Sweet Tea


Sweet Tea

Photo credit: Meghan J. Splawn

     It wouldn’t be summer in the South without sweet tea. Perfect for sipping on porch swings, lake docks and the like, this refresher is often reported to have originated at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Though the drink was popularized there, most culinary historians now agree that sweet tea actually developed in the South long before 1904.

     The first tea plants in the US were harvested around Charleston, South Carolina in the late 1700’s. Shortly after, many American (and English) cookbooks began including recipes for serving tea cold, though most of the early recipes were for green tea to be brewed and served with copious amounts of booze for tea punches. Sweetened iced black tea recipes began appearing the latter half of the nineteenth century, most notably in The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryanon.

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     World War I and Prohibition both strengthened the South’s love of sweet tea, and in 1928 Mrs. S.R. Dull printed what would become the South’s most ubiquitous recipe for sweetened ice tea in her book Southern Cooking. Her notes stress that the tea should be sweetened while warm and not steeped too long. Mrs. Dull would go on to form the Atlanta Journal.

     Sweet tea was adopted as South Carolina’s official state beverage in 1995.


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