Sinfully Sweet: Gran's Sweet Tea Recipe

About two years ago, I asked my mom for her zucchini bread recipe.  My homemaking skills were just blossoming, and I was beginning to uncover the joys of creation in the kitchen.  Hers was—still is—by far the best zucchini bread I have ever tasted, and having brought home two large zucchinis from the farmers’ market I was anxious to put them to use in the best way that I knew how: in a moist, buttery, delicious vegetable bread.

The recipe yields one loaf.  It calls for a cup of sugar.  For those of you who are seasoned bakers, this comes as no surprise.  But this was my first bread, and I was shocked to discover that almost as much sugar as flour went into the mix.  A cup is nearly a spoonful per bite.  It seemed outrageous.

I wished I hadn’t asked for the recipe.  I say this because, first of all, I butchered it—my loaf came out spongy and gray—but also because seeing the ingredients in print disillusioned me.  Never again could I eat zucchini or banana bread for breakfast without guilt.  My blissful naivety dissolved with the sugar in the batter.

It is for this reason that I hesitated to ask my grandmother for her sweet tea recipe.  Gran’s sweet tea is amazing.  And as with many amazing things, sometimes the recipe is best blissfully ignored.

Yes, it is the sugar that makes sweet tea.  I knew this before I knew how to brew it.  I have worked at the Maya Tea company for five years now, and not once have I added sugar to my black tea, even when iced.  I have resigned to enjoying it sweetened only when in North Carolina or when my grandma visits us here, bringing with her treats like boiled peanuts and Cheerwine, and filling our fridge with chilled sweet tea.

And then, I thought: what about those poor Arizona folk who don’t have southern grandmas to make sweet tea for them?  Shouldn’t they taste it, too?  And so I got the recipe.  For you.  I have tweaked it slightly, as my grandma hasn’t yet made the switch from teabags to loose leaf tea (forgive her this, old habits die hard!).

Gran’s Sweet Tea

  • 10 cups filtered water
  • 25 grams loose leaf black tea (might I suggest Assam?)
  • 1 cup sugar

Before we go further, let me clear up any possible confusion about the amount of tea.  Most of you don’t have scales by which to weigh out ingredients.  For most (most!) black tea varieties, this will amount to about half a cup.  As with all brewing, this amount can be altered according to desired strength.

And now, without further adieu:

1.  Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a saucepan; add loose tea. Remove from heat and allow to steep for about 5 minutes.

2.  Strain hot liquid from tea leaves and into a large pitcher.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved.

3.  Add 10 cups cold water.  Refrigerate.  Serve over ice--a wedge of lemon may be added.

“ENJOY—love my tea.”

~Linda Briggs, “Gran”

So there you have it.  For those of you who aren’t so sugar-shy, waste no time in getting a pitcher of this delectable chilled beverage in your fridge.  For those of you who are, waste no time in getting a friend or loved one to do it for you.  For boiled peanuts, Cheerwine, and of course zucchini bread, you’re on your own!

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