Everyone in the South grew up drinking iced tea. Sweet iced tea. There was no other kind. Everyone had it in their homes and the restaurants had it. It was strong and sweet and cold and refreshing. You can’t get it anymore unless you make it yourself. There was nothing instant or artificial about it. Even the “Country Southern” restaurants are using instant stuff now. If you have sun tea, custom tea, hippie tea, herbal tea, English tea, or any other they may be good, but they are not Southern Iced Tea. Southern Iced Tea is the real deal. The only point of disagreement among the various tea making artists was tea brand. There were 3 main ones that I remember. Lipton, Tetley, and Luzianne. We were a Luzianne family. It is still the best as far as I am concerned. Lipton and Tetley are good, but will get bitter if over brewed, to my taste. On the other hand, there were just as many, if not more, that preferred one of the others. Try them all, choose your own.
We also used either metal or glass to brew tea. Never use plastic. I can remember when Tupperware swept through the South, maybe the mid-50s or so. There were many things that it was good for. Brewing tea is not one of them. Tastes funky. My family used an old pot with no handle to brew the stuff. Aluminum, I think.
This is the simplest stuff in the world, just remember 3-2-1. Three family size tea bags. 2 cups of water. One cup of sugar. Yeah, that’s a lot of sugar. Your food nazi will not like it. No, you can’t substitute anything else and get the taste. Yes, you have to add it while the brew is hot. You can’t add it later and get the same taste. Not possible. This stuff was consumed by people who worked hard. They did not need to worry about calories or diabetes. They were plumb skinny from hard work. Anyway, boil the water, steep the bags. Remove the bags when they have yielded a strong rich brew but before it gets bitter. Good Southern iced tea is never bitter. Looks like a rich reddish umber to me. Stir in the sugar, making sure it dissolves completely, while the brew is still hot. Let the brew cool to room temperature, you don’t want to melt the ice and get a weak drink.
There were some practitioners that added just a pinch of baking soda. I never could tell that it made that much difference. If you want to try it – go right ahead.