General Question

essieness's avatar

What's the problem with sweetening your own tea at the table?

Asked by essieness (7698points) May 30th, 2009

All the time I have people asking for sweet tea (I’m a waitress) and when I say I only have unsweet, they switch to Dr. Pepper or something else ridiculously sweet. What the hell? There are four varieties of sweeteners to choose from on the table… Sweet N’ Low, Equal, Splenda, and plain old sugar. Are you really too lazy to sweeten your own effing tea?

This drives me crazy if you can’t tell.

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34 Answers

MacBean's avatar

…Huh. I always ask for unsweetened tea. If all they have is stuff with the sugar already in it, I drink something else. So I’m baffled.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

A lot of people think that the artificial sweeteners will give them cancer or make them fat(ter) or some other horrible, fatal, and/or completely ridiculous malady.

And regular sugar just doesn’t mix well into cold tea.

So, there you have it.

It drove me crazy as a server too. To the point that one day I accidentally poured the only cold pitcher of sweet tea into my apron (and onto my cellphone in the pocket). That was not a good day.

ragingloli's avatar

tea should always come unsweetened to let the customer decide how much sugar he wants where i live, there are no artificial sweeteners offered, only sugar. i prefer it that way

oratio's avatar

I would be surprised if I got sweetened tea, and a bit pissed of actually. Different café culture I guess. In Russia they often put sugar in both the tea and coffee. Why would you do that? I had to ask them before not to.

cookieman's avatar

I prefer my ice tea black with lemon – so you won’t hate me as a customer.

Now ice coffee I like sweet, with a sweet n’ low. I can’t stand real sugar in cold drinks. It just floats to the bottom. Tastes like you’re sucking up sand through the straw.

casheroo's avatar

I guess they want something sweet.
My mother is a tea drinker, but she wants unsweetened so she can put her own sweetener in. I like my tea already sweetened, because unsweetened is gross to me. I’d probably switch to a root beer or sprite if they had unsweetened.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I always thought sweet tea was a southern thing. I like it because sugar doesn’t dissolve into cold tea very easily, and I end up making a mess on the table. If it came sweetened with lemon, I’d be a happy camper. I make it that way at home.

DrBill's avatar

It is very hard to get sugar or sweetener to dissolve in iced tea. You end up with a pile of sweetener at the bottom of the glass.

oratio's avatar

Oh, it was about iced tea. Hm, I thought it always was sweetened with syrup. Never tried it without, I always make syrup for it when I make ice tea.

Dog's avatar

When I waited tables in California I never had that issue and never had anyone ask. Out here in Los Angeles it is always unsweetened. (though some places want to offer the type with the essence of passion fruit and even it came unsweetened.)

I wonder if it has historic origins. For instance maybe during one of the great wars sugar was scarce or rationed and so they did not want to leave it out on the table and instead the employees would sweeten the tea?

elijah's avatar

To me it seems like unsweetened tastes like “real” tea, I prefer it over the sweetened which here (maybe it’s different in other places) seems watery and fake, almost like a gross koolaid drink.
You can take unsweetened and add sugar and it still doesn’t taste like the pre-sweetened.

Dog's avatar

On research sweet tea has an interesting history:

The Origins of Sweet Tea

In 1795 Andre Michaux, French explorer and botanist, introduced a variety of plants to the fields of South Carolina, including gardenias, azaleas, camellias and green tea, in hopes that the exotic flora would appeal to wealthy plantation owners. In Charleston, S.C. he grew the first crop of tea in the United States.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, recipes for cold teas were popularized in both Britain and America. These brews, referred to as punches, were commonly made from green tea spiked with alcohol.

There are many speculations as to why sweet tea became a Southern classic. At the end of the Civil War, many Southerners experienced poverty. Sweet tea – requiring only water, tea leaves and sugar – was not only cheap, but also readily available as the majority of cane crops were grown in the South.

Historians have a third theory. The conservative branch of Christianity that dominated the South frowned upon wine, beers and liquor. Sweet tea then became a common replacement for alcoholic beverages, and its consumption spread rapidly during the era of Prohibition.


casheroo's avatar

I don’t care what anyone says, McDonald’s sweet tea is delicious.

