My husband just asked me if I was going to fix sweet tea for supper, and that shouldn’t be unusual. After all, we live in the south and sweet tea is a deeply rooted tradition in our families and in our neighborhood. Yet, for us, making sweet tea is a new thing. Before we married, I was a big water drinker . . . trying to watch those calories! . . . but after marriage, and then a baby, and then year after year of fifty hour work weeks, I slowly became addicted to caffeine, and with it, sweet tea. Or perhaps I became addicted to sweet tea, and with it, caffeine. Regardless of which indulgence led to the other, my morning drive to work included a quick run through McDonalds for a large sweet tea, which I sipped on all day at work. After work, on my way home, there was another quick run through the same drive through for another large sweet tea. I did this, I am ashamed to admit, for four and a half years, despite that inner voice of “green” that told me to stop. Oh, I tried to be more environmentally conscience about my sweet tea: I asked the server at the drive through window if she would fill up my Tervis tumbler for me. The answer was no. I asked the server if she would fill up the cup I bought that morning when I came for my evening fix. No. I asked the server if I parked my car and came inside, could I use my morning cup then? No. But what about my Tervis tumbler? (An almost rude . . .) No. I waited six months and tried the same routine with a new server, but unfortunately got the same results. I complained to my first cousin, who lived in Seattle for a while and came back to North Carolina almost as green as me, but she said she had tried the Tervis tumbler trick, too, and had been asked politely NOT to try it again. Momentarily, just momentarily, I contemplated driving a couple miles out of my way and trying my tactics at a different McDonalds, but then couldn’t stand the thought of wasting the gas just to be shot down again.
You are probably wondering my I didn’t just stop drinking sweet tea. Well, my friends, that is like asking birds not to sing and stars not to shine. Perhaps you are wondering why I didn’t just make my own and use my beloved Tervis tumbler? The reasons for that are long and complicated, but can be summed up like this: when you are addicted to chocolate, you don’t bake an entire cake; you buy yourself a sweet little cupcake and that is all. I was sincerely fearful that if I made my own sweet tea, I would consume gallons of it. I imagined myself drinking cup after cup after cup, until my entire life was consumed with making the tea, drinking the tea, getting rid of the tea (you know it goes right through you, don’t you?), and then making some more in a never-ending cycle. But, finally, I could stand the thoughts of discarded styrofoam cups no more! I had used two styrofoam cups for five days a week for four and a half years! (I am not even going to do the math on that one, because, honestly, it hurts me to think of it.)
I put some Lipton in my grocery cart, I picked up a five pound bag of sugar, I pulled an old gallon-size pitcher that I typically reserved for homemade punch out of the cabinet, and I went to work. Here’s the way I made my tea, following Lipton’s quick chill directions and my mother-in-law’s advice:
Using a stainless steel pot, I heated 8 cups of water to boiling on the stove top
Once the water was boiling, I removed the pot from the heat and added 4 tea bags to simmer for 5 minutes
After five minutes, I removed the tea bags and stirred in 2 cups of Dixie Crystals sugar until completely dissolved
I poured this over 12 cups of ice cubes that I had already placed in the pitcher, then added cold water until the pitcher was full
This made 1 gallon of very sweet tea. (If you don’t like such sweet tea, my mother-in-law suggests reducing the sugar to 1.5 cups.)
That was two weeks ago, and, now, I love making my own sweet tea. The gallon will last a good three days, and I don’t think I am drinking any more tea now than I was before. Yet I am saving the landfill from all those styrofoam cups because I am able to use my Tervis tumbler . . . yea!!! And I am not spending $2.14 a day on sweet tea, which equals $10.70 a week of extra money in my pocket. And I am not feeling so guilty. And I am able to share this story with you.
Copyright 2014 Lori Creed