Sweet tea has been around since the 1800’s in the United States. It has had many variations in a wide variety of cookbooks. Generally speaking it is tea, sugar and lemon. It is the ratio’s of those ingredients that provide this variety and allow this drink to become a family recipe. The big headache with sweet tea is getting the sugar to dissolve in the cold tea. The recipe below takes care of this by using a tea infused simple syrup.
Sweet Tea (1/2 gallon)
4 cups of water
1 cup of simple syrup
4-5 cups of ice
Start by making the simple syrup from the recipe below. You can use the same tea you are using for the base of the sweet tea or change it up to add a hint of something else. Moroccan Mint or Earl Grey with Lavender make interesting twists to the flavor of sweet tea. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add the tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes if a black tea and 3 minutes for a green tea. While the tea is steeping. Take out a 1/2 gallon pitcher and fill half-way up with ice. If you have a larger pitcher, just add 4 mounded cups of ice. Then pour in the simple syrup over the ice. If your simple syrup just came off the stove, it will melt some of the ice. Add more ice to get your ice back up to half way up your pitcher. When your timer goes off, put a strainer on the top of the pitcher to catch the loose tea and pour the hot tea into the pitcher over the ice. You are using the ice partly as water and partly to cool this down quickly to ice tea.
You can slice the lemon and add it to the pitcher. It will cloud the tea, but I find that it cuts the sweetness nicely. (Sorry I love my tea straight up.) Or you put the lemon in the glass and pour the tea over it.
The ratio of simple of syrup to tea used above is borrowed from older recipes, but what you generally find is that it is a personal preference so feel free to adjust accordingly.
Tea Infused Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of tea
On the stove top, put 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water in a sauce pan and hit over medium-high to high heat to get to boil. It is recommended that your stir, it will not take long for the sugar to dissolve into the warming water. As soon as bubbles start to appear, put in the tea and set a timer for 5 minutes. It is easiest if you stir for the next 5 minutes, you will want the water at a low rolling boil. Once it is there drop the temperature so you do not turn your simple syrup into a caramel sauce. At the end of the 5 minutes, remove from the heat and strain out the tea. Simple syrup can be made in larger batches and kept in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, so feel free to make a large batch so you have them at your disposal anytime (It works nicely in tea infused cocktails).