Friday, June 27, 2008

The Table Wine of Itawamba County

I’ve read where tea is considered the table wine of the South. The making of good tea here has been raised to an art of perfection over the generations. Good Southern tea requires plenty of two things – sugar and ice. Here when you ask for tea, you are simply going to get it ice cold and sweet.

In growing up I remember how my mom brewed tea. Back in those pre-tea bag days, the loose tea leaves were poured into boiling water and then steeped. In the meantime she would pour about a cup and a half of cane sugar into a glass pitcher and pour some hot water over the sugar and stir until the sugar was dissolved. She would then take a tea cloth, cover the pitcher opening and pour the steeped tea into the cloth letting it strain into the pitcher, after which she would stir the mixture until well mixed. And that tea was always served in a glass with plenty of ice.

The oldest known recipe for sweet iced tea was published in an old recipe book entitled Housekeeping in Old Virginia during 1879 and through the years since, this beverage has been enjoyed by generations.

Sweet tea has always been a staple around here. From the farm to the church social and in cafes and restaurants, it is always available in generous quantities. Many hours have passed over a glass of good Southern tea while visiting family and friends. And there’s simply no better quality time on a hot and humid Mississippi day than sitting in a rocking chair in the shade of the front porch enjoying a good glass of cold Southern tea while lazily watching the world go by.

Photograph by Bob Franks

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