Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Reflections on Iced Tea

Day after day after day the temperature here in Atlanta has reached well above 90 degrees, and all I can say for myself is that I've been drinking about as much iced tea as Don Meredith. On rare occasions I drink it plain, although usually I prefer it sweetened. I never order sweet tea at a restaurant as I never know what I'm going to get; I doctor mine up with Splenda instead. At the risk of being run out of town, there is nothing more sickening than sickeningly sweet tea. Arnold Palmers are okay, but I'm more of a purist. And I'm not a snob either when it comes to the brand of tea I brew. Luzianne or Lipton is fine by me.

Tiffany & Co. Chrysanthemum Iced Tea Spoon

A little bit like the Japanese tea ritual, serving iced tea can be done so with a few fancy flourishes. Of course there are sterling iced tea spoons, made long enough to stir the sugar crystals that accumulate at the bottom of a tall glass of tea.

There are also those silver sipper spoons that many people collect. I think they're cute, but I also think that they're not appropriate for all social occasions. It just seems silly to offer your 90 year old grandmother a glass of iced tea with a silver straw.

Wiliam Yeoward "Fern" pitcher

A nice heavy crystal or glass pitcher is nice to have on hand for serving iced tea and looks especially pretty when the tea is flecked with mint leaves.

Edwardian Antique Silver Punch Bowl from Daniel Bexfield Antiques

But for a party, a shower, or a luncheon, you have to go all out with your tea. You've got to mix it with all kinds of fruit juices and such to make it extra special. And by all means, it must be served in a pretty punch bowl with slices of fruit floating at the top. (I know this might sound awfully fruity to some of you, but hey, it's tradition!) Even C.Z. Guest served her guests her special Party Tea. In case you're interested:

C. Z. Guest Party Tea
6 tea bags
2 quarts water
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 cup orange juice
6 mint sprigs
1/2 lemon
1 orange

Make the tea: either steep the tea bags in boiling water for three minutes or set them in jars in the sun or in the refrigerator for several hours. Chill tea. Before serving, add the sugar, orange juice, and mint sprigs. Slice the lemon and orange and stick each slice with 3-4 cloves. Float fruit slices on top in a punch bowl.

Makes 10 cups.

Image at top from Martha Stewart.com; click here to see all of her iced tea recipes.


  1. It is over 100 degrees everyday now on the farm in Olive Branch, MS, but I am a year-around ice tea drinker anyway. I agree that Sweet Tea is usually served with way too much sugar, but find that, after several glasses, there is an unpleasant aftertaste with Splenda that is avoided with Truvia. The best solution if one is entertaining, however, is to allow each to add a little Simple Syrup to taste. A tea punch is another great solution; I like to add white grape juice and pomegranate juice.

  2. My favourite is an Arnold Palmer with mint tea. It's sooo refreshing. They serve it at my go-to BBQ joint.

  3. Iced tea is my summer drink of choice too!! And like you, I always request it unsweetened and then doctor myself. I have a set of sipper spoons but must admit I don't use them too often. I do however have a plethora of pitchers and use most of them. Must try the CZ Guest recipe - sounds refreshingly delicious!!

  4. I'm a huge tea drinker (nearly all I drink) but I never use sweetener. I find thats very characteristic and one of the few north/south differences that holds (being said from living right on the border in DC). Northerners don't use sweetener (often) and Southerners do (always)!

  5. I must say that from time to time, I drink my tea unsweetened. It's rather refreshing!

  6. I adore those heart-shaped tea sippers!

  7. Refreshing post with your usual eye candy! Shared this on FB for my friends in heat waves.

  8. A Lady from Alabama10:24 AM

    I am a born and bred Southerner but while living in Pennsylvania I was introduced to lime, rather than lemon, in iced tea. Try it; it is delightfully refreshing!

  9. ohh how I loved this post. Being from the deep south originally, we had sweet tea with ice even in the dead of winter. In LA everyone teases me for all my sweet tea all year long-can't wait to try your recipe. Thanks xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  10. Wow! All of your suggestions sound delicious. I'm going to try an Arnold Palmer with mint, and will doctor up my tea with Truvia and lime!

  11. CZ's recipe for iced tea is similar to one from Nancy
    Lancaster's household, which called for orange as
    well as ginger ale!

  12. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Ironically, I was thinking about Iced Tea Spoons just this morning. As a Southerner who moved to the Midwest, I realized I haven't seen one in the 10 years I've been here,and actually thought "I'll have to spcecial order those when I get around to buying a good set of silverware". Sweet Iced Tea is one of the most personal drinks in the world, nobody else's ever tastes just like your mother made. Thanks for a post that brought back a nostalgic moment and brighten my day!

  13. A most certain Northerner here.....lemon or lime maybe but anything sweet makes tea taste like medicine. So alas those lovely spoons are never needed.

  14. Enjoyed this post. I take my iced tea with lime and lemon slices, no sweetener at all any more. When ordering an iced tea in the southern states, be sure to specify un-sweetened or sweet tea as it is always an option. Otherwise, you will receive the default which is tres sugary tea! Recently, I was served an iced tea at Pinehurst in NC and received an iced tea spoon with it. So rare these days. My grandmother always presented iced tea spoons at the table, using the elongated spoons to break up her saccharine pills at the bottom of the glass. Such a memory for me.


  15. Anonymous8:37 AM

    How fun - thank you for sharing the lovely C.Z.'s tea - KDM

  16. Those of us who grew up in Dallas where the South sort of peters out and the west begins in Fort Worth have until recently (the last 5 years) always served our tea unsweetened. My mother always preferred Constant Comment, and today when buying bulk teas at Whole Foods I go for the citrus teas. I do recall that as a child many a host kept a variation of Ms. Guest's recipe in the refrigerator for use on these 100 degree days of July and August.

  17. Anonymous1:58 PM

    It's an English quirk that we drink our tea hot all year round, even on those very few sporadic days where it hits 100 degrees. It's supposed to be refreshing! Our nod to hot weather is iced coffee made with liquid 'Camp Coffee' syrup and cold milk.

  18. Anon- I've never heard of Camp Coffee syrup before. Hmm, I'm intrigued....

  19. Anonymous3:38 PM

    Google Camp Coffee. You'll be horrified!

  20. Thomas5:14 PM

    Love iced tea all year 'round- dead of winter I'm in sweats with a big glass-Try hibiscus tea from Mexico with sugar, lemon,lime, and ginger-I have inherited several big sets of silver over the years and all told I have 24 iced tea spoons- The more iced tea spoons one has is an indicator of just how far South one lives- can't stir tea with anything else

  21. Margaret10:39 AM

    I once had delicious iced tea at a diner in Jew Jersey. Their "secret" was to put in a little vanilla.

  22. As a native Atlantan, I love sweet tea. I also love the Chrysanthemum silver spoon.