If you live in the North you might order iced tea in the summer. If you’re a Southerner, you practically swim in Sweet Tea all year round. Are they the same thing?
The Short Answer:
Sweet tea is a variety of iced tea, but not all iced tea is sweet tea.
The Long Answer:
Ah, the eternal question. Iced tea vs Sweet tea. Depending on where you live, your choice of chilled tea might vary. In the North, it’s common to order a glass of iced tea, but if you’re in the Southern United States, sweet tea reigns supreme.
But the eternal question rages throughout the nation, what’s the difference?
Well, let’s start with iced tea. This is a beverage commonly served all over the world throughout the summer. It’s perfect for a warm weather cool down. The term iced tea is actually very broad. It is a blanket term covering all teas that are served chilled. According to early cookbooks, tea has been served cold since the early 19th century.
Iced tea is not a uniquely American concept. In Singapore for instance they prepare ice lemon tea which is a sweet black tea, chilled, with a lemon in it. The Japanese have several versions, including chilled bancha, sencha, and houjicha.
When preparing iced tea, most people make the tea hot and then chill it before serving. Others use cold or room temperature water from the start with no heating element and steep the tea for longer periods of time. Others brew the tea already in ice by placing ice cubes into the pot with tea leaves and letting them melt and steep.
If you order iced tea in the North, chances are you’ll get some kind of commercially sold product like Arizona, Snapple, or Crystal Light. If you order iced tea in the south you’re likely to get a cold glass of black tea with no sweetener in it whatsoever. Many a Northerner has been shocked when taking their first sip of Southern iced tea.
Sweet tea was originally created in the U.S. and it is a version of iced tea. Sweet tea is tea that is sweetened with sugar or some other kind of sweetener. Preparation methods vary wildly, with some adding the sugar to the hot water before any tea leaves are dropped in. Others add the sugar after brewing has already occurred. Sweet tea is typically served cold but it can also be enjoyed hot.
Originally, sweet tea was mostly made from green tea, but during World War II the U.S. encountered some supply issues and switched to the more common black tea. When the war ended, no one ever switched back, so most of the sweet tea you’ll enjoy today is made from black tea.
So while most sweet tea is iced tea, not all iced tea is sweet tea.
Do you prefer unsweetened iced tea or sweet tea? What is your method of steeping? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!