Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sweet Tea on a Budget

I love sweet tea.  I used to be hooked on the stuff from Starbucks.  When that got too expensive, I started buying gallons at the store (you can get a gallon for what a Grande costs!).  One day, our food budget was gone and so was my tea.  I did what any reasonable poor person does... and hacked it.  We make about a gallon a week now and, aside from water, it's the cheapest thing we have in the house.

I know some people may be Kool-Aid pushers because it's cheap (≈ 43¢ per 1/2 gallon), but the amount of artificial flavoring and food coloring in that stuff makes me want to shake the parents of every child that I see walking around with a glass. 

Making the same amount of sweet tea at home is not only cheaper (≈ 28¢ per 1/2 gallon), but it has less sugar, ditches all the artificial stuff, and offers up all the benefits of drinking black tea

We use Great Value brand products, the generics from Walmart.  I'm not proud that we shop at that soul-crushing giant, but our budget wouldn't make it if we didn't.


1.  Measure 10 cups of water in a pot.  Heat to a boiling, then turn off the burner.  Add 10 bags of black tea and leave alone for 15 minutes.  Don't poke them too much. 

2.  After 15 minutes, fish the tea bags out (do NOT squeeze, this will release tannins that make the tea bitter).  Stir in 1 1/2 cups of sugar, while the tea is still warm, until it is dissolved.  

3.  Put a lid on the pot and allow to cool.  Pouring hot tea into plastic will cause the plastic to expand and release toxins into your tea... so really, wait until it is cold.   If you're in a hurry, add a cup or two of ice.

4.  Once cool, use a funnel to help you pour into the gallon container*.  Add 6 cups of cold water.  Shake and stash in the fridge until you're craving the wonder that is 'sweet tea'.

Done.  A gallon of Sweet Tea for less than a KitKat.

If black tea is too bitter for your children, or you'd like to trim the caffeine, you can use GV Green Tea (raising the price slightly to .43¢ per 1/2 gallon).  And, of course, green tea comes with its own load of health benefits.

If you want that slightly crisp citrus tinge of Starbucks' Shaken Black Tea, add frozen lemonade concentrate.  (1tsp to your glass or half of a can to a gallon)

Also, a neighbor of mine cuts the sugar by 1/2 a cup and still loves it.  
* It makes my skin crawl when I go to a friend's house and they pull out a plastic orange juice jug from 1998 with blue Koolaid in it and offer me a glass.  So, we buy a real jug of Arizona Sweet Tea every few months so that we maintain "the look".  It is thoroughly washed and dried between each filling.  The plastic on these guys is very thick and durable.  If reusing a disposable container isn't your thing, use whichever gallon container you have.

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