Living in South Carolina for the past six years has taught me many things. I have learned that there is no such thing as a “quick” phone call, macaroni and cheese should never ever come from a box, and the phrase “bless your heart” is not necessarily a compliment.
But the most important thing that I’ve gleaned from my time down South is that tea is not tea unless it contains at least a half pound of sugar.
I hail from the great frozen tundra up north, better known as the state of Michigan. During our brief summer, we make our tea by cramming a handful of tea bags into an empty milk jug, filling it with tap water, and leaving it out on the front porch until the sun turns it brown.
That’s the tea I grew up with. If you were feeling particularly fancy or were expecting company, you might add a wedge of lemon. It’s plain, it’s refreshing and it’s the only way I know how to make it.
My husband is a South Carolina native, originally from Hilton Head Island. The man knows his tea. He instinctively can tell when the sugar to water to tea ratio has been reached by sight alone. This October we will have been married five years, and only in the past month did I finally master the delicate art of brewing sweet tea.
And when I say “master,” I mean that it was deemed “passable.” To anyone from the northern side of the Mason Dixon line, if you’re told you make “passable sweet tea,” you feel like Paula Deen, but without all the controversy.
My first few attempts were laughable. I started by just adding copious amounts of sugar to a gallon of regular tea, screwing on a lid, and shaking it as hard as I could in a vain attempt to dissolve the sugar. Needless to say, I failed miserably. Each sip was a grainy sludge that immediately went to work eroding the enamel of my teeth.
My second try involved heating the tea and sugar on the stove, which made it so strong that I rode a caffeine buzz for what seemed like days. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly the result I was going for. I was sure that I was making this task much more difficult than it had to be. It only has three ingredients, how am I screwing this up? Swallowing my pride, I turned to Pinterest for help.
For those of you who aren’t in the loop, Pinterest is an online bulletin board that people can use to “pin” pictures, ideas, jokes, etc., to their own personal board. It’s a collection of your favorite things on the Web, centrally located. In my case, it consists largely of crafts that I’ll never make, recipes I’ll never try, home improvements that I can’t afford, and one recipe for True Southern Sweet Tea.
Armed with my recipe and my newly restored confidence, I carefully and painstakingly followed the step by step instructions until I had produced eight glorious pints of golden brown sweetness that any Southerner would be happy to drink on their front porch.
Now, if I can just learn how to make fried chicken, I’ll be all set.