I just recently finished reading Pat Conroy’s The Water is Wide, a must read for any Lowcountry resident who works in education. It is a story based on Conroy’s experiences
teaching on what most consider to be Daufauskie Island, an island that was once owned by freed slaves after the Traces of the Gullah culture remain to this day. In it, Conroy moves to Beaufort, South Carolina, a town he “grew to love with a passion and without apology for its serenity, for its splendidly languid pace, and for its profound and infinite beauty. It was a place of hushed fragrant gardens, silent streets, and large
antebellum houses.” When I first visited Beaufort, 30 years after Conroy wrote that description I found it to be much the same. Its waterfront is a great place to meander and stop for a refreshing glass of sweet tea—a taste that took awhile for this Michigander to learn to appreciate.
I’ll never forget the first time I ordered sweet Tea. I moved to Clemson, South Carolina in 2003, for graduate school. I think it was my first…second…no, third night town—in the home of Clemson University in Upstate South Carolina, and my first outing with my new English department classmates. We sat on the patio outside at Tiger Town Tavern, a popular local watering hole. I remember ordering an Iced Tea—and when the server brought it to me, I squeezed the lemons into the drink, garnering a few confused stares from my new classmates. I took a huge gulp of tea, expecting a bland, bitter, lemony taste only to have my mouth fill with the taste of pure, liquid sugar. I exclaimed, “Eww! Why did they load my tea with sugar?” A new friend just replied, “well, you ordered Tea—what did you expect?” I didn’t take long to learn that to order “tea” meant “Sweet Tea” and if I wanted it without sugar, I’d need to specify “unsweet, please.”
As a special treat, though, and one that is especially refreshing when visiting some of the Lowcountry’s most beautiful places, like Beaufort’s water front, I like to indulge in a traditional sweet tea. You’ll find a simple recipe below. (p.s. if you order a “Sweet Tea” and you get sugar packets on the side, you’re not getting the real deal.)
Easy Southern Style Sweet Tea
3 Family size tea bags or 6-7 individual tea bags (In the South, Luzianne is the preferred choice).
1 to 1 ½ Cup of sugar
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
Remove from heat.
Add the 3 family sized tea bags and cover. Allow to sit for 8-15 minutes (it depends on how strong you want the tea to be).
Remove the tea bags, and pour into a gallon pitcher (glass preferably).
Add the sugar.
Fill the rest of the pitcher with cold water.