I was not born or raised in the South. I spent some time growing up on the West Coast and some of early twenties in the Northeast. It wasn't until I went home over the holidays that I realized, with some remorse and some relief, that I am becoming Southern.
There were things I did not appreciate about the South when I first arrived: it is hot (why? why is it so hot?) and I wasn't always sure when I should say "Yes ma'am" and "No sir" (never? sometimes? always.) Though I will probably never be a true southern bell, I have fallen in love with a Southern man, his family, and have learned that being Southern is mostly about being graceful, thoughtful, and welcoming. Nothing epitomizes this for me more than Sweet Tea.
We did not have sweet tea growing up. Though I do remember my mom occasionally made sun tea, it was unsweetened. My sister asked me recently for a recipe "You want a recipe for tea?!," I thought. After sending it I realized - a lot of people make tea the wrong way - too many bags, too few bags, too long of a steep, too hot water. I'm certainly uncertain as to whether Mamaw Betty would approve, but I learned from Carmi Adams, who's about as Southern as I like.
Think of this more as a guideline than a recipe.
You will need a kettle or some other device for boiling water, a pitcher, black tea bags [I like Luzianne brand], sugar, water, and a timer (in this case I used my phone, it was handy):
For a gallon of tea:
Bring a quart of water to a boil. Pour the boiling water into the pitcher and cool for 5 minutes. Add the tea bag(s) [I used Luzianne Family sized bags which require one for a gallon, check your tea bag's box for guidelines]. Steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and add 1 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve and add three quarts of cold water. Give it a good stir and chill or serve immediately over ice.
I find a pitcher of tea starts to taste off after a week or so in the fridge, so make it and enjoy it often.
One of my favorite moments of our Seattle visit was during a breakfast at the Original Pancake House. Brian leaned across the table to ask me in a whisper, "Do you think they have sweet tea." "No Darling," I said, audibly, "Sweet tea is a Southern thing." We both laughed.