The world's largest mason jar of sweet tea, aptly named "Mason," stands proud at 15 feet tall, holding 2,524 gallons of tea in Summerville, South Carolina. Along the city's Sweet Tea Trail, tourists can pose for photos with Mason while taking in the sights, sounds and sips of all things sweet tea.

Coffee may be thought of as America's favorite beverage, but tea is high up there, too — especially in the South. According to the Tea Association of the United States, "On any given day, more than one-half of the American population drinks tea. On a regional basis, the South and Northeast have the greatest concentration of tea drinkers."

Many Southern staples have origins that can be traced back to native populations, and tea is no exception. Hot tea, specifically yaupon tea made from the leaves of a yaupon plant, was the Mississippians' "black drink" and continued to be the most common nonalcoholic Southern drink in antebellum America, according to the "Encyclopedia of Southern Culture."

Iced tea, which is often used interchangeably with "sweet tea," was introduced in the late 1800s. The new take on the old favorite simply added sugar and ice to black or green tea. But it wasn't until 1928 when the "Southern Cooking" cookbook published a sweet tea recipe that popularized the drink, as more people could make their own versions at home. The drink gained further popularity when American merchant Richard Blechynden introduced it at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri.

Amazing how adding just a bit of ice and some sweetener transformed one of the world's oldest drinks into a Southern phenomenon.


Raspberry Iced Tea

Recipe courtesy of

Try this quick, fruity option for a summertime lift.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Ready in: 15 minutes

Yield: 1 gallon / 10 servings

What you need:

— 1 gallon water

— 3 (3-ounce) gallon-size tea bags

— 1 cup fresh raspberries

— 1/2 cup white sugar

— 1/2 cup powdered lemonade mix

— Ice cubes

What you do:

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, and stir in the tea bags, raspberries and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Allow the mixture to steep until the desired level of tea flavor is reached, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove tea bags, and stir in the lemonade mix until dissolved. Pour tea into pitchers, and add ice to cool.