Sweet Tea vs Unsweet Tea

In the South, two things are certain: it will always be hot and there will always be tea. Now, it’s not what you think, I’m not referring to the beverage commonly poured by our cousins from across the pond. No, down here we like it in a tall glass, served over ice and with or without an obscenely amount of sugar added to it. But just like a good team rivalry, there will be disagreement. Do you say Roll Tide or War Eagle? Do you ask for sweet or unsweet tea? Let’s discuss…

Unsweet Tea
First, let us talk about the abomination that is unsweet tea. If you avoid sweet tea because of dietary restrictions, then you have been excused. However, if tea that is unsweetened is a choice you opt for because you want to be “healthy” well, you might as well move. You can’t live in a region whose vegetables plates consist of fried okra and macaroni and cheese. You can’t have one without the other….you have to go all in.
Now unsweet tea isn’t all terrible. If can be jazzed up artificial sweeteners or lemon wedges (lots and lots of lemons). A cold glass of unsweet tea that doesn’t taste like liquefied cotton candy can help you beat the heat on a sweltering summer day. But if you see someone sweetening their tea with sugar… you’ll definitely know they ain’t from around here (bless their heart).

The Sweetness of Sweet Tea

Southerners like to believe that on the seventh day God created sweet tea. Just ask any Southerner if they would like a glass of sweet tea with their meal and you’ll be preaching to the choir. Also referred to as the “house wine of the South,” this liquid gold goes with just about any southern meal (and dessert). You know you’ve reached the Mason Dixon line when the restaurant you’re at offers sweet tea as a beverage choice.
Think back to when you visited memaw’s as a child. She always had a cold, pitcher of tea waiting for you in the fridge. The delicate beads of sweat would trickle down the sides of the container as it sat on the kitchen table. She’d offer you a glass and y’all would enjoy the lunch of tomato sandwiches she had prepared. However, don’t you dare ask memaw for a glass of unsweet tea! (You may not get that dollar for your birthday next year.) After all, memaw’s sugar is for kissing and cooking; not for adding to your tea. And just like any true Southerner, memaw had her own recipe for biscuits, fried chicken and sweet tea.
So whether you like your tea sweet or unsweet, tea there is no denying that this beverage plays a huge part in Southern culture and cuisine. We’ve been enjoying this beverage since the days before air conditioning. And regardless of your choice, you know how we like it…ice cold and filled to the brim (with or without copious amounts of lemon wedges).

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