Sweet tea

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A glass of sweet tea

Sweet tea is a form of iced tea in which sugar or some other form of sweetener is added to the hot water before brewing, while brewing the tea, or post-brewing, but before the beverage is chilled and served. It is a staple beverage in the U.S. Southern states; most family-style and fast food restaurants in the region offer the customer a choice of sweet tea or unsweetened (sometimes referred to as "unsweet") iced tea. However, most Southerners prefer the sweet variant.

The amount of sweetener added to the beverage during the brewing process can be a bone of contention between the person responsible for preparing it and those who consume it; hence the witticism occasionally heard in the South: "Could I have a teabag for this glass of Karo syrup?" Despite this witticism, it should be noted that the most discriminating connoisseurs of this beverage use only sugar, and never corn syrup.

Iced tea is normally served unsweetened throughout the rest of the United States: a request for a glass of "sweet tea" in these regions will usually be met with a blank look. Displaced Southerners and others who want to sweeten their iced tea may need to dissolve sugar in the already cold tea themselves, a difficult proposition.

The oldest known recipe for sweet ice tea was published in 1879 in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia, by Marion Cabell Tyree. This recipe calls for green tea. In fact, most sweet tea drunk during this period was green tea. However, during World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States, leaving them with tea almost exclusively from British-controlled India which produces black tea. Americans came out of the war drinking nearly 99 percent black tea.

See also: grits, Southern U.S. cuisine, United States Regional Cuisine.

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