How many of y’all were drinking sweet tea before anything else? Especially our Southern friends…y’all know what we’re talkin’ about! Sweet tea isn’t just a beverage, it’s a way of life! Join us on a journey of the history of sweet tea in the south.
Just thinkin’ about how deeply rooted sweet tea 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?
So, hang on to your boots, we’re gonna be diving into the history of our favorite thing in the world – SWEET TEA!
Why is Sweet Tea Only in the South?
While the roots of tea are traced bask 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 sweet tea with ice though was purely a southern idea and is now a southern tradition!
What is Southern Style Sweet Tea?
Southern style sweet tea originated by being 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 were removed and the sweet tea was served over ice.
Today, there are wonderful new methods of making sweet tea, including cold brews that make life so much easier.
What is Regent’s Punch?
There’s some evidence that tea plants were brought to the US in the late 1700s by a French botanist. Planted in South Carolina, then a colony, the tea started to appear in cookbooks with iced versions of green tea. But these recipes were always spiked with alcohol! Spiked, cold “green tea punches”—as they were called—were all the rage not just in America, but also in England! They loved it so much they named the punch after the English prince regent.
“Want a cuppa Regent’s Punch?”
Sounds tasty! It’s almost like the sweet tea we know and love, plus liquor, and it was usually made with green tea. Today’s iced sweet tea is traditionally made with black tea.
Here’s a recipe for “Tea Punch,” by Mrs. Lettis Bryanon, published in an 1839 cookbook called The Kentucky Housewife:
Make a pint and a half of very strong tea in the usual manner; strain it, and pour it boiling (hot) on one pound and a quarter of loaf sugar. Add half a pint of rich sweet cream, and then stir in gradually a bottle of claret or champaign. You may heat it to the boiling point, and serve it so, or you may send it round entirely cold, in glass cups.
The oldest known recipe for sweet tea was published in 1879. The recipe, developed by Marion Cabell Tyree, was in a cookbook she wrote called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Kinda sounds like an 1800s version of our friend Christy Jordan, doesn’t it?
How Do They Make Sweet Tea in the South?
Here’s Marion’s recipe from her cookbook for what she called “Ice Tea,” published in 1879:
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.
Well now, that just sounds DELIGHTFUL!
Sweetened Iced Black Tea
It wasn’t until 1900 that iced tea using black tea, instead of green tea, started to become popular. At the 1904 World Fair, a man serving hot tea realized that the summer heat was so intense, that no one wanted hot tea! So 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!
Sweet Tea Today
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! 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!
Try Southern Breeze Sweet Tea Today
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!