Ahhh. I was raised in the southern tradition of sweet tea. My mom was born and raised in Kentucky, and so were all my grandparents. Once we took our English friends to the old Riverfront Stadium and they were amazed when we said that right across the Ohio River was Kentucky. Their knowledge of the state came from Kentucky Fried Chicken, with advertising which led them to believe Kentucky was "way down South."
I don't know how my mom learned to make iced tea, but I'm glad she taught me. It's really easy to make your own sweet tea (or okay, just plain iced tea with an eeny bit of sugar). When you make your own iced tea at home, you will never, ever be forced to drink coffee flavored tea because someone thought you could just heat a pot of water in the coffee maker *shudder*.
I use six Lipton tea bags and my favorite tea brewing pan, which has a lid. I usually use my tea kettle to boil the water, but if you don't have a kettle, just boil water in the pan. How much water? Fill the pan half full of cold water. If you're using a tea kettle, then you'll fill the pan half full with the boiling water. I don't pour the boiling water over the tea bags, because sometimes they break open. At any rate, when you have half a pan of boiling water, remove it from the stove and dunk 6 regular or 4 family size tea bags. Let the string and tabs hang over the lip, cover and let steep for 5 minutes or so. Steep, isn't that lovely?
While the tea concentrate is steeping, fill a pitcher half full of cold water, and after five minutes, remove the tea bags from the pan and add the tea concentrate to the pitcher. But wait! You can make a big sweet tea ceremony out of this: fish out each tea bag with a teaspoon. With the bag in the bowl of the spoon, wrap the string around the bag and squeeze every last drop of tea into the pan, then discard the bag. Why do it this way? Tradition. Plus more tea. I read a hoity-toity newspaper article about sweet tea mystique where the author questioned this tradition. Pshaw.
Am I going to reveal how much sugar I put in my pitcher o' sweet tea? No. Sweeten to your taste. Pour over lots of ice and sip slowly. Ahhh.
Recently I had a revelation. I rarely drink my full cup of sweet hot tea in the morning. Brainstorm--stick the cup in the refrigerator and add water for a cup of sweet tea at lunchtime. I've also started making sweet tea by the cup. We have insulated tumblers, so I fill halfway with boiling water, add a tea bag, and steep for five minutes. Add sufficient sugar (it melts into the hot concentrate), and then fill the cup the rest of the way with ice cubes. Ahhhh.
So celebrate National Iced Tea Day with our traditional southern recipe and method. And repeat after me, "I will NEVER drink coffee-flavored tea again."