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.
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
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.
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!
*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.