Sweet Tea

Since it’s been feeling like summer here in Vancouver (finally), Brendon and I have been drinking some good old-fashioned sweet tea. There’s only one company on the West Coast that I know that serves it, and it’s the restaurants at the Flying J truck stops on I-5. Since we’re nowhere near one and Vancouver thinks that sweet tea means Nestea or Snapple, I’ve been making my own. It’s one of the few things that makes me want to move to the South – super humid, buggy summers keep me away.

If you want to try making it yourself, you can try my recipe. Everyone has their own and the best way to make it is always a debate.

  1. Get yourself a 4 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup.
  2. Boil 5 cups of water in a tea kettle.
  3. While the water is boiling, put 1 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of baking soda into a Pyrex measuring cup. (Baking soda helps to make the tea brew darker and less bitter.)
  4. Set aside 7 round Tetley tea bags. (Others swear by Lipton, but I like the round Tetley ones.)
  5. Pour the boiling water in a circular motion into the sugar and baking soda.
  6. Stir the sugar until the water becomes clear and syrupy looking.
  7. Add the 7 tea bags.
  8. Gently stir 5 times.
  9. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  10. Fill a sealable plastic 2.5 quart (2.4 litre) pitcher with ice. (This will make a super sweet tea. If you don’t want something that tastes like you’re getting cavities, try a gallon pitcher.)
  11. Take the tea bags out of the Pyrex cup. DO NOT SQUEEZE THEM. Toss them in the sink and squeeze later if you don’t want all the water in the garbage or compost.  Squeezing causes the tea to be bitter.
  12. Pour the tea/sugar syrup into the pitcher with ice.
  13. Top it off with cold water.
  14. Seal the pitcher and shake.
  15. Serve right away over ice if you’re impatient or let it sit in the fridge for a half hour or more. The longer it sits the better it tastes. Always serve with ice. It is called iced tea after all.

Green tea version – Before WWII green tea was the most popular tea in the U.S., and supposedly the first sweet tea recipe used green tea. If you want to try a green tea version, try replacing the Tetley bags with jasmine tea bags. And replace the sugar with 1 cup of honey and 1/4 of sugar.

On the usage of mint – It’s up to you. Sometimes I add it at the same time as the tea bags, and remove it before pouring it into the pitcher. It can add an interesting little flavor. Don’t leave them in the pitcher – it gets gross after a while. 

Filtered or unfiltered water – It’s up to you. I’ve found that filtered water can make a clearer tea, but you miss out on any natural minerals or floride that’s good for you. Vancouver has really good water, so for me it doesn’t necessarily make much of a difference with the taste.

If you think you have a better recipe, you can add it below – or perhaps we’ll just have to face off at the Sweet Tea Challenge.