I know there will be tons of folks making exotic dishes with tea, drinking rare teas, waxing poetic about tea ceremonies, but in our house, tea means sweet tea. If you are from the South, I don't need to enlighten you as to what sweet tea is. To all of the yanks out there, sweet tea is what you drink when you are south of the Mason-Dixon line: plain black tea - home brewed - with a ton of sugar in it. It gets poured over a big glass of ice and you sit in the shade and relax. If you want to be fancy, you can put some mint or lemon in, but other than that, it's pretty straight forward.
Of course, for another generation, Tea means Mr. Tea- I mean Mr. T. So stop that jibberjabbering and hand me that sweet tea.
To appease the Northern aggressors who stop by my house, I also make unsweetened tea and serve it with three simple syrups: one plain, one flavored with lemon and one flavored with mint. Simple syrups are perfect for iced tea as they do not leave piles of gritty sugar in the bottom of your glass. It also allows each person to make their tea just as sweet as they like. It has the added advantage that from a couple of feet, it looks like you are stirring teaspoons of nothing into your tea, making you appear as though you have gone senile in a short period of time. The illusion is greatly aided by talking to relatives only you can see.
Rosie's Sweet Tea for Northerners
10 plain old pekoe tea bags
64 oz of boiling water
64 oz of cold water
Bring you water to a boil. Take the water off the burner and put the tea bags in. Let steep five minutes, then remove tea bags. Put the hot tea concentrate into a gallon pitcher and add the other 64 oz of cold water. Chill.
Flavored Simple Syrups
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 bunch of mint (whatever you have growing in your garden - doesn't everyone have mint taking over their garden?)
Zest of one lemon
Bring water to a boil. Add sugar and stir to disolve. Remove from heat and pour into three heatproof containers. (I use three glass measureing cups for this step.) Add the mint to one container and the lemon zest to another. Leave the third one plain. Let the syrup set until cooled to room temperature, then strain out add-ins. Place into clean decorative containers with lids and chill. If you don't think this is a enough syrup for your crowd, just multiply it up...just keep the 2:1 ratio.This will keep in the fridge for ages.
To serve: 2 teaspoons of syrup = 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
Now get out on that porch...summer is quickly coming to a close....