Sweet tea y’all!
I accidentally developed a slight sweet tea addiction since moving to the south. Don’t judge me, it’s one of those irrisistable treats I’m allowing myself once in awhile. However, I have almost completely eliminated sugary beverages from my diet over the past several years, and feel guilty about drinking even one glass of sweet tea in a week. To lessen the guilt I knew we had to come up with a way to make our own less sinful version of this southern favorite.
The problem with sweet tea
As we see it there are two problems with sweet tea: 1) it’s a sugary drink that should only be enjoyed in moderation, 2) it’s hard to find a source using healthy ingredients.
The answer to the first is to drink sweet tea as a treat and not an every day staple – use good ole water as your staple. The answer to the second is not as easy.
In Michigan the only place serving sweet iced tea was a certain fast food restaurant – and since we refuse to support fast food we could never get our hands on this delicious Southern drink. The problem with grocery and convenience store sweet tea is the typical choice of high fructose corn syrup and/or aspartame as a sweetener – not doing that either. There are a few brands of organic sweet tea available but they’re too expensive, and there is a better solution.
Our solution is the same as always . . . make your own and do it with healthier ingredients.
A little help
Matt has been talking to the locals here in North Carolina for the past few weeks trying to gather all the tips he could on making the best lightly sweetened, healthy sweet tea.
One local suggested we purchase a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker, which we decided against since we’re trying to keep kitchen appliances to a minimum.
Another southerner told us we needed 2 cups of sugar per gallon of sweet tea, and a Texan brother-in-law (who shall remain nameless) told us true sweet tea needed half a bag of sugar per gallon! Since we like our teeth and want to avoid diabetes, keeping the sweetener to a minimum is a must.
Matt’s step-sister and the repairman who fixed our dryer today both suggested the approach we liked best, so while I lay in bed sick, Matt tinkered away in the kitchen concocting the perfectly sweetened, healthy, homemade sweet tea. Mmmmmm . . . some things are just worth getting out of your sick bed for.
Matt’s sweet tea recipe
After advice from family, friends, neighbors, the diyNatural Facebook fans, and a lot of trial and error Matt came up with our favorite recipe:
- 3 large “family size” black tea bags (find organic tea here)
- (4 small tea bags = 1 family size)
- ¾ cup organic cane sugar, raw honey, or a mixture of the two (more healthy sweetener options below)
- 1 gallon filtered water (find the best water purification systems here)
Note: use the tea you’re comfortable with, organic or otherwise.
- Bring 1 quart of water to a boil, remove from heat and add 3 family sized tea bags, steep for 10 minutes and remove tea bags
- Put sweetener in your glass gallon container, pour in hot tea, and stir thoroughly to combine
- After sweetener is dissolved, fill the gallon container with water and ice, stir again, and put in the fridge to chill.
Other healthy sweetener options
Aside from organic cane sugar and raw honey the only other sweeteners I recommend are maple syrup and stevia. (Find high quality natural sweeteners here.)
Like your tea, your choice of sweetener will be unique; use what you like and let others use what they like. Steer clear of artificial (aspartame) and heavily processed sweeteners (white sugar), use in moderation and you’ll be fine.
Note: if you’re diabetic be sure to adhere to your doctor’s recommendations for sweeteners.
A few tips
Sweet tea is so good that many people don’t like waiting for it to chill in the fridge. If this is you then add ice to the container before pouring in the hot tea.
Most people buy the tea in bulk because they go through so much. I’ll say it again . . . buy the brand and type of tea YOU’RE comfortable with. Remember, it’s DIY tea so do it yourself the way YOU like.
Keep the sweetener light and drink sweet tea as a treat. Discipline yourself to drink pure water most of the time so you can enjoy a nice refreshing glass of healthy sweet tea when you want to indulge a bit.
Share with us
Although Matt sweetened ours with a mixture of organic cane sugar and honey you may prefer one of the other recommended sweeteners. What about the tea? Do you splurge on your favorite organic brand or stick with the old southern standbys?
This is a call to all sweet tea lovers out there. Share your tips on how you make homemade healthy sweet tea!
photo credit: jadeashley