Dog's avatar

@casheroo McDonald’s does not serve sweet tea here.

oratio's avatar

McDonald’s in Moscow served small bottles of vodka

casheroo's avatar

@Dog That’s awful! I go there too often just for their sweet tea. My husband and I are addicted.

ubersiren's avatar

Yuck… sweet tea. Yuck… lemon. I like minimal real sugar in my iced tea.

Maybe with your customers it’s just a matter of feeling like the restaurants just make it better. You know, when you go to your favorite bar and order a ________, then you go home and try to make it and it doesn’t taste the same? Or any food from a restaurant, really.

Dr_C's avatar

Um… i agree with @Dog i’ve never seen sweet tea offered in California (even at Outback @essieness). I see no issue.. i love iced tea and am happy to sweeten it to my taste.

A loooooooong ass time ago in McAllen, San Antonio, Houston and Galveston i was treated to sweet tea on different occasions while dinning out with family or friends… must say not a big fan.

As far as the McDonalds tea thing goes… does not exist in California… the closet we come is the McCafe coffee drinks (which are way too heavy on the syrup and overly sweeteneed.. even when you ask for unsweetened).

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Take it from a Mississippi resident/Sweet tea lover, Sweet tea is NOT sweet tea unless the sugar is poured and mixed in while the tea is piping hot! It doesn’t taste the same w/ artificial sweeteners, and sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold tea or warm tea. My suggestion… do your job and don’t judge people based on their drink choice. How does it inconvenience YOU for THEM to get something they like to drink? Pouring a Dr Pepper should be as easy as pouring a tea, right?!

elijah's avatar

Oops I hit good answer for that ^ and then I got to the second half of the answer. I’d like to retract my GA please. I guess that’s what I get for premature good answering.

essieness's avatar

@elijah Me too. Shit.

@BBSDTfamily Obviously, you have never waited tables. Also, no it is not just as easy to serve a Dr. Pepper as it is tea. With tea and water, we have pitchers conveniently posted up around the front of the restaurant. You need more tea and I simply grab a pitcher and fill it up. Soft drink drinkers (especially Dr. Pepper drinkers, who tend to be teenagers) are notorious for sucking the drinks down and having 5 or 6. This means I’m running back and forth to the kitchen for refills rather than just grabbing a pitcher. Also, I live in Texas and am very aware of the sweet tea culture. I just don’t understand why people get their panties in a wad over sweetening their own effing tea and it annoys the hell out of me. Judging by your response, you would more than likely be the kind of customer who huffs and puffs upon learning I don’t have sweet tea and you’d probably get crap service for being a d-bag about it. Just sayin’.

cwilbur's avatar

@DrBill is right on. If you sweeten the tea when it is hot, and then allow it to cool, it is well sweetened. If you wait until it’s on ice, and then dump sugar in, it does not dissolve easily.

So the choice the people have is between sweetened tea, and tea in which not much sugar is dissolved, which results in sugar-sludge at the bottom. Given that understanding, it’s not hard to see why people would request soda instead.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@essieness If you understand the sweet culture as you say, then you should understand that sweetening your own tea does not produce the same taste at all as the tea being sweetened while hot. Like I said, it is one of the job duties as a waitress to keep the customers happy, so I don’t see why it’s such a big complaint. And yes I would be that customer, the same customer to asks for the manager when I get bad service to explain why I’m not tipping.

Dr_C's avatar

@BBSDTfamily i think the problem here (some people seem to be missing the point) is that people in @essieness ‘s establishment are asking for sweetened tea when it is not available (as in the company does not offer it) and therefore she is under no obligation to provide it. It would be very annoying to continually receive requests for a product that is not provided within your menu on a regular basis.

Would you go to McDonalds and ask for a famous star? would you go to Pizza hut and ask for a McFlurry? If it’s not on the menu and you ask for it the server has no obligation to provide it.

