea itself is only a few calories, the rest of that is coming from sugar. I'm going to guess that's about 15 teaspoons.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 10:38PM
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At lunch today, some of us were drinking regular Coke and some of us were drinking Diet Coke. Diet Coke is the nectar of the gods to me; Coke tastes too sweet. Don't get me wrong, though - I'm no prude when it comes to dessert!

A 20-ounce bottle of Coke has 250 calories. Of course, most people drink the entire bottle - yet, a serving size is 12 ounces.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 11:15PM
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OK, so I'm not southern by birth, but I have lived in Tennessee and currently live in Texas, so I've tasted a variety of sweet tea recipes. Here's one my mom and I (both tea lovers) have developed.

-Bring 4 c. water to a boil
-Let the boil disappear, then pour over 6 bags of orange pekoe tea, soaking all the bags
- Steep for about 1 hour
- Fish out the tea bags, squeezing them over the pitcher to get the last drops of flavor
- Stir in 3/4 c. simple syrup
- Add 2 cups cold water, stir
- Serve over ice

You can always add more simple syrup to taste at this point. I would recommend simple syrup over granulated sugar because it keeps the sweetness more uniform.

For an especially cooling summer variety of this tea, muddle about 1 c. of crushed mint leaves with the simple syrup before adding it to the tea. Then strain the whole tea mixture through a sieve to strain out the leaves, pressing the leaves to really squeeze out that minty flavor. Mmm.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 4:39PM
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It will also make a big difference in taste if you sweeten the tea while it is still hot and let it sit for an hour or so before pouring over ice. My ice tea goes with me everywhere I go. My DD gave me a bookmark that says -"Nothing comes between me and my iced tea." And that's about the truth. Even when I travel my tea equipment goes with me.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 9:39PM
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When we had dinner at my son's apartment he served us beautiful, unclouded iced tea. He puts the tea bags in cold water and lets it sit in the fridge over night (or however long, or depth of color desire).

When I make tea, I use boiling water, add tea bags and allow to completely cool off. Then remove tea bags.I like a sweetener in mine, and hubby likes regular sugar, so the tea is served in glasses at the table. We both add a touch of cranberry juice and a touch of lemon. Don't think this comes under the catagory of "Southern Tea", but iced tea is an individual thing....according to the maker's taste and choice.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2008 at 8:36AM
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I used to sell Luzianne tea before I retired and one of the selling points was that it doesnt get cloudy when put in the fridge overnight like Lipton does.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2008 at 1:38AM
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I'm also a bit mystified by the whole "southern sweet tea" concept. It's just disgustingly sweet iced tea!! It does not deserve a special name!! And simple syrup is just sugar dissolved in water. If you're adding the sugar while the tea is hot (and, why wouldn't you?) it all comes out the same. I think McDonalds sweet tea is vile, but to each his own, I guess.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2009 at 2:56PM
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Having been born and reared in Alabama, I've drank "Southern style sweet tea" all my life. My great-grandmother,grandmother,mom and now me have all made our tea the same way for generations. We bring our teabags to a fast rolling boil ( we use 6 regular size bags ) and then turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for approx. 30 minutes. Remove the teabags ( do not squeeze them ! ) and pour the tea into a gallon container. Add one and a half cups of sugar and stir well. Let sit for 30 minutes. Gradually add cold water to the container stirring well the whole time. You can taste test and add more suger if you like, but just remember that if the whole gallon isn't going to be drank in one sitting, it will get very sweet sitting over-night in the fridge. Southern sweet tea is certainly not disgusting or vile and here in the South it does rate high enough to deserve it's own name. Probably even a Title of some kind.. lol ! We love our sweet tea and a lot of love goes along with all that sugar in making it .. and yes, it's a "to each his own" thing ... :

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 9:36PM
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I'm Southern by marriage. My DSisIL makes the best tea. She only uses Luizanne and about 6 family bags to a gallon. The whole trick is to put the sugar in with the teabags while the water is still really hot. That helps it melt. After about 20 minutes, she removes the teabags and pours it into a gallon container and fills it with cold water. It's delish!

