I have lived in the south my entire life. If there is one thing that goes with the south it is sweet tea. I grew up drinking sweet tea and it became a staple for me. When we would go out to dinner I would order it, when our families had get-togethers we would drink it, and sometimes we would make it at home just because we wanted to. The sweetness of the tea really hinges on personal preference but it can also have a lot to do with what part of the south you live in. When I drank sweet tea I preferred mine to be lighter on the sweetened side (about 1-1.5 c. sugar per gallon of tea) while some of my friends liked to drink their tea with double the amount of sugar as me. It was the varying degrees of sweetness that led me to make the change from sweet to unsweet.
I don’t remember the restaurant I was at when it happened but I do remember asking for half sweet/half unsweet tea. It was perfection. Eventually that even became too sweet for my tastebuds so I then asked for unsweet tea and I added my own sugar to it. I liked Sugar in the Raw so I tried to keep some packets on my person in case I was somewhere that didn’t carry it. I started with two packets per glass and when they would refill the tea there was usually some residual sugar in the bottom of the glass so I refrained from adding any extra. Once I got used to two packets, I cut back to one packet. After a couple weeks of that I stopped with the packets altogether and have been sugar free with my tea ever since.
One thing I will tell you is that when you go sugar free with your tea you will finally be able to taste the flavor of the actual tea. It will become quickly apparent that most places serve low quality, cheap tea. The flavors of these teas can be bitter with undertones of cigarettes and burnt flavors. The best unsweet tea I have been able to find is served at Chick-fil-A. Try their tea first and use it as a measuring stick above all others. If you are brewing at home, throw out the Lipton and Luzianne and go get yourself some Tetley tea. Tetley has no weird after taste and is as refreshing as they come.
Cutting out the sugar from my drinks has dramatically changed my tastebuds. I can no longer tolerate sweet tea; if someone serves it to me accidentally I can’t drink it and it usually ends up untouched. If you would have told me I would ever be drinking my tea without sugar I would have said you were crazy, but here I am. I have been drinking unsweet tea exclusively now for 3-4 years and there is no going back.