Sam Venable  

Special Contributor

I hate to have to bring this up, but here is the blunt, awful truth: People should acquire certain manners naturally, either in the womb or shortly upon arrival into the world. Alas, some have not gotten the message.

We have in our midst a breed of social hooligans. They are ruffians. Rogues. Unwashed heathens. Call this trash what you wish, but they all have one thing in common: They don’t know nuthin’ about iced tea.

The summer season is here, and that means iced tea consumption throughout the South is about to increase. It also means, unfortunately, that amber slop passed off as “iced tea” will begin to flow as well.

In order to discuss what true, lay-your-ears-back-and-pour-it-down iced tea is about, let us start by spelling out what it ain’t.

It ain’t instant, for one thing. Instant iced tea is a culinary abomination that should be dumped into lead-lined concrete vaults, sealed, then buried like toxic waste. The people who invented instant iced tea are communists or aliens from another planet or both. In any event, they seek to disrupt life as we know it. Real iced tea is brewed. With boiling water, teapots and real tea bags.

Another thing iced tea ain’t is warm. Read the name of this beverage again. Does the word “iced” mean anything? As in cold, perhaps? Apparently it doesn’t at some of the eateries I have visited in this and other towns.

Pouring freshly brewed tea into a glass and anointing it with two slivers of shaved ice does not qualify, either. Instead, we are looking for magnum ice cubes. Clear ones. Lots of ’em. The kind of ice cubes you make in metal trays with levers on top.

Glass. That’s another ain’t to consider with real iced tea. It ain’t served in a shot glass or a juice glass or a foam coffee cup. Rather, it is served in a wide-mouthed jar, Mason brand if at all possible, or any other glass container capable of holding a minimum of 16 ounces. Twice that volume is preferable.

Something else Southern tea ain’t is plain.

Plain coffee is fine. In fact, the Good Lawd Hisself drinks His coffee black. But when it comes to iced tea, the Big Guy and all the heavenly hosts want it loaded with sugar and lemon.

Although it is written Ezekiel, I think (or maybe Haggai), that only pure cane sugar be administered to iced tea, it has become an accepted practice lately to do this deed artificially. We may all answer for this transgression on Judgment Day; but for now, those little blue and pink envelopes have official blessing.

However, accept no substitute when it comes to lemon. I mean it.

This recipe calls for real lemons—those sour, yellow fruits that grow on trees. “Reconstituted” lemon juice (reconstituted from what—dead polecats?) ranks second only to instant tea in Southern social disgraces. We are talking the eye-stinging, pulpy, Real McCoy.

And I don’t mean one of those paper-thin slices some cheapskate restaurant owners try to camouflage as lemons. Iced tea lemons should come in big chunks. When you squeeze them, juice should flow liberally into the tea, not simply moisten your fingertips.

So, let us review: Brewed. Lots of ice. Large glass container. Much sugar. Real lemon in big chunks. Got it?

OK, then go and sin no more.

Sam Venable is an author, stand-up comedian, and humor columnist for the Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel. He June be reached at