I'm honestly pretty open about the fact that Southeast Texas hasn't quite grown on me after 2 1/2 years of living here. However, sweet tea has! We have sweet tea in Minnesota, but not everywhere, and I personally had never tried it before moving to Texas. Now, I crave it all the time (holy sugar, Batman!). It's seriously an issue and I feel like there should be support groups for people like me. Anyway, I wanted to cut back on the sugar but retain the essence of a true southern sweet tea, so here's my smooth and sweet version...with 1/2 the sugar.
2 family sized Luzianne tea bags
2 cups water plus 5 additional cups filtered or bottled water
1/8 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sweetener (I use 1:1 organic sugar: cup-for-cup stevia)
Boil up 2 cups of water. Pour water into a heat safe glass bowl or pitcher and add baking soda and tea bags. Make sure to fully hydrate the tea bags. Let steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove tea bags, add sweetener, and mix until well dissolved. Mix in 5 additional cups of water and refrigerate until cold.
**The secrets to a perfect sweet tea**
Add baking soda - The baking soda neutralizes the tea's tannins resulting in a less bitter flavor - allowing for more sweetness with less sugar (Many recipes I found were adding 1 1/2-2 cups of sugar!! Yikes!). It additionally helps remove cloudiness in the tea, making it crystal clear! However, if you dig the tannin notes and prefer a less bright flavor, by all means, skip this.
Sweeten while warm - Always make sure you dissolve the sweetener while the tea is still warm. This fully dissolves the sugar into the mixture...keeping it smooth.
Refrigerate until cold - Always make sure to FULLY refrigerate your sweet tea before drinking. The sweet tea's flavor profile changes when it makes the transition from hot to cold.
Filtered or bottled water - If you have hard water or wouldn't drink your water from the tap, then don't use it to make your tea. Fun fact: I hear NYC has some of the best tap water for sweet tea, so if you live in NYC, you're gonna have one heck of a yummy sweet tea!
I plan to try this recipe again with raw sugar or coconut sugar instead of organic cane sugar. I'll let you know how it turns out.
If you're using stevia, take note of which type you're using. If you're not using cup-for-cup, I'd recommend cutting your amount by about half as the strength of an organic stevia can be pretty concentrated.
Bon apetit, y'all!!