Something happened to tea along the way. Something bad. And it needs to be stopped.
Growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, in addition to water, tea had just two other ingredients; tea and sugar. Not necessarily in that order.
This sacred recipe was handed down through generations of southern grandmothers, who made sure that the right portions were in place and were never to be adjusted.
There were two simple tests that ensured sweet tea was made correctly. Did your teeth hurt when you drank it? And did you say, ‘ahhhhhhh’ after the first sip?
There were always warnings from grandmothers about some things you ate. For example, if you were caught eating too much candy (especially before dinner or supper), your grandmother would warn you that you were going to get “The Sugar Diabetes.”
If you pronounced that, “diabetes,” you said it wrong. If you left out, “The” or “Sugar,” you said it wrong.
Southern grandmothers pronounced, “diabetes” as “die-uh-beat-us.” Emphasis on “die” and “us.”
“You’re going to get The Sugar Die-uh-beat-us.”
However, this did not apply to Southern sweet tea. Since grandmothers never mentioned it as a path to a health disaster, it was, and still is, exempt.
And sweet tea is the only accepted form of consuming this nectar of the South.
Somehow, tea was hijacked just like coffee has been. Instead of only finding tea in large glass pitchers that sit on a doily atop a Formica dinette table, tea made its way to unholy locations that have names combined from a celestial entity and dollar bills.
Once these people, who had no business steering red-blooded Americans away from percolated Folger’s, were through giving incomprehensible names to overpriced coffee combos, they went after our tea.
So, I decided to resurrect my granny’s tea recipe. Actually, it was my children’s great grandmother on their mom’s side.
Granny Seymour made the best sweet tea you’ve ever tasted. And she cooked it (yes, cooked it) like she cooked everything else. She measured nothing, and used as much as she wanted, of whatever she wanted.
If she was making chicken-fried steak, she put plenty of salt in it. Same with sweet tea. Lots of sugar.
Because of a history of the “Die-uh-beat-us” in my family, I had veered away from sweet tea and was drinking tea with no sugar. To avoid chastisement, I waited to make this tea transition until after all of my grandmothers had passed. God rest their souls.
But then I read an article about how artificial sweeteners and salt substitutes carried their own risks. So, I decided if there were risks on both sides, I’d pick the tastiest risks.
Back to the sweet tea.
I hadn’t made sweet tea in years, and honestly, I never made it as good as Granny Seymour. But, if I’m nothing else, I’m observant. I closed my eyes and thought back to when she would make sweet tea for us on that old gas stove in her turn-of-the-century house.
She got out a copper-bottomed pot, filled it with water, put in a cup of sugar (or two), threw in two Luzianne tea bags, and boiled the heck out of it.
So, I tried it. And it worked.
After I fished out the tea bags and let the tea cool, I filled a glass pitcher with ice and poured in the tea.
I took a sip, my teeth hurt, and I said, “ahhhhhhhhh.”
I offered up a glass to my wife, but she said she didn’t want diabetes.
She doesn’t say, “Die-uh-beat-us” correctly.
So, I now keep a steady supply of Granny Seymour’s sweet tea on hand. Each morning before I leave, I pour a cup to take to work with me. And as I drive past the long line of people trying to overpay for coffee and tea with funny names, I take a sip and smile.
These people don’t know what they’re missing.
©2022 John Moore
John’s latest book, Puns for Groan People, and his books, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, are available on his website – TheCountryWriter.com, where you can also send him a message and hear his weekly podcast.