The American South is all about comfort food and rich, deep-rooted culinary traditions, and one of them is drinking fruit tea.
Let me start by saying literally everyone has its own fruit tea recipe down south, and it’s because tea is compatible with a wide range of flavors and combinations. Tea is noble like that.
Actually, cold, sweet tea is available in most households and all restaurants, and it’s much more common than fruit tea. The fruity version, though, is immensely popular in the summer when the fruit is ripest. Sure, now juice comes from a box, but you get the idea.
Iced tea is hands-down the most refreshing drink on the planet, and when mixed with sweet fruit juice, it’s lovely. I use orange and pineapple juice because together they taste tropical and familiar, but make no mistake, peach nectar is delicious with tea too. You can also go with just one type of juice if you want a better-defined flavor profile.
In the south, tea is always sweetened beforehand, so there’s no need to add sugar. Of course, you don’t need sugar for fruit tea at all; the juice is sweet enough already. Anyway, don’t forget to add a splash of lemon or lime juice to your pitcher. The acidity balances the fruit’s sweetness and makes the tea much more refreshing.
The type of tea matters too, and here there’s no right or wrong answer. Black tea is more flavorful than other varieties, so it will hold better against the juice. Of course, try different types of teas and tisanes (herbal or floral infusions) and find your favorite!
As for the tea strength, a regular cup of tea uses one tea bag, so that’s a great place to start — use one tea bag per cup of tea. If you want a more robust or milder tea, just make the necessary adjustments. Using 10 tea bags for a pitcher is not uncommon!
Here’s another Southern tradition. Never add ice to your tea pitcher. Instead, keep the pitcher in the fridge at all times. Add the ice into the glasses before serving.
In a saucepan or teapot, boil the water and brew your tea with all four tea bags. Steep for 5 minutes and remove the tea bags. Reserve until cool.
Pour the cold tea into a pitcher, top with the orange and pineapple juice, and add the lemon juice.
Stir until combined and finish by adding the grenadine to create a sunset effect. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
Pour into glasses filled with ice.