When I think of my mom, Zenova Cook Hahn, I often remember her as she was when I was growing up, in the 1970s and ’80s. Back then, she almost always kept a glass of tea handy. When I say a glass of tea, of course, I’m talking Southern sweet iced tea.
She made the tea using a metal cup that probably held about two cups of water (without the tea bags). I asked her about that today, and she said it was something my dad, Bill Hahn, brought home from St. Regis. I don’t know what they used those silver cups for in the paper-making process.
Mom would boil water in a kettle on the stove (pre-microwave) and place the tea bags in the silver cup while waiting for it to boil. I don’t know if they made family-size tea bags back then; we only ever had the individual size of an Orange Pekoe variety. When the water boiled, it was poured over the tea bags and left to sit for a few minutes. While the tea steeped, she added the sugar to the pitcher, and then she poured in the steeped tea and added tap water to fill.
The pitcher I remember most was a round green nubby one, for which she had matching glasses. I asked her today whatever happened to that pitcher. She said, “The handles would break off. They all did, everybody who had one.” She’s not sure if her handle broke off or if it just cracked. She says it’s probably in the attic now. She kept it figuring it could be used as a vase or for a flower arrangement.
Mom did make good tea, although I preferred Kool-Aid or soda. Now, I drink mostly water and an occasional Cheer Wine or Ale-8-One. Coke and Pepsi and the others don’t taste the same anymore.
Mom also drinks mostly water, although she will sometimes add a little Dr. Thunder for a bit of flavor. I can’t stand the idea of watered-down soda!
When I drink tea, it’s hot tea, typically Earl Grey, with a lot of sugar and a little milk or half-and-half. When we went to London in 2008 for our long-delayed honeymoon, everywhere we went, I ordered hot tea, and Tim would laugh and remind me that I didn’t have to specify hot tea because over there, it all is!
Sweet tea is a Southern tradition, and it’s one I saw carried out over and over again growing up.