Bluffton barbecue man Ted Huffman's words were as refreshing as a sweating glass of iced tea in late July:
"There is no reason to drink unsweet tea," Huffman declared in our newspaper last week.
Erin Shaw had simply asked, "How do you take your tea?" And he went off, like a lot of people do when it comes to sweet tea.
My generation grew up down South assuming that Jesus saves, Rock City is worth seeing and all tea is sweet.
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Sweet tea has become a symbol of what little is right in this world for people stunned by the very question: "Sweet or unsweet?"
"Sweet or unsweet?" sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to those raised on the words of a steel magnolia: "Be sweet."
That's how Ken Burger of Charleston signed my copy of his book, "Baptized in Sweet Tea." It's a collection of his columns celebrating the South. The title means the Allendale native considers himself blessed to be steeped in the Palmetto State.
"I used to shag at the Pad," he writes. "I learned to water ski on one ski. I remember textile leagues. I knew Columbia before the zoo. I've been to Carolina-Clemson games and remember the Bronze Derby. Almost all my wives have been South Carolinians."
That's baptized in sweet tea.
Iced tea is a simple pleasure.
It's popular down South because it's hot here. Iced tea is crisp and refreshing. And it's cheap.
At Christmas, my mother would fancy up her iced tea by adding some pineapple juice.
And I've heard of iced tea getting even more royal treatment.
When Stiles Harper hosted more than 1,000 people to view the orchids at his Bluffton home this spring, Nancy Wellard reported that he served sweet tea "from his mother's glistening silver punch bowl."
If Stiles did it, it's good and proper.
I've sipped tea from a stemmed glass at the South Carolina governor's mansion, where it is famously so sweet a spoon stands straight up in it.
I couldn't help but think of an old family story. When someone told my great-grandmother her tea tasted funny, she said, "Well, drink it and laugh."
Sweet tea has never been a show horse. It is more like a meat-and-three than a mimosa.
It's called the "house wine of the South" because it is so common. And it really can't be improved upon.
Real tea is not canned. It is not instant. It is not hot. It is not spicy. It is not partly cloudy. And, most of all, it is not bitter.
Sweet tea is not a Southern thing.
The documentation for food history is more like stained napkins than official records.
But people who have studied it carefully say that unsweetened tea has long been common down South. And sweet tea has long been common up North.
The Lowcountry's roots in tea date to 1799 when a French botanist brought plants to Charleston for cultivation. The first successful tea farm was run by Dr. Charles Shepard in Summerville, whose Pinehurst Tea Plantation was healthy from 1888 until his death in 1915.
Some of those plants ended up on a new tea farm on Wadmalaw Island south of Charleston. Today, it is a prolific farm called the Charleston Tea Plantation, home of American Classic Tea.
Along the way, our legislature named tea the official state hospitality drink.
Summerville now claims to be the birthplace of sweet tea, the Lowcountry has produced a sweet tea vodka, and you can even buy sweet tea pie.
But sweet tea does not really need a chamber of commerce.
Mama puts a few bags of Lipton tea in a ceramic pot filled with boiling water. A dish towel covers it while the tea bags steep. At the right time, she pours that into a gallon-sized pickle jar, and stirs in sugar and more water with a wooden spoon.
The fresh tea is still warm when it's time to set the table. The ice cubes crackle when the tea is poured into a tall glass.
No, there is no reason to drink unsweet tea.
Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/That's Lauderdale.