Tag Archives: Beverages

Sweet Summer Brew for Yankees

The sun bestows its Midas touch on the flavorful brown brew in my oversized glass, stuffed with ice cubes, chilly rivelets running down its sides.

Does anyone speak of this popular summer beverage as “iced tea”?

Only dictionaries, menus, maître d’s — and column writers who must meet editing standards — have touted good ol’ ice tea with the superfluous “d.”

As southern temperatures soar, my Louisiana relatives greet visitors with a simple “Ya’ll come in and have some tea.”

If you, too, are a Yankee, please note: Never ask if the tea is sweetened or unsweetened.

“Unsweetened? In this house?”

Loyal southern citizens would rather fight the Civil War again than drink unsweetened tea. Even consumers who add artificial sweeteners warrant watching.

So I will try to lose weight before my September visit.

The locals drink it even at breakfast. Just recalling childhood memories of endless frosty glasses consumed while eating huge sorghum-laced biscuits adds layers to my physique.

My mother, though she did not possess the southern genetic code necessary to produce true sweet tea, was an exceptionally wise Yankee. As a young wife, she studied her in-laws’ iced-tea technique and learned the correct way to dump endless scoops of sugar into hers.

For years, Mom’s sweet tea helped cool and fuel her skinny little kids throughout sweltering summers. She steeped teabags in a pan with a ceramic lining — why, I don’t know, but I followed her lead for years. While it brewed, she recruited a child to “throw ice.” Money being short, she never considered store-bought bags. Trayfuls lasted mere minutes. Instead, Mom filled gallon milk cartons with water and froze them. We children took these cartons to our solid cement porch and threw them.

Most of the time, deliberately breaking anything resulted in an immediate Judgment Day. Part of the perk of throwing ice included the soul-satisfying shatter, classified, unbelievably, as “helping Mom.”

When Dad arrived, brown and weary from hammering nails on a sizzling roof or covered with paint, she filled a jar with cracked ice and poured her blessed sweet tea over it, resurrecting his body and soul.

A half century later, I know pitchers of sweet tea will await me when I visit Dad, along with glasses chock-full of ice. No pumpkin chai or caramel truffle for us, and never decaffeinated.

He and my relatives know better than to mess with a great brew.

Better than I, for the last time I visited, I asked, “Is this tea sweetened?”

 

 

What’s your favorite summer tea? Sweetened or unsweetened?

 

 

 

 

Coffee Confessions

CoffeeI love coffee.

So do one hundred million other Americans. On winter mornings, spouses attempt to drag us out of bed, but only coffee’s rich aroma can coax us from warm covers.

However, we demand — er, appreciate — our beverage of choice in diverse ways.

Take, for example, the Coffee Connoisseurs. Even if shivering on an Arctic island, alone with a can of cheap coffee (and opener), they would suffer until a Starbucks floated their way. Connoisseurs own roasters and gravitate toward flavors like jalapeño coconut. They may not remember their kids’ birth dates, but they know their coffee’s pedigree.

At the spectrum’s other end: the Coffee Classicists. Most purchase their parents’ brand, though some have been seduced by bags of beans given by pitying offspring. A large gimme-it-black contingent rules within this group. Those who take cream and sugar want exactly that. No organic sassafras sweetener. No fat-free peppercorn creamer. And they want coffee served in favorite mugs or china cups and saucers.

Both groups reject decaffeinated coffee as counterfeit. Decaf advocates, however, cite better sleep cycles. Plus, their work rage manifests itself only in yelling at computers, rather than throwing them.

However, caffeine addicts — er, devotees — insist that coffee without the main ingredient is not real, though it is the stuff of which 6 a.m. nightmares are made: “Out of coffee!?” Gasp! Gag. Body systems shut down. “Must crawl to Quickie Mart … must …”

Consumers often claim they can distinguish between decaf and high-octane by mere taste. My former boss spotted the difference before he tasted it (his wife had replaced half his favorite brand with decaf).

My Louisiana grandfather also rose up in righteous wrath if my grandmother dared brew anything other than his usual high-voltage sludge: “Elvira, is this decaf? Stump water!”

Aware of my decaf consumption, my 88-year-old dad, during my last visit, sniffed his favorite mug as if I’d slipped in anthrax. Eyes twinkling, he said, “Tell me which kind you put into the pot so I can decide whether I like it or not.”

Me? I just love coffee. With or without caffeine, plain or flavored (though I draw the line at jalapeño coconut), black or sugared and cream-ated, in mugs, china cups and saucers. I usually brew my own, but occasionally buy it at Quickie Mart, Mickey D’s, or Starbucks, if I have a gift card.

You’ll find me at any friendly coffee corner where a fellow drinker and I can shoot the breeze, sip and savor.

Are you a Coffee Connoisseur or Classicist? Or perhaps you take coffee with your cream and sugar?