National Ice Tea Day

NOTE:   I am recycling, re-purposing, and reusing today.   This post was originally done as a guest post for Food Stories way back in 2012.    Here it is again in all its glory to celebrate National Ice Tea Day.   (I have replaced the original post’s pictures with some hopefully better beverage photographs.)



Growing up and living in Oklahoma sometimes is a conundrum.    (I could get quite political here but I am not touching the red state issue or our legislature which is sometimes too ignorant for words.   Oops!   I guess I did get a bit political—forgive me.)

The riddle I really want to focus on is ice tea.    Sometimes Oklahoma is considered part of the South and sometimes it is considered the Southwest.    Even though we Okies have our own unique brand of culture, I believe that we are closer in Southern character, tradition and charm.  So, what about sweet tea?

That leads me to this  discussion.

I was well into adulthood when I realized sweet tea was such a “thing.”  Who knew that there were so many recipes and rules  for sweet tea?     (There are 200+ recipes listed at All Recipes.)

See, in our family,  we drank it straight up, plain, never sweetened.        There was never sugar on our table, never long ice tea spoons set out to stir it up.    If a guest asked for sugar for his tea, we were perplexed.


We did drink ice tea by the gallon in the summer.   I remember taking quart sized Mason jars of it to the fields in June and July for my father, grandfather, and any hired hands.     They would hold the cold jar to their foreheads before gulping it down.    When “sun tea” became the rage in the late 80s, we would have gallon jars setting on the back step most summer days.     If we were hosting a BBQ, there would be a large Igloo jug of tea for our guests, again unsweetened.     We always had mint growing and going wild in some part of the garden or yard, so on special occasions, we would serve tea with mint.

This mint is coming up everywhere: in the huge pot that I originally had it contained in, in all of the flowerbeds and even in the cracks of the back kitchen door step.

I still like it plain, “No Sweet!,” as I order a shaken tea from Starbucks, but for the sake of being a Southerner (sometimes), I will play around with it here.

Here is my homage to National Ice Tea Day with just a bit of sweetness.   (Besides, I had some simple syrup around for some sangria on the porch!)

An Okie’s Attempt at Sweet Tea

Make simple syrup:
1 c.  water
1 c. sugar
1 c. mint leaves
Brewed tea

Bring water to a boil and and stir in sugar.   Reduce heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.    Remove from heat and add mint.   Let mint steep for about 30 minutes.

The mint may turn dark as it steeps.

Remove mint and strain.   Set aside to cool completely. While syrup is cooling, make tea.     Use your own method but DO NOT USE INSTANT!*

When tea is brewed and syrup is cool, pour tea over ice into glasses.     Pour 1-2 tablespoons (or more)  of simple syrup into glasses according to your guests’ tastes.    Garnish with more mint leaves.

For a change of pace, this is fine.   But, I am still a tea purist.   Give me unsweet tea any other day of the week.


I am often told that I can be a bit intense and driven which is sometimes taken as abrasive.     I blame this on my roots—not enough sweet tea.

Bless my heart…

Cheers!  And here’s to National Ice Tea Day!

Thanks to C.J. from Food Stories for reminding me of this national holiday!

I do love some tea and I have a few other tea related posts:
Gunpowder Mint Tea
Green Tea Gelato
Lady Grey Gelato
Hibiscus Tea
Mother’s Day Tea


*Just an aside here:   Back in the day, my grandmother and mother and aunt all used instant tea.    Truly nasty stuff.   They changed to loose tea after they learned there were more cancer-fighting agents in real tea than the instant variety.   Thank goodness!


P.S.  It’s BOGO today at Starbucks.   Buy an iced tea any get one free.


16 comments to National Ice Tea Day

  • Angie@Angie's Recipes

    This looks really refreshing and a perfect cooler for those hot summer days. Have a wonderful weekend, Debra.

  • Hi Debra:)

    I totally forgot today was National Iced Tea Day even though I had it on the calendar for June! It gets difficult keeping up with all these yummy days sometimes. I do believe June may even be National Iced Tea Month!

    I never knew what Sweet Tea was. It wasn’t until I started collecting cookbooks that I realized there was such a thing happily living in the South:) As for me, I drink my iced tea plain and simple; unsweetened. (of course I make up for my sugar cravings with lots and lots of candy these days, lol)

    Thanks for sharing, Debra…good job at recycling and grazing over the politics:)

    • Louise, I can’t believe you forgot this! You are the queen of the foodie calendar. 🙂 We had one uncle who drank iced tea and at any family function, we had to scramble to find an iced tea spoon (do they make these anymore?) and the sugar bowl for him (which was usually in the china closet with sugar as hard a rock). I guess I could use that story for next year’s post.

  • I am a northern, exiled in Florida, but growing up in the Philadelphia area you may be surprised that we had sweet tea all summer long. My mom would boil an enormous pot of water and use tea bags and sugar. As it cooled we could get a glass here and there, sit outside and enjoy.

    Loved your post.

  • Now I know why I saw so many iced tea posts yesterday! I don’t think I’ve ever had sweet tea—guess I’m a northerner through and through!
    P.S. I’ve started to recycle my posts, too!

  • How did I miss National Ice Tea Day?! Totally should have done a post! 😉 Like you I am generally a no-sugar in my ice tea person but Ihave made a few sweet tea versions for blogging over the years.

    I had to laugh at your aside about the instant tea–my family drank that too back in the day. Ugh–it truly was nasty stuff. It put me off drinking real tea/ice tea for years because I associated the taste with the instant crap! 😉

    • I am laughing at these instant tea stories rolling in. 🙂 I distinctly remember the day when the family went cold turkey to brewed tea. It was a revelation! (And a celebration!!!!)

  • Ha, I had to laugh at your admonition “do not use instant”. When we moved to the South over 30 years ago from the midwest, I’d never drank ice tea. We had some Southern friends we’d met, shortly after moving, coming for dinner one evening. I called and asked her what they liked to drink. She said “ice tea”. I went and bought a jar of Lipton instant iced tea. She almost had a heart attack and quickly cued me in to “the southern way” which did not allow instant!

    • I do still have a jar of instant tea that I use to make another childhood winter favorite, Russian Tea (or as we called it Hot Tea Tang!). If I could find a way to make that stuff without it, I would. Thanks for the giggle this morning, Chris. 🙂

  • Oooohhh Sangria!!! I haven’t had that in ages! But as for tea, I’m a straight up kind of girl. I don’t do sweet at all, but my daughter on the other hand… she’s sweet through and through! Like you I didn’t know sweet tea was a “thing” until I moved to Kentucky… my neighbor was from Alabama and Sweet Tea was life! She did learn to pour my tea before adding sweetener though 🙂 Good to see you!!

    • Honestly, I had no idea that everyone had a sweet tea story! 🙂 Thanks, Kim, and good to see you too. My intent was to make sangria this weekend but alas it didn’t happen. There’s always next weekend.

  • I love iced tea, especially in the Summer! Every morning I take a container of homemade cold green tea to work, but now I have to make this syrup to try! Thanks for this recipe!