Sometimes she puts water in her coffee pot and the teabags in the carafe and let it run it's cycle. Tastes just as good.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 12:33PM
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Another thing about Southerners and their sweet tea....many of us drink it all through the year, not just in the hot summer months. My dad wants iced tea (which is "sweet" tea) on the table at lunch and dinner and so mom would make it fresh each day.

When I was a kid, we went to NYC and traveled over to New Jersey one day. We asked for iced tea and received a tea cup and saucer with hot water, a tea bag, and an ice cube! My little sisters and I had a good chuckle over that!

I bought some Luzianne tea bags just last week. That brand really does make quite good iced tea, only, I never let a tea bag steep over 5 minutes and I add the sugar/splenda after I remove the tea bag but while the tea is still quite hot.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2009 at 1:55PM
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"Vile" is in the eye/taste of the beholder. Depends on what you were raised with.

I am Southern, born and raised, and tea to us is sweet and cold. I use to make it like most of you do - steep the bags in the hot/boiling water. Then, I started making it using the Sun way. My husband, who is as Southern as anyone can be, makes the tea now using my newest method. We simply get tap water as hot as we can, pour the sugar in, stir well, add the tea bags, stir gently, and let sit for about an hour. We make it in a gallon jug. Surprisingly, its as good as steeping the tea and will not cloud in the refrigerator. If you want, you can leave the tea bags in and it will get stronger.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 12:08AM
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I've made Southern Sweet Tea and California Sun Tea. The trick, to me, is the way it is steeped.
I never let my water boil. I bring it to the brink of boiling. I add my sugar(if I am making for my wife, as I drink mine totally unsweetened. I pour it over the bags and steep for exactly 5 minutes. Anymore and you run the chance of it getting bitter. Then Dilute. I don't touch it until it gets completely cold.
Sun tea is simple. Add teabags to a one gallon glass jar and fill with COLD water. Set in sunny location for 8 hours. Sweeten with simple syrup, if you must. Enjoy.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 5:31PM
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This site pretty much gets it right:


I think the reason why a lot of people are wowed when they drink tea NOT made at home is because they are cooking the tea leaves or otherwise muddying up the flavors when they do it themselves.

There's a whole, centuries-old tradition for making good tea.

Anyway, this hits the nail on the head:

Here is a link that might be useful: Learning How To Cook -- The Art of Iced Tea

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:09PM
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As a Michigander married to a boy from Tennessee, I leave the sweet tea to him, LOL.

I don't want anything at all in my tea, not even lemon, but he likes his sweeter. I think it's all in what you're used to.

Teresa, you got a chuckle over the hot water/tea bag/ice cube combo, but when I went to Georgia I specifically asked for that, because I couldn't get a glass of iced tea that wasn't already sweetened. The waitress looked at me like I had two heads, but she brought it. Begrudgingly, but she brought it, LOL.

Now I'm trying to copy the Lipton Diet Citrus Green Tea that my girls buy in bottles because they love it. Any ideas?


    Bookmark   June 10, 2009 at 4:03PM
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Never, ever boil tea bags. Put them in boiling water, take off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Then sweeten tea with REAL SUGAR, while hot-- so the sugar will melt. add ice and serve. We never, ever drink unsweetened tea--Sweet Tea or No Tea.

Born and Raised here in the SOUTH

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 6:05PM
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There is now a new Lipton Citrus Green tea in bags listed on their web site. You could find that, brew it, sweeten it with your preferred sugarless sweetener, and taste test to see if it is like the bottled version. If it's a good copy-cat of the bottled, just make it up often and refill clean bottles to have on hand. You could even do a blind taste test with the girls to see if they can tell the difference! You could save the bottles from the manufactured green tea and refill them to trick their tastebuds too!

The Lipton Orange Passionfruit and Jasmine green tea is also good.

I like to use part sugar and part Splenda when making sweetened tea. You really should keep any tea chilled if you want to keep it overnight or more than one day. Sometimes chilled iced tea will get cloudy in the fridge. Don't know about green tea.

Just now I made a pitcher of iced tea: 1 Luzianne family size bag and 2 Celestial Seasonings Very Berry Zinger bags, some sugar and 2 packs of Splenda. I also remembered the other day that I love peach flavored tea, so I'll look for that in the store too.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 10:42AM
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