There was always a half-gallon glass jug of sweetened iced tea in our refrigerator, all year long, when I was growing up. Daddy drank a huge glass every day at lunch and every night at dinner. In the heat of summer he drank more than one. I still have that old glass–it is a big amber-colored glass from some gas-station giveaway.
Mother made the tea fresh every day. It was strong and sweet. She put in two scoops of sugar with a red plastic scoop from the copper-colored sugar cannister on the kitchen counter. Sometimes we had lemon wedges to squeeze in your glass, which was my favorite way to drink it (still is.) Nothing was more refreshing on a hot, humid day. Sitting at the dining table, air conditioner humming, with fried chicken, hot biscuits, creamed corn cooked in an iron skillet with bacon grease until it stuck, homegrown tomatoes, and iced tea–heaven!
Here is Mother’s methodology, which made sweet tea strong enough to stand up to ice cubes but never bitter.
Take 2 large or 4 regular tea bags (Lipton’s preferred.) Put in a teapot. Fill the pot with boiling water and let steep 10 minutes. In a half-gallon glass jug or other non-reactive pitcher, put 1/2 to 1 cup sugar. Pour in the hot tea when it finishes steeping, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Then add tap water to fill the jug, stirring.
Ready to pour over ice or cool in the fridge. Makes a half-gallon (2 quarts.) You can serve with lemon wedges or fresh mint if you have it. It should be a deep ruby color, even when poured over ice, and never bitter!