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UNC-Chapel Hill AMST 211 - Sweet Tea: The Southern Beverage

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Cox 1Jared CoxProfessor HermanAMST 211-001March 29, 2021Sweet Tea: The Southern Beverage The golden hazel color boldly proclaims itself through the shallow depths of the sweatingglass it rests in. The crisp ice cubes float in the sweet nectar of the tea rising to the edge of the lemon wedge squeezed onto the edge of the glass to add a blast of sour flavor to the soothing sweetness of the refreshing cold iced tea. Sweet tea is well-known as a southern drink that nearlyeveryone in the south drinks, while not many people at all from the north partake in the southern tradition of sweet tea. Sweet tea has obtained a southern imaginary through the many years that ithas served as a traditional beverage for people of the south. My argument and thesis is that sweettea expresses its southern aesthetics through the southern imaginary as the beverage that most epitomizes the south. Sweet tea was first made in the late 1700’s originating in South Carolina where the tea was originally grown, and it has remained a staple beverage of the south ever since. Unlike other southern things, sweet tea is found only in the south. If one were to go to a restaurant in a northern state and order sweet, iced tea the waiter would have no clue what you are talking about, or if they did, they would know you were from the south. There are other southern traditions that can be found in many places besides the south, but are mainly known for being southern, such as boots. Boots are known for being southern, however people in the north wear boots too and know what they are. Sweet tea is special because its southern imaginary and its tradition is located and known specifically in the south. This specific and special ecology of sweet tea is what makes it express southern aesthetics more than other “southern things.”Last Name 2I have grown up in the south and lived here my whole life, therefore sweet tea has alwaysbeen a familiar beverage to me. Every family reunion, restaurant trip, and family dinner there was always a pitcher of iced tea with lemons to compliment the sweet tea. The aesthetics of sweet tea is apart of a greater picture of the south. Sweet tea has essentially embedded itself in the American south as a drink that is foundational to southern roots. One of the social ecologies and aesthetics of the American south is the sweetness of the food and drinks. Between the pies, sugar, sodas, and peach cobblers, all of which are sweet southern traditions, sweet tea stands amid all of these. These sweet desserts, foods, and drinks are part of what makes up the southern aesthetic because southern states are widely known and understood for their sweetness in these things. Some could counter this argument with the thought that the sweet aesthetic can be found in more places than just the south. To this, I would propose that my argument isn’t that this sweetaesthetic is only found in the south, however that sweet tea is only found in the south and simultaneously is apart of the sweet aesthetic. If you ask a northern person to characterize sweet tea, they will most likely say “southern” as their answer, therefore this is another example to aid the understanding that sweet tea expresses southern aesthetics. The southern landscape developed through time and history has carried with it the traditions and aesthetics built behind the stereotype of the “American South.” A stereotype is a fixed, widely held, and oversimplified idea of certain things, and this can be seen when people from the north say that sweet tea is a southern drink. The most southern restaurants not only pride themselves in their sweet tea and the importance of the tea to their restaurant’s success, but also advertise and market the sweet teaas a way to attract southern customers. Bojangles is a well-known, southern, fast-food restaurant chain that actively advertises their sweet tea, and even sells their sweet tea by the gallon. This is a real-life example of how sweet tea epitomizes the south through the aesthetic it provides. TheLast Name 3American south has taken this sweet tea aesthetic and ran with it. You can now find in the south, Arnold Palmer Tea, twisted tea, Arizona Tea, and different fruit flavored tea, this goes to show that the simple drink of sweet tea is so popular and foundational to the south that there have beenmany variations of it created to please the wide audience that enjoys sweet tea. This is just one more example of how sweet tea expresses southern aesthetics.In conclusion, throughout the course of the American south there have been many foods and drinks to come and go, however sweet tea has remained the sustainable beverage of the south. This beverage has epitomized the south and what it represents in the food and drink industry. The southern aesthetic can be seen in many things of the south, but there is no question when you look at sweet tea you realize it expresses the southern aesthetic. The deep foundations of the American south reveal numerous things such as traditions within aesthetic expression. Thisfoundation is seen when sweet tea entered the south in the late 1700’s and has been a more than strong presence ever since. The proof of my thesis wrapped together is seen through the consistent growth and variation in the product of sweet tea that is known among many as an American south


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