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A Little Bit on Sweet Tea
What's in My Cup?
By Caelon Reed
Advertising alert! You can prance into McDonald’s and get yourself a nice refreshing sweet tea for a mere buck. Now that sweet tea is not only going to quench your thirst but also give you a little sample of a very commercial version of a famous Southern delicacy. Yes, the drink Grandma’s, restaurants, and gas stations all over have been serving are kind of a big deal. In the movie Steel Magnolias, they called sweet tea the "house wine of the South." So, what’s all the fuss about?
Aside from sweet tea being delicious when properly made, it has quite the history. Tea consumption became popular in Europe when the English bartered with the Chinese in the 16th century. In 1795 French botanist, Andre Michaux, brought different plants to South Carolina plantations in hopes that they would entice wealthy field owners. It was in Charleston, South Carolina that he grew the first American tea crop.
Unfortunately around that time, the British were still controlling the tea market, making tea very expensive. That is, until 1859 when the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) began selling tea at one-third of the price.
It wasn't until the mid-19th century that tea grew popular in the South, and at that time it was served with alcohol. Around that same time, the alcohol and tea mix known as 'punches' were considered a luxury since ice was not a commonly used commodity until the inventions of the icehouse. What did that mean? When Prohibition came along in the 1920s, people needed a new drink of choice. That's exactly when Southern sweet tea as we know it today became widespread.
Another cool fact about sweet tea from a couple decades later: black tea didn’t replace green tea in sweet tea recipes until after World War II. Tea was primarily sweetened when it was cold. That is, until people later realized they could use less sugar sweetening tea while it’s hot. Sugar was rationed at the time, so people were looking to conserve it in their home-cooking. Sweet tea was cost efficient for poverty stricken Southerners because it requires only three ingredients (tea, sugar, and water), which also made it popular during the war effort.
Geez, are we fortunate to be living in the sweet tea era that we are! I could not imagine life without sweet tea because I’m underage and, hey, that means I couldn't have it served with alcohol. I don’t think I could stomach warm tea all the time, either, so a special thanks to whoever came up with the idea for ice cubes. Sugar is no longer rationed, and tea is widely and easily accessible.
Now, without further ado, I have gotten hold of an easy quick recipe to satisfy your taste buds. Try it out:
· 3 cups water
· 2 family-size tea bags
· 3/4 cup sugar $
· 7 cups cold water
1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; add tea bags. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Cover and steep 10 minutes.
2. Discard tea bags. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Pour into a 1-gal. container, and add 7 cups cold water. Serve over ice.
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