Iced Tea and Hot Summer Days

Reader Contribution by Arkansas Girl
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On long, hot, summer days, my dry, parched throat usually wants more than a tall, glass of cold water to drink, or at least it seems that my “thirst buds” yearn for something more than God’s cool, refreshing natural drink. However, back in the 50s and especially in the country, there weren’t many drinks available (for poor families like mine) other than cool well or spring water. But on the “up” side, we did occasionally have some other drinks – with iced tea (whether we had ice in it or not) being one of our few hot-day, liquid refreshers.

Now, let me explain this. We had an old-fashion ice box, but I don’t recall (that as scarce as money was for ice) that we ever chipped any off the block. Ice, for us, was a luxury, and when we got the block, it went into the ice box to cool whatever food stuffs we had in it. It definitely was not for dropping into tall glasses of iced tea. So, when I refer to “iced tea,” I’m more appropriately referring to the cold, sweet tea that we drank at Great-Auntie Lillian’s house in Louisiana. She had a refrigerator. We didn’t, but I recall that after we visited her, that’s when we started drinking tea.

Anyway, I don’t think my mother was that fond of tea, but for some strange reason, and at some point, we started to drink it. I’m not sure when our tea-drinking tradition started, but with my family, it didn’t last but a few summers, if that long. Before I knew it, we had outgrown our taste for tea. My great aunt, on the other hand, never outgrew hers. I guess she drank it until the day she died.

Since we girls didn’t prepare meals – not even snacks, my mother always made the tea, and actually, for a non-tea-drinking mom, it was pretty good even though it wasn’t iced. I was never that fond of iced tea, but, occasionally, I drank it, probably because everybody else was drinking it. My favorite drinks were milk, root beer, Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush. Those were my “special times” drinks. I certainly didn’t drink them every day. Actually, we drank more Kool Aid than any other drinks, and later on more lemonade than Kool Aid or sweet tea.

You know how delicious and inviting a glass of cold iced tea looks in magazines where the glass is filled with ice and the cold “sweat” pours down the sides onto the table. We never had enough ice for our glasses of tea to “sweat. As a child, I wish I had had such a refreshing treat for those long, hot, Arkansas summers, but, it’s OK. Iced tea or not, I survived, and to me, that’s all that matters.

But make no mistake about it, I believe iced tea is still the drink of the South. I read someplace that “Iced tea is the ‘wine’ of the South.” Since most Southerners probably don’t drink wine, I suppose this bittersweet, brown “juice” is still holding its place as the Southern staple of drinks. And even with all its competition, from the looks of things, it doesn’t appear that any other drink will replace the South’s Lipton tea anytime soon … especially as a hot, summer day “coolant.”

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