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We say “ice’ tea,” and we drink it by the gallon. In local barbecue houses and cafeterias, where you find some inklings of Lowcountry food, pitchers of iced tea are placed on the tables. On Wadmalaw Island, just south of Charleston, tea is cultivated; it is the only tea grown in America. In 1773 Charleston shared sentiments with Boston over the Tea Act; with strong allegiance to the Crown, however, Charlestonians would eventually allow the tea (stored in the basement of the Exchange Building) into their homes. Eighteenth-century visitors to the city remarked on its ridiculous British airs; it does seem ludicrous that they wore heavy woolens and drank hot tea in the steamy subtropical afternoons. If that British ritual has disappeared, it is perhaps for the better; better still that we now ice our tea.

To make a pitcher of southern iced tea, use only orange pekoe tea, either in tea bags or loose—1 bag or 1 teaspoon of loose tea per glass. Use fresh cold water; bring it to a boil in a nonreactive pot. Pour the water over the tea and let the tea steep, covered, for 5 minutes, or to desired strength. Strain out the loose tea; squeeze the tea bags. Sweeten the tea to taste and pour over ice in tall glasses. Serve with lemon wedges and, if available, freshly snipped sprigs of mint.

To make “sun tea,” fill a clear glass gallon container with cold water and add 6 or 8 tea bags or teaspoons of loose tea. Leave the container to stand at room temperature overnight or in the hot sunshine for 3 or 4 hours.