Nothing says ‘the south’ more than a tall glass of cold, freshly brewed iced tea with a wedge of lemon. Doug’s first introduction to iced tea was at the Lambda Chi Alpha house at The University of Tennessee. His chapter of 100 maintained a place on Fraternity Row that slept 40 and had a cook that fed them lunch and dinner Monday – Friday and on game days for home football games. For liquid refreshments, you sipped Gretta’s homemade iced tea or drank tap water (or beer!)
Gretta would brew the tea in a 20-gallon aluminum pot for as many as 60 -70 brothers could show up for a meal. She was known to be a bit heavy-handed with the sugar, but boy, oh boy, was that some good tea. Growing up in Jersey, Doug had never tasted an iced tea until he found his way to Knoxville.
Doug attended summer school between his Junior and Senior years, which he would graduate in four years. He worked as a waiter at a 700-seat restaurant called ‘The Hungry Fisherman’ in West Knoxville. Due to a bunch of friends working there, it was a fun job for him, plus what poor college student wouldn’t welcome the increase in cash flow?
When they took orders, they had a pre-printed pad listing all the menu items. All that had to be done was circle what each customer wanted and would get rung up at the register. Well, about 3-4 months into Doug’s job there, the boss, named Bill, called me over just after he rang up two young male customers. He held out the ticket and asked me why he had circled six iced teas. He told Bill it was because each customer had two refills and then asked how long he had been working for him.
When it was determined that nobody had ever told Doug about FREE refills, Bill had to scratch his head for a second and wonder how the restaurant, in essence, went away with overcharging just about every patron during a 3–4-month period. And Free Refills? You’d never hear those words spoken in New Jersey, so the boss was not upset with Doug, just surprised. Bill said that because Doug was unknowingly overcharging customers during that period paid for all the raw material costs for iced tea for a year.
Did You Know?
Iced Tea began appearing in the 1860s, mainly in the southern states. In the 1870s, it appeared in cookbooks and was a bit of a novelty until 1904, when it was introduced to an international audience at the World’s Fair. And for what it is worth, there are two distinctive ways to brew your iced tea:
- Sun Tea – place tea bags in a sizeable room-temperature water pitcher and let it sit in the sun for the house.
- Brewed Tea – place bags of tea in a boiling pot of water. Add sugar for sweet or no sugar for unsweetened. Cool and serve over ice.
Doug’s first job out of college was with Duracell Batteries, stationed in Greenville, SC. One of his favorite lunch places in his territory was The Beacon in Spartanburg, SC. This place is iconic, and they claim to sell more iced tea than any restaurant in America. If you are ever driving near Spartanburg, stop in and order a Chili Cheeseburger-A-Plenty. Your burger will be smothered under a pile of onion rings and fries, plus the iced tea has a hint of lemon already brewed into it.
Speaking of lemon, one of Doug’s favorite drinks to order in almost any restaurant is an unsweetened Arnold Palmer, which the greatest golfer ever concocted himself with his wife, Winnie. Fill a glass with half unsweetened tea (you can use sweet tea, but that is quite a sugar punch), and top it off with any kind of lemonade. Can we just say delicious?!
If you’re considering moving to the South and don’t drink iced tea, stay where you are or start learning to enjoy one of America’s favorite inventions. We promise that you’ll be glad you did!