Maybe this is a Southern thing, having a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator at all times. What I do know is that I grew up with this and over the years many people have asked me how to make “Iced Tea.”
What this gets called is regional, apparently, I think the first time I remember hearing it called, “Sweet Tea”, as an adult, was when I was a waitress. Years ago and someone from one of the Carolina’s, I think, had made their way out here and wanted to know if we served, “Sweet Tea.” I heard it called “Sweet Tea” here and there at various times during my youth. A discussion then ensued as to the fact that sugar does not dissolve in cold tea. People from the South who venture this far West are generally comforted when they encounter most anyone here who is also from the South or at least has Southern family. There are two barriers, two entering points into those regions, one is when you enter Texas, and the other is crossing the Mississippi Bridge because then you are in, “The Deep South,” though really it’s when you cross into Louisiana, these are other worlds. So I have heard it called both things but what I grew up calling it, what we called it was and is “Iced Tea” meaning to us that it had sugar in it. There is also of course “Sun Tea” and if you do that right you can add sugar to that if you want too. Some folks do not like sugar in their tea, in which case it is simply tea and not iced tea.
To make Sun Tea ~ choose your brand of tea, I prefer Lipton or Red Rose, but Tetley’s is good too though it is better brewed, generic works also. For Sun Tea, I say, go Lipton. Seven or eight individual tea bags, Papaw only used six, I think, they economized though, of course. I don’t care for the gallon-sized ones. Put them in the tea jar, set it in the sun for most of the day. If you want to add sugar to it then do so when you bring the tea jar in, while it is still warm. For a gallon of tea anywhere from half a cup of sugar to a cup and a half depending on your preference. Remove the tea bags before adding the sugar, etc. stir well. ( We used to put two cups of sugar in creating a syrupy caffeinated elixir, I’ve no idea how we drank it like that but we did. )
To brew a gallon of tea, I use seven bags of tea, boil a little pot of water, maybe two and a half cups. Once the water boils turn it off, put your bags of tea in and let it steep, sit, for about twenty minutes, half an hour. The longer it sits the stronger it gets ( this only applies to tea.) This is likely going to stain the pan you use, I have a little pan for this that I don’t use for anything else. You need a one-gallon pitcher, put the sugar in the pitcher first, again the amount of sugar-based on preference, then pour the iced tea concentrate into the pitcher, it should still be fairly warm when you do this. Stir well, this is what dissolves the sugar. Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with room temperature water and stir again. Put it in the refrigerator or pour it over a glass with ice in it to cool.
If you add water that is too cold to the pitcher, or if you throw ice into the warm pitcher, which they sometimes do in restaurants if they are in a hurry, the tea may turn cloudy or develop a slightly bitter, olive flavor.
Thus the simple recipe for Iced Tea or if you prefer, Sweet Tea.
Fascinating, Southern brewed libations, I know.