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8 Things Only Southerners Know About Tea

True Southerners can attest to these eight sweet-tea truths. Travelers headed south of the Mason-Dixon Line should take note.

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Photo: Brent Hofacker

Chill Factor

Sweet tea is never chilled by ice; it's only served over ice. Proper Southern etiquette dictates that tea be stored in the fridge at all times. Because the ice will melt slightly while the tea is being sipped, the tea is made a little stronger so watering down won't ruin the day.

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Photo: Warren Price Photography/iStock ©

Oldie but Goodie

Grits have gotten fancy. Fried chicken's been dressed up. But one of the classic Southern recipes that hasn't changed is sweet tea. The holy trinity of tea has remained the same: water, tea and sugar. Lemon slices began as a garnish in earlier times, but they can be floated in tea with mint for very special occasions.

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Sugar, Sugar

If you see someone stirring sugar into iced tea, they aren't from around here. Presweetening tea with loads of sugar while it's hot is the only way to sweeten the liquid to perfection, with each and every sweet grain dissolving. The amount of sugar can vary from state to state, but the tea has to be steaming when it meets the sugar. The farther west you roam in the South, the sweeter the tea gets.

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Photo: Juank Photo/iStock

By the Book

The Georgia General Assembly had sweet tea on the agenda in 2003. House Bill 819 defined sweet tea as "iced tea which is sweetened with sugar at the time that it is brewed." It also declared that restaurants offering iced tea without sweet tea on the menu as well would "be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature." It was later touted as an April Fools' Day joke, but not all Georgians were totally convinced.

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