Sweet or Unsweet Tea

Montgomery has passed the iced tea test with flying colors.  

No matter where you go, you can get freshly brewed, real iced tea.  Without sugar.  With lemon.  Oh, sure, you can also get that syrupy sweet stuff if that’s your poison, but it’s not mine.

This is a real issue, and frankly one I didn’t adequately suss out before coming.  Mr. NYer and I like our iced tea although our New York habit is mostly a fair weather one.  Come one especially warm day in late March or early April, Mr. NYer will decide that iced tea season has arrived and will drop six  or seven tea bags into a covered pitcher, fill it with water, and sit it on the deck.  Once that day arrives, we keep the fridge stocked with lemons (me) and limes (him) and drink vast quantities of the stuff.

Many years ago, before the Abandoned One was born, we took a camping trip to the Outer Banks.  There we discovered a few things:  1) camping on the beach is not for us; and 2) the iced tea in the south was perfectly awful. 

The only iced tea we could get, it seemed, was a chemical brew that came from a machine, had a metallic taste, and was heavily sweetened.  It was truly closer to Coke than to tea.  This vacation brought a series of indignities and injuries:  high winds ripped our shade canopy on the first day; a tempest-like storm flooded our tent on the second; seagulls stole the steak from our grill on the third.  With only a two-man tent and no canopy, we could not escape the sun.  We thirsted for real tea, and for shade.  Neither was to be found. 

We did the beach, visited the lighthouse, even biked, as I remember, but could never escape the relentless sun.  We decided to take the ferry to Okracoke, the southernmost of the Outer Banks to which you could take a car.  Driving off the ferry, we followed the strip of sand for miles to the little town at the southern tip of the island.  We emerged into the blazing sun and spotted the Okracoke Inn.  It looked shady.  And cool.  We ducked inside for lunch.

The waitress seated us in a large dark dining room with ceiling fans.  We ordered the shore lunch (fresh, huge and wonderful even if it was fried) and, bracing ourselves, asked for iced tea.  She brough it in large ice-filled glasses, and we could tell from its orangey-amber tone that  it was fresh-brewed.  Sliced lemons accompanied it.   We lifted our glasses,  drank deep and set them down, at which point the waitress reappeared with a pitcher and refilled them.  She continued raising the elixir to the brim for the entire time we stayed in that dining room, and we stayed a long time.  We agreed that, most likely, we had died from sunstroke and gone to heaven.

Montgomery must be a room in that heaven, because the same limitless iced tea policy operates here.  They have two kinds, sweet and unsweet.  The waiters sweep along the tables armed not with one, but with two pitchers, ready to top off the glasses of the sugar-obsessed as well as those of us with more astringent tastes. 

I haven’t gotten used to the term “unsweet” tea.  I order “unsweetened tea,” and they must understand me because soon this fresh, golden brew, adorned with lemon slices, is sitting before me.   Give me a couple of months and I’ll adopt the local  lingo. 

Either way, it’s sweet.


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