Tea Time

I grew up in Florida where a cool, refreshing glass of sweet tea could be found almost anywhere. Every restaurant offers diners a choice between sweet or unsweet, Publix (the grocery store of choice) makes a great house brew and everyone has a homemade recipe that they swear by. Unfortunately, things changed the moment I moved to New York. It’s hard to find a classic glass of sweet tea around here and when you do, they’ve usually tried to do something fancy to it like add a bunch of unnecessary mint or another flavor that takes away from this simple treat. This weekend I whipped up my own pitcher of sweet tea and it couldn’t have been more delicious!

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon Ice Cubes by somethingwewhippedup.com

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon Ice Cubes by somethingwewhippedup.com

I don’t make the tea very often (it is LOADED with sugar!) so I did a few things to make it extra special. First, I added a pinch of baking soda to cut the bitterness you can sometimes taste with iced tea. Second, I used Red Rose tea bags—the only kind my Grandma would approve of. And, finally, I did a little something special to the ice cubes. I guess some of that NYC fanciness rubbed off on me after all!

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon Ice Cubes

Makes about 10 cups

  • 1 lemon
  • pinch baking soda
  • 7 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar

1. Slice the lemon into thick rounds then cut each one into quarters. Add about two pieces to each well of an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze.

2. Meanwhile, add the baking soda to a large pitcher. Set aside.

3. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Then, add the tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Add cooled tea to pitcher and top with about 4 cups cold water (use more or less depending on the size of your pitcher and how strong you would like your brew). Chill in the fridge until ready to serve over the lemon ice cubes.

SWWU Tip 1: Craving a more sophisticated flavor? Use vanilla-flavored sugar instead. Check out our easy recipe.

SWWU Tip 2: Tie all of your tea bags together (as shown in the photo above) so you can retrieve them easily once the brewing is complete.

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Sugar Rush

My morning coffee—and many other treats—will never be the same, thanks to the vanilla sugar we recently made. Recycling the beans used for our delicious homemade vanilla extract, we made two batches of the sweetener. One was made with standard granulated sugar and the other was made with raw sugar. I wouldn’t say that one is better than the other, but I expect each one to carve out its own place in our kitchen. So far, the raw version has worked well to top muffins and french toast, while the granulated sugar works best when incorporated into baking recipes (like these brownies). Both give coffee and iced coffee a nice hint of flavor and I can’t wait to jazz up my summertime sweet tea (stay tuned) with a few spoonfuls.

Vanilla Sugar by somethingwewhippedup.com

Vanilla Sugar by somethingwewhippedup.com

Vanilla Sugar

Makes 1 cup

  • 1 cup sugar (granulated or raw)
  • glass jar
  • 3 vanilla beans (used is fine), split down the middle

1. Pour sugar into the glass jar. Trim the vanilla beans down to 2- to 3-inch segments so they’ll be completely covered by sugar once placed in the jar. Add to the jar, secure the lid tightly and shake until well combined. Set aside and shake the jar every few days. The flavor should develop within a week and will get stronger and stronger every day. I was happiest with ours after two weeks.

SWWU Tip 1: If you’ll be using previously used beans for this, be sure to let them sit out on the counter for a few hours to dry out. They shouldn’t be wet when placed in the sugar.

SWWU Tip 2: Using fresh pods for this? Split each down the middle, remove the seeds and add everything to the jar. Mix to combine. 

SWWU Tip 3: This can be a never-ending jar of sweetener. As the level gets lower, just add more sugar to the jar. If you notice the flavor isn’t as strong, swap in some new vanilla beans.

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