Growing up in Mississippi, I never imagined a life in London. A chance meeting on a rainy Friday night in New York City with my future British husband set in motion a series of events culminating in taking some deep breaths, leaving my corporate job, packing a suitcase and moving to London.
While quickly settling into and loving my new home, friends and family would often ask the question: What do you miss from home? My response was first and foremost friends and family, followed by something that reminds me of friends, family, long hot summers in Mississippi and southern hospitality— Iced Tea. Great tasting, freshly brewed, lightly sweetened iced tea—emphasis here on fresh brewed and lightly sweetened.
Discussing it with my husband and new friends I was made to understand why iced tea is, for the most part, unpopular in the United Kingdom:
It’s too cold here.
British tea is a tradition not to be disgraced by adding ice.
Iced tea is horrid.
Iced tea isn’t really tea.
As it turns out, when pressed on the subject, many Londoners will admit they’ve never actually consumed iced tea and almost all of them that I spoke with have never tried fresh-brewed iced tea. The key words here are fresh and brewed.
Tea made from extracts, concentrates and artificial ingredients, loaded with sugar, doesn’t taste anything like tea, and quite frankly should not be referred to as tea but rather a tea-flavoured beverage.
If I brewed tea like we do in the south, using black tea leaves, not over-flavouring it with artificial stuff, and only sweetening it slightly, would my new British friends have a change of heart?
To find out the answer I ran a pop-up tea bar at Old Street Station and the response was remarkable, creating instant converts to freshly brewed, lightly sweetened iced tea. Breaking the myth that Brits don’t like iced tea. In fact, we met numerous Londoners from around the globe who missed and longed for a great tasting iced tea.
Following the pop-up I set out on the crazy, wild hare journey to create a premium, ready-to-drink, all-natural, fresh-brewed bottled iced tea for London. For months, I fit the stereotypical description of entrepreneur-meets mad scientist, complete with apron, toiling away in my kitchen, experimenting with various teas, fruit juices, spices and sugars.
In staying true to the art of iced tea, the challenge was not figuring out how to flavour the tea, but rather how not to over-flavour it and lose the natural bitterness of the tannins, which is, to me, what makes tea.
As George Orwell once said, “Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter.”
All this to say that I was not interested in creating a sugary drink loaded with calories. I decided early on I would only use a minimal amount of sugar that would complement the natural flavour of tea, as opposed to disguising it.
Aside from my goal of retaining the natural flavour of the tea leaf, it was important for me to use the best ingredients. I am proud to have produced a premium bottled iced tea using all-natural ingredients.
Sweet Sally’s flagship product is Spiced Tea. It’s a healthier spin on a southern recipe I often enjoyed and to my knowledge, it’s the first time it has ever been bottled anywhere in the world. It’s an amazing feeling to now see Sweet Sally being served and enjoyed at some of the top bars, pubs and restaurants across London!