Since living in the South, I’ve discovered the seductive allure of sweet tea. At first sip, you’ll imagine yourself gathered in an antebellum garden, hoop skirt hooping, parasol in tow, pinky out, gloved hands, and a playful laugh as you toss back your ringlet curled hair.

It’s the Taste of Southern Hospitality and Charm

However, if you’re not from around these parts and were not weened on the syrupy flavors…brace yourself.

Not too long ago, we were driving across country. From the health-crazed sunshine of southern California where the “no-white-stuff” diet advice was running rampant to the sweet state of Georgia where  sugar seems to fall right out of the sky and into the nearest glass of tea.

We stopped in at M’lady’s restaurant for an appetizer and sip of something cool. I ordered sweet tea. With mint. Forgetting what that meant…

It was diabetic coma at first sip! Delicious. Cold. But sweeeeet. So, with a little bit of hesitation, I called my waitress over, apologized, and asked if she could bring me a new glass “half-and-half.” Half sweet; half not; wholly perfect for my taste buds.

Poured over ice, tea has become the beverage of choice for many. It’s not soda, laden with sugar and who-knows-what else. Has more flavor than water. And, when you use green tea and various fruits, may actually provide you with some antioxidant protection.

Win-win!

As for how to make iced tea, the basics are, well, basic. You can seep tea bags in hot water and pour over ice; seep the tea in water that lazily sits in the sun all day, aka sun-tea; and even seep overnight in your refrigerator.

Southern Belle - Charm and Hospitality of the South

Summer Belle at the Wilmington Azalea Festival 
Photo: Dawn Damico

But from that point on – your imagination is your only limitation!

And so, for this day in June when we celebrate National Iced Tea Day (just for the fun of it) here are some wonderful iced tea combinations to try:

Honey Mint Green Iced Tea

Southern Belle - Charm and Hospitality of the South

Refreshing Honey Mint Green Iced Tea
Photo courtesy of Lyuba Brooke at WillCookForSmiles

Let’s start out with a simple, basic green tea. With or without the added vanilla in this recipe from Lyuba Brooke at Will Cook for Smiles, mint and honey are delicious!

The ingredients are easy to find: honey, mint, vanilla and green tea. For the full recipe, hop on over to WillCookForSmiles.

Strawberry Lemonade Sun Tea

Now, let’s take it outside and let the sunshine work some magic. This sun tea recipe from Nicole at Wonky Wonderful uses the benefit of time to let the natural flavors infuse with the tea. While she uses Truvia as a sweetener, you may also try Stevia and even honey or agave. Or, simple leave out all sweetener and only add it if you think you need it.

For the full recipe and instructions, head over to: http://wonkywonderful.com/strawberry-lemonade-sun-tea-recipe/

Photo courtesy of Nicole at WonkyWonderful

Peach Iced Tea

Photo courtesy of Sheena at Noshtastic

Peaches and sweet tea…well, you can’t get more southern than that! Sheena over at Noshtastic uses just 3 simple ingredients in her version. Now, if you want to add a little zip to yours, try 2 oz of vodka. That will leave you rocking on the porch! All. Day. Long!

For the full recipe and instruction, head over to: http://www.noshtastic.com/peach-iced-tea/

Orange Vanilla Iced Tea

Orange and Vanilla – sweet and soothing flavors
Photo courtesy of Jessica at LivingChicOnTheCheap

Okay, now we’re starting to get a little fancy! Using black tea and a dash of cinnamon gives this sweet tea (and the author warns you…this is sweeeeet!) an air of sophistication. I would suggest starting with half the recommended sugar and only increase it if you want. Like my half and half story above, you may prefer less of a sweet punch!

For the full scoop, head on over to Living Chic on the Cheap, meet Jessica, and get the recipe at: http://livingchiconthecheap.com/orange-vanilla-iced-tea/#_a5y_p=1228840

Hibiscus, Lemongrass, Basil and Honey Iced Tea

Garden Flowers add Aroma and Color
Photo courtesy of Tieghan Gerard at HalfBakedHarvest

Now, we’re getting all fancy-pants with this one. Who would have thought flowers from your garden can be infused into your drinks for beautiful color as well as some antioxidants. I’ve actually brewed up a concoction with Rooibos tea, rose petals, and cinnamon. This mix from Tieghan Gerard reminds me a lot of that because of its deep rich red color.

Absolutely heavenly! For the full recipe, head on over to Half Baked Harvest: http://www.halfbakedharvest.com/hibiscus-lemongrass-basil-and-honey-sweet-iced-tea/?crlt.pid=camp.FaSgGm9j4b4F

Blueberry and Ginger Iced Tea

Southern Belle - Charm and Hospitality of the South

Powerful Antioxidants and Flavor
Photo: Dawn Damico

Finally, I just couldn’t leave this list without sharing two of my favorite foods: Blueberries and Ginger.

Blueberries have beautiful color, are filled with antioxidants and can be enjoyed all year long. I love to stock up during the season and then freeze them for use throughout the year. This should be a daily food!

And ginger…what can I say!? A little zing and a lot of anti-inflammatory action. Your body will love you.

Add a sweetener, like honey, only if you think you need it. Because I have cut down on sweet stuff (which I actually do love), I’ve discovered that for me, a little goes a long way. Try it. You may find cutting back on your sugar consumption is painless…one teaspoon full at a time.

Why should you remove sugar, you may wonder? Well, they are thinking it’s not so good for our health, mainly because of the process our table sugar goes through. When it’s processed, an enzyme is removed which, if left in, helps your body digest the sugar. However, in the name of food science…the enzyme is removed.

For that reason, I choose raw sugar.

Also, some researchers believe sugar breaks down collagen. As we get older, we need collagen to keep our beautiful skin looking beautiful. So, for that reason too…I’ve cut back.

Now, enough about all that…here’s how to make it:

  • 4 cups Boiling Water
  • 5 Green Tea Bags
  • 2-inch piece of Fresh Ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Seep tea bags and ginger pieces in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Remove tea bags. Pour tea through a strainer to remove the ginger pieces. Add blueberries and chill several hours.

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