If you don’t like that it’s not available write a letter to the corporate owner of the chain and see waht happens. Don’t blame the wait staff. They have no control over what’s on the menu. And sweetening your own tea is NOT that difficult.. if you don’t like how it turns out… get something else.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@Dr_C Most customers assume that commonly used beverages are on the menu. The point isn’t that customers are asking for something she doesn’t have, it’s that when they ask and then find out that the restaurant doesn’t carry the item, @essieness gets frustrated because they don’t want a gross substitute for the product and instead change their order. Your suggestion of getting something else is just what she said gets on her nerves in her original question, if you read it.

essieness's avatar

@BBSDTfamily Like I said, I understand that you sweet tea drinkers have a weird fetish for it, but I did not know that the sugar doesn’t dissolve correctly in cold tea making it virtually undrinkable. This, I have learned from this thread, which was the point. My point now upon learning that is, I just didn’t see how it could be that unbearably gross that you have to switch your order. I guess it’s just something I’ll never understand. It’s probably along the same lines of putting salad dressing/baked potato dressings on the side. Makes no sense to me.

Anyway, funny story: After this thread yesterday, I went to work and one of my first customers asked for sweet tea. I said we didn’t have it and he proceeded to tell me that I would just go back there and make him some sweet tea. I think he thought he was being funny. I felt like punching him in the dick. My next customer asked for sweet tea, then switched to Dr. Pepper and proceeded to drink 6 of them as I told you guys in my last answer that they usually do. His wife politely sweetened her own tea and didn’t complain. I wanted to hug her. :)

@Dr_C I wish I could lurve you a thousand times!

funkdaddy's avatar

From working at a place without sweet tea (also in Texas), the problem with the sweet tea lovers isn’t the request, it’s the eyeroll, big sigh, and exasperation that follows when you say it’s not available. The speech about “isn’t this the south?” is always nice as well. Of course this isn’t everyone, but I think essieness is focusing on the people who decide it’s important enough to complain about and evangelize the glory of sweet tea. I drink it, I like it, when it’s not available I drink tea + sugar, it’s not the same, but I’m not at home.

The problem is that there’s no suitable response. I can’t fix the problem unfortunately, and several people want to discuss why it isn’t available. It’s almost like you’ve taken a position on a very important issue and they need justification.

It’s a beverage. If we don’t have your favorite beer or liquor, you pick something comparable and move on. Personally I don’t mind getting folks a Dr. Pepper instead, or 6 of them, but what’s an expected answer for “why?” on such a minor issue? Is it worth a little tantrum?

It’s just strange so many people feel so strongly about their sweet tea.

essieness's avatar

@funkdaddy You got me. Exactly… :)

elijah's avatar

I order dressing on the side. I don’t like it globbed all over my salad. It ruins it. I like to actually taste the salad, not dressing soup with a few floating veggies.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@essieness It may not be “unbearably gross”, but if a customer who likes sweet tea orders it, they have one thing in mind- “correct” sweet tea. If you do not have it and expect them to get unsweet tea and sweeten it themselves, that is like expecting them to order a different drink…. I mean you may as well get frustrated they don’t change their order to lemonade or something. The difference is big enough that it would be like you getting frustrated because a customer ordered water, you didn’t have it, so they ordered a coke instead of a sprite. I mean it just doesn’t make sense to expect customers to order unsweetened tea that they’d sweeten themselves b/c it is completely different in taste. I hope that makes a little more sense. Not trying to run this subject in the ground, just trying to explain why customers are behaving this way to you.

cwilbur's avatar

@essieness: it’s not that cold-sweetened tea is virtually undrinkable, it’s that hot-sweetened iced tea and cold-sweetened iced tea have different flavors.

I frequently have exchanges in restaurants where I ask for a Coke, the server asks if Pepsi is okay, and I ask for root beer instead. Pepsi and Coke are similar, but they are simply not the same. It’s the same thing with tea—cold-sweetened tea and hot-sweetened tea are very different beverages, and even for people who like both, they’re not interchangeable.

RedPowerLady's avatar

this reminds me to go out and make some sun tea, i lurve unsweetened tea

tiffyandthewall's avatar

@casheroo mcd’s sweet tea is the most amazing thing ever, ohmygosh, i could not agree more

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Because Sweet Tea is not the same as tea that has been sweetened.

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