As a born and bred Southerner, there are a few things I hold dear — the gentle hum of cicadas on a summer evening, the warmth and comfort of a local Waffle House, and the unparalleled cool taste of genuine Southern sweet tea. It’s more than just a drink — it’s a testament to our culture, a symbol of our hospitality, and a daily reminder of home.
So, imagine my surprise when, on a recent trip up North, I discovered that our beloved sweet tea is a rarity beyond the borders of the Southern states.
It was in a cozy restaurant in Massachusetts when I first encountered this harsh difference. “I’ll have a sweet tea, please,” I requested, expecting the familiar amber liquid that’s been a staple of my life. The waitress responded, “We have iced tea. Would you like some sugar on the side?”
Now, any Southerner knows that sweet tea isn’t just unsweetened tea with sugar tossed in. It’s a craft. It’s an art. It’s the careful melding of flavors, with sugar introduced at just the right moment to create that perfect blend.
As I continued my journey, I realized this wasn’t an isolated incident. In every Northern state I visited, the story was much the same. It wasn’t that these places lacked charm or hospitality; they simply lacked an important signature beverage of charm and hospitality.
It got me pondering about the things we take for granted. For us, sweet tea is a given, like sunshine and warm greetings. But up North, it’s an anomaly. It made me appreciate our unique Southern traditions even more.
So here’s to sweet tea, a simple drink that holds the essence of the South. And to all my fellow Southerners, if you’re venturing up North, maybe pack a thermos. Share a sip and a story, and let’s spread the sweetness far and wide.