The Popularity and History of Sweet Tea

Sweet tea, also known as sweet iced tea, is a beloved style of iced tea in countries such as the United States (particularly the South) and Indonesia. This type of tea is made by adding sugar or simple syrup to black tea, either while the tea is brewing or still hot, although artificial sweeteners are also frequently used. Sweet tea is typically served ice-cold and may be flavored, commonly with lemon but also with peach, raspberry, or mint. Baking soda may be added to reduce the acidity of the drink.

Regional Significance of Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is regarded as an essential regional staple in the cuisine of the Southern United States and Indonesia. Its availability in restaurants and other establishments is often used as a gauge to determine whether an area can be considered part of the South.

Historical Roots of Sweet Tea

Sweet tea began as a luxury item due to the expensive nature of its basic ingredients, including tea, ice, and sugar. In modern times, sweet tea can be made quickly and inexpensively in large quantities. The oldest known recipe for sweet tea was published in a community cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree in 1878. During World War II, the major sources of green tea were cut off from the United States due to the Japanese invasion and occupation of green tea-producing regions. As an alternative, black tea from British India was used, and by the end of World War II, black tea had become the most commonly consumed tea in America.

Sweet tea was once consumed as a punch mixed with liquor and flavorings of mint and cream, and the modern mint julep evolved from this punch. In 2003, the Georgia State House of Representatives introduced a bill making it a misdemeanor to sell iced tea in a restaurant that did not also offer sweet iced tea on the menu. While this was intended as an April Fool’s joke, the bill never went to a vote.

Sweet Tea in Indonesia

Tea drinking in Indonesia began during the Dutch colonial rule in the 17th century. The Dutch brought tea plants to Batavia via Sukabumi Beach, and tea plants were subsequently planted in Indonesia that were suitable for West Java. At the same time, sugar cane cultivation was successfully introduced in Central Java, leading to the development of sweet tea. It remains the most popular beverage in the country.

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