How many of y’all were drinking sweet tea before anything else? Especially our Southern friends…y’all know what we’re talkin’ about! It isn't just a beverage, it’s a way of life!
Just thinkin’ about how deeply rooted it is in our culture has got us wondering about the history of sweet tea. How’d it come about? Why is it so popular, especially in the South? Did it originate down South and who invented it
So, hang on to your boots, we’re going to be diving into the history of our favorite thing in the world – SWEET TEA!
What is Sweet Tea?
While the roots of tea are traced back to Asia, the roots of adding sugar to tea can be traced back to Great Britain, Senegal, and India. Many tea drinkers enjoy a very sweet tea. The roots of sweeten tea with ice though was purely a southern idea and is now a southern tradition!
Southern style traditional sweet tea is made in batches of boiling water and stirring in sugar that dissolves. Then the tea is steeped in the sugar water until the water cools. The tea bags are removed and the sweet tea is served over ice.
Today, there are wonderful new methods of making sweet tea, including cold brews that make life so much easier.
How was Sweet Tea Invented?
Historians believe the first United States tea plant was planted in what today is known as Middleton Place Gardens near Charleston, South Carolina back in the late 1700s. French botanist, Andre Michaux, imported tea in pursuit of attracting the wealthy plantation owners. In fact, not only is South Carolina the first location to grow plants for tea, but it is also the ONLY place where tea was commercially produced in the US—ever. Ain’t that somethin’?
Since the early 1800s, cookbooks from America and England have featured tea recipes served cold, before iced tea became popular in today’s culture. At the time, these chilled tea drinks were made with green tea and were crafted as punches. The recipes had very similar instructions to today’s sweet tea but with a twist. They were spiked with alcohol, y’all! Spiked cold “green tea punches” as they called it and it was all the rage in both countries during the nineteenth century! The Brits enjoyed it so much that they named the mix Regent’s Punch after England’s King George IV, also known as the Prince Regent at the time. He had a reputation in England for his lively personality when drinking.
“Want a cuppa Regent’s Punch?”
History of Sweet Tea
The oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea was published in 1879. The recipe, developed by Marion Cabell Tyree, was in a cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Kinda sounds like an 1800s version of our friend Christy Jordan, doesn’t it?
Check out Tyree's sweet tea recipe below:
“After scalding the teapot, put into it one quart of boiling water and two teaspoonfuls green tea. If wanted for supper, do this at breakfast. At dinner time, strain, without stirring, through a tea strainer into a pitcher. Let it stand till tea time and pour into decanters, leaving the sediment in the bottom of the pitcher. Fill the goblets with ice, put two teaspoonfuls granulated sugar in each, and pour the tea over the ice and sugar. A squeeze of lemon will make this delicious and healthful, as it will correct the astringent tendency.”
It wasn’t until the 1900s that iced tea using black tea, instead of green tea, started to become popular, which is the tea leaf blend of choice today. At the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, an Englishman named Richard Blechynden was serving hot tea and realized that the summer heat was so intense, that no one wanted hot tea! He ran the tea through iced lead pipes and served free iced to people walking through the fair. This catapulted iced tea into a popular American summertime drink.
And then the Prohibition came along between 1920 and 1933. With beer, wine, and alcohol now illegal, people started looking for alternative beverages and iced tea grew even more in popularity! By this time, sweetened iced tea was in almost every southern cookbook!
Is Sweet Tea a Southern Thing?
Have y’all ever gone to a restaurant or diner in the South that doesn’t have sweet tea? We haven’t! It’s more than a staple of the cuisine, it’s a part of every meal in southern culture!
Did you know that in 2003, a bill was introduced in Georgia that says it would be a misdemeanor to serve iced tea at a restaurant without also offering sweet tea as an option!? That’s how loved sweet tea is in the south.
Wanna hear somethin’ funny? “Tea” is more commonly used in reference to sweet tea vs hot tea in many southern states. We love it!
But—like everything—sweet tea is changing. As people start to tweak their diets, become more active, and pay more attention to their health, they don’t wanna drink their calories and sugar!
We wanted to make sure that the folks that grew up with sweet tea, or adopted sweet tea into their life, had a tasty, healthier option. So we made a sugar-free, pre-sweetened sweet tea that not only tastes like classic Southern sweet tea…it IS classic Southern sweet tea! And that’s where Southern Breeze Sweet Tea belongs in the history of this delicious drink!
Craving a glass of sweet tea after readin’ up on it? We sure are! Learn how to make sweet tea—the sugar-free kind! Pick a flavor and get sweet tea sippin’, Sweeties! And if you want something even more convenient...try our Southern Breeze Cold Brew Sweet Tea!up on it? We sure are! Learn how to make sweet tea—the sugar-free kind! Pick a flavor and get sweet tea sippin’, Sweeties! And if you want something even more convenient...try our Southern Breeze Cold Brew Sweet Tea!