Define 'tea'

Tuna steak is not steak. Coconut milk is not milk. And herbal tea is not tea.

You, sir, have at last gone too far. I bear no sentiment for the South, but honor demands that I defend sweet tea. I regret that I am forced to such measures with a respected gentleman, but it must be live catfish in the courtyard at dawn.

My second (and the fishmonger) will be in touch.

Nope, except colloquially. Technically it is a tisane instead.


Pedantic enough to have made this post :cool:

No, he didn’t. Well, sun tea is great, so he’s wrong about that. But sweetened iced tea is an abomination before the gods.

Makes note to arrange for more catfish

Tea is what people are drinking when they say “I’m drinking tea”. How pedantic is that?

Technically, according to whom?

OK, you’re next. I’m sure there are enough catfish to go around.

Tea is a drink made from the leaves of the tea plant. Period.

If I’m offered tea at someone’s house and then offered a series of options none of which include actual tea, bad things happen.


But surely, as Proudhon taught, proper tea is theft.
(Thank you, I’m here all week).

My go-to everyday tea has been Typhoo for the past few years, although I do have some nice Yorkshire Gold in the cabinet. The Wife prefers a green tea.

Balance, if it’s any consolation, so far as I can tell, so-called “sweet tea” is the South’s only culinary sin (well, that, and Alabama white barbecue, but that’s restricted to one state, not the South as a whole). The North, meanwhile, has a lot to answer for in the kitchen.

Since this thread is about definitions, perhaps it would be worthwhile to clarify what all the slapstick dueling is about:

“Iced sweet tea” and “sweet iced tea” are both beverages produced by steeping black tea (highly oxidized leaves of Camellia sinensis) in hot water. Both are typically sweetened with the same sweetening agents (sucrose is traditional, but artificial sweeteners may be substituted) and served cold. They are not, however, the same beverage; the word order reflects a difference in the preparation process.

Iced tea is produced by steeping the tea, allowing it to cool (even icing it), then adding a sweetener. Because the liquid is cool or cold, little sweetener will actually dissolve in it. The result is a mildly astringent, very lightly sweetened cold drink. It is not unpleasant, and can be refreshing on a hot day, especially if brightened with a twist of lemon.

Sweet tea is produced by adding the sugar while liquid is still hot, often while the tea is still steeping. Consequently, one is able to dissolve more sweetener into it, which remains in solution as the tea cools. Because it can be made sweeter, sweet tea is typically brewed to be stronger than iced tea, offsetting the dilution that occurs when ice is added. The result is a substantially different flavor and mouth feel.

It is unlikely that many non-Southerners have personally encountered sweet tea, unless they have been a guest in a Southern home; it is rarely served in restaurants even in the South, which offer (typically weak) iced tea instead. Forget the commercials you may have seen in which an ostensible Southerner holds a glass of tea aloft, admiring the light shining through it. Undiluted sweet tea is black as thwarted rage and contains enough tannins to turn an alligator into a handbag at twenty paces. (Although the addition of ice does make it possible to see reddish-brown highlights in strong light.)

The high level of tannins makes sweet tea a very astringent drink, effective at cleansing the palate after fatty and spicy foods. (If you’re familiar with Southern cuisine, you can likely infer from this one reason for its popularity in the South.) If a food goes well with red wine, it is likely to go well with sweet tea, as both share this astringent quality. Like most black teas, sweet tea also pairs well with breads and pastries.

Although sweet tea generally does not contain any more sugar than a typical soda, its thicker consistency and lack of carbonation may make its sweetness seem cloying to those unaccustomed to it.

The South has its own barbecue holy wars, so you’re not going to see an argument from me on that front. As to the rest, hyperbolic joshing aside, de gustibus non disputandum est. (I stand by my sweet tea dissertation above, though.)

I had a girlfriend in New Orleans. We decided to drive to North Carolina, where friends had recently moved, and stopped for a bite somewhere in Alabama. I ordered iced tea to drink. Imagine my surprise when I – quite rightly – expected iced tea, and my first sip revealed that I was given tea-flavoured sugar-water! :eek:

In the past few years, I’ve found that iced tea is no longer the default at fast-food restaurants here in Washington. You have to specify unsweetened. :mad:

You’re almost certainly getting sweetened iced tea in Washington, which, as I pointed out, is not the same thing. (The place in Alabama, on the other hand, may have had the genuine article, if it was a local joint.) I’ve never seen proper sweet tea in a chain establishment–requests for it generally result in being served something that resembles rusty tapwater with a few sugar packets on the side. You may be assured, however, that I support your quest to be served the rusty tapwater of your choice, even though my preferred tea is simply unavailable in those establishments.


Dilmah, do try it.

They’re both ghastly.

Correction: Iced tea is produced by steeping the tea, allowing it to cool (even icing it). Full stop.

FWIW, Mrs. L.A. insists on mixing sugar in while the tea is steeping. If I make it, I’ll add just enough sugar so she can taste it. It’s not iced tea, but I can drink it.