This recipe for Southern sweet tea is cool and refreshing, with just the right amount of sweetness – perfect for a summer treat on the porch.
I’m recently back from a blogging conference in Charleston, South Carolina where the weather was hot, the history enthralling, and the food rich and savoury. I can finally say I’ve tried Fried Green Tomatoes – which I assumed were un-ripe tomatoes deep-fried to hide their bitterness (not so, they are green when ripe – Duh!), buttermilk biscuits and my new love – Southern sweet tea.
We are iced tea fans in my house – but Canadian iced tea has a VERY different taste from Southern sweet tea.
For one, we buy it in a can like you’d buy Coke, and like Coke the ingredient list is extensive and unpronounceable (like most delicious things right?) I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that all of those chemical compounds and preservatives probably aren’t doing your body any favours. Canadian iced tea is also pre-flavoured with lemon – again, not fresh and definitely not organic.
While in Charleston I taste-tested sweet teas at every restaurant I could and thought you might be interested in an equally as delicious, but much better for you, version of Southern sweet tea.
Lightly sweetened Southern sweet tea
- 6 teabags Orange Pekoe (or green) tea
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups boiling water
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 7 cups cold water
Pour your boiling water over your tea bags and stir in your baking soda. Let steep for 15 – 20 minutes.
Remove tea bags and stir in your sugar completely dissolved.
Pour your concentrated tea into a 2 quart jug and add 7 cups of cold water.
Leave in fridge for a quick and tasty drink, or pour over ice and sip slowly in the sunshine.
Add lemon, strawberries, peach slices and even watermelon to get a lightly flavoured sweet tea. I added blueberries for my photos, but the flavour didn’t really seep through the skin – next time I’ll squeeze the blueberries and just add the juice.
This recipe for lightly sweet Southern sweet tea is perfect without ice. If you do prefer an extra icy drink, you may want to add another ½ cup of sugar to the pitcher so you don’t lose the sweetness as the ice dilutes it.
Why do you put baking soda in sweet tea?
Baking soda may seem like a strange ingredient to add to iced tea, but it actually gives it a smoother taste by reducing the bitterness caused by the tannins in the tea. You can also add a pinch to hot tea to create a gentler (for lack of a better word) flavour.
Benefits of Southern sweet tea
Black teas contain antioxidants that have been shown to help reduce risk factors for heart disease and may help increase heart health.
There have been studies done showing a (slight) correlation between the consumption of black tea and a reduced risk of stroke, cancer and increase in gut health – but these haven’t been conclusively proven, and the volume of tea you’d have to drink is probably more than you’d planned for in an afternoon on the porch.
If you like the taste of honey and lemon – the health benefits of iced tea would be even more. Replace your sugar with ¾ cup of honey for even more heart-healthy antioxidants.
Four ingredients, no additives, preservatives or sodium and an absolutely DELICIOUS drink – you can’t do better than that!
Have a great one!