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Sweet Tea

Sweet tea or unsweet tea? That is the question waitresses across the southeastern United States pose as a greeting to diners. As Dolly Parton proclaimed in her role as Truvy in the movie based on the play Steel Magnolias, it’s the “house wine of the South.”

The summer Mockingbird Bakery opened, Delta magazine, our regional Vanity Fair, bestowed upon us the honor of “Best Sweet Tea.” We had ordered dozens and dozens of those crooked-neck spoons that can hang on the side of an iced tea glass. In the following 18 months, the spoons had almost all disappeared. I could not imagine they were getting thrown away. I even installed a magnetized trash can cover to catch them. I had scoured the place looking for them. Then one day, in the middle of the lunch rush, I spied a woman deftly swipe her tea spoon into her expensive handbag. As she was a regular customer and well regarded in the community, I decided to let her get away with the petty theft. I was, at the very least, glad that the mystery of the disappearing spoons had been solved. Several days later she returned with her usual luncheon coterie. I’ll have you know that when the table was bussed, there was not a single crooked-neck spoon to be found. The next time she lunched with us, the spoons were left behind when she departed. I do not think she had reformed her ways; I think she simply had acquired a service for eight. The rest of the spoons must have been absconded with by similar crooks.–Martha Hall Foose

LC Crooked-Neck Spoon Note

Rest assured, this sweet tea tastes divine any way you make it, whether with or without a crooked-neck spoon with which to stir it.

Sweet Tea Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 40 M
  • Makes 3 quarts

Ingredients

  • 4 pitcher-size cold-brew tea bags, or 6 tablespoons orange pekoe tea leaves in a diffuser
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • Fresh mint sprig (optional)

Directions

  • 1. Place the tea bags in a large pitcher. Pour in 3 quarts (12 cups) of cold water and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • 2. Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of cold water and the sugar to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and turns into what’s known as a sugar syrup.
  • 3. Remove and discard the tea bags from the pitcher. Add the sugar syrup to the tea and stir. Serve the tea over ice, with lemon and fresh mint, if desired. If you’re serving the tea with lemon slices, pass them on the side so that the juice can be squeezed into the tea and the lemon discarded. (If the pith is left to wallow in the glass, its bitterness will infuse the tea.)
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