Like many things in life we are taught certain ways only to eventually teach others the same, passing down those skills. This is how we learn, it is how knowledge stays alive over generations and how you know the stories of people long ago. What happens though when the things we are taught aren’t correct? Since I’m obviously a little partial to tea I thought I might ask you the following question, “Do you make these mistakes when brewing Sweet Tea?”
I’ve listed five of what I consider to be the biggest sweet tea brewing mistakes.
1) Poor Water Quality
Many people when brewing tea use unfiltered water from the tap. Considering that the composition of brewed tea in a glass is mostly water, quality matters! Next time you brew tea start with cold, fresh filtered water. You’ll be amazed at how much better your tea tastes.
2) Wrong Water Temperature
Another mistake, although less common for those of us who brew lots of Sweet Tea is incorrect water temperature for the type of tea you are brewing. When thinking of Iced Sweet Tea, you are almost guaranteed to be thinking of Black Tea. When brewing black tea you want the water to reach a good rolling boil (212 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the water reaches the proper temperature remove it promptly from the heat source and pour directly over your tea to begin steeping.
*Other main types of tea such Oolong, Green and White’s are more delicate than black tea and therefore require less water temperature for a proper brewing.
3) Incorrect Steeping Time
Searching the internet you’ll find a great variation in recommended steeping times. Some say around 2 minutes, others say steep for 10 minutes or even 2 hours! There is also the thought that the longer you steep your tea the stronger the tea will be, this is not the case as the way to create a stronger tea is to simply use more tea. Steeping tea too long will result in a more bitter, not stronger tea.
Proper steeping time for black tea should be 4 – 5 minutes and no longer. Some tea bag style black teas may require a shorter steeping time but following the 4 – 5 minute rule is a safe bet!
4) Using Fake Sugar
If there is one thing we Southerners know about our Sweet tea it’s that you don’t sweeten it with fake sugar. Seriously, you can’t call it sweet tea if you are using an artificial sweetener! In some parts of the south folks choose the sweeten their tea with any number of fruit juices which if you’re looking for a flavored tea this can be a great option. To properly sweeten tea for Southern Style Sweet Tea use pure cane sugar, we recommend trying 1 cup of sugar per gallon of tea brewed for a good balance.
5) Cramped Tea Leaves
This doesn’t apply to you if you are brewing your tea using tea bags, but if you brew tea using higher quality better tasting loose leaf tea one of the most critical things you can do is to make sure that there is plenty room for the leaves to expand in the water during steeping. If the leaves are cramped and cannot fully open they won’t release all of their flavor. For individual cups there are nice filter options made by Finum, for brewing up a gallon or more of tea a very fine mesh Colander makes a great filter.
So there you have it, do you make these mistakes when brewing sweet tea? Perhaps just one, maybe you’ve been doing all five wrong!? Either way, leave a comment below and let me know how you do your sweet tea.