Within the first week of moving to Los Angeles, I found myself at the one place I knew I could find the good ole' sweet tea I was looking for: McDonald's. No one else seemed to serve it up in this town. Although it is not something I drink regularly, I definitely need some sweet tea every once in a while as a refreshing treat. It was piping hot outside, perfect conditions for a large $1 McDonald's sweet tea with lots of ice. I cruised up to the drive-thru window and placed my order. Silence. And then:
"Sweet tea, mam?"
"Yes, please. One large sweet tea with lots of ice."
"Ummmmm, well we have iced tea, and we have sugar."
"You don't have sweet tea?"
"Well you can put the sugar in the tea I guess."
(defeated) "Never mind. I'll take a diet coke."
I realized that day that not only do people in Los Angeles not serve sweet tea in their restaurants, they do not know what it is. I was disappointed in my new city. I decided if I ever own a restaurant one day, I will be sure to slap it on the menu. I would find a recipe similar to the sweet tea they sell at Chic-Fil-A, Publix, or Sonny's BBQ.
Due to restaurants' lack of sweet tea, I have recently gone on to open my mind, mouth, and heart to alternatives like raspberry teas, honey green tea, chai tea, thai tea, and long island iced tea (which I realize does not really fit in this category but is still tasty). I will sometimes brew a nice cup of hot chai or green tea at work in the afternoon. I usually add a packet of artificial sweetener and a little bit of milk to the brewed cup. Try this for a nice, relaxing, aromatic drink for only about 15 calories or so (depending on the amount and type of milk you use).
Since that encounter at the drive-thru, I have come across one restaurant in Los Angeles that serves sweet tea, Zeke's Smokehouse . Although it is far from Chic-Fil-A sweet tea caliber, I applaud them for including it on the menu. Also, I am proud to announce there are a few McDonald's stores finally catching up with the times. Sweet tea is slowly popping up on menu boards across the city. And why shouldn't it? It is such a great, refreshing summer drink. I stopped attempting to make the kind of sweet tea I love because there always seems to be something missing when I make it myself. Yes, I said it. There are just some things that cannot be improved upon by making them at home. Joining sweet tea on this list would be french fries, doughnuts, and pizza. The best version of each of those foods will never be made in my kitchen. I could never make french fries that taste as good as the ones they serve in most restaurants. Anyone would choose Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and the famous Cafe Du Monde's Beignets in New Orleans over whatever fried dough I could slop together. And nothing...I mean NOTHING homemade beats a pizza pie from one of the following Los Angeles joints: The Village Pizzeria on Larchmont, Tomato Pie and Joe Peep's New York Pizzeria in the valley.
In an attempt to avoid disappointing myself by retrying my hand at regular sweet tea, I decided to make something I have never had before. I don't know if this makes me a good judge in this case, but I can certainly say with confidence that this mango tea pleases my taste buds. I wouldn't mind sipping on this all summer.
Pitcher Perfect Mango Iced Tea:
(a Bobby Flay recipe)
1 1/2 quarts water
6 black tea bags
2 cups mango nectar (mango juice will do if you cannot find nectar)
Sugar (to taste...I used 1/4 C)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Thinly sliced mango
Bring water to a boil, turn off heat add tea bags and steep until tea is dark, about 5 minutes.
Remove bags, add mango nectar and add sugar, to taste. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Place in pitcher and add mint leaves. Pour over ice and garnish with mango slices.