Sweet Tea, Barbecue, and Special Camellias



Dear Reader:

Thursday Anne and I had a spontaneous lunch at Baker’s Pond for some delightful barbecue! Anne was dropping off a church member near my neighborhood from a quilting session and stopped by to ask if I had eaten lunch yet….I had not and had even left a message for her asking if she wanted to grab something for lunch. (Meant to be!)

While we were waiting to order, a young man, named Jimmy, told us his amazing story about how he was walking again when a year ago he was in a wheelchair for ALS. He is of course, still fighting the disease but for almost one glorious year he has been able to leave the wheelchair and walk around by himself again. He praised God every day for this miracle for however long it lasts.

He was so uplifting he had everyone inside the barbecue diner smiling and nodding their heads. A true God’s wink when one gets the feeling that the timing was meant to be….to meet this inspiring young man. Anne and I were amazed.

IMG_9941Prior to the special lunch rendezvous…I had gone to Timrod to return a library book and look for another novel to read. I started chatting with the volunteer on duty and she told me to get a ‘Summerville Tea’ fan…they were being given out by the town. (I got a couple more to give the Ya’s next week….keep it in your pocketbook, girls, for those “hot” moments that besiege women of a certain age.)



Sinensis Species AKA The Tea PlantI didn’t realize that tea comes from a special camellia known as Sinensis. No wonder southerners love our tea so much…a winning combination of two of our favorite things in life: camellias and sweet tea. I, also, learned that this plant and the tea extract is good for preventing uterine cancer….I feel better already about drinking my tea. Tall, cold, sweet,,icy….with a lemon. Ah…life is good!

images (1)When we were at the Hollow Tree Nursery a couple of weeks ago Lisa showed Anne and me some tea leaves growing and told us about the origin of the Sinensis camellia. I find it quite lovely that something as refreshing as iced tea comes from such a beautiful plant and even helps fight certain cancers.

While researching the name of the specific camellia plant that produces tea,  I discovered a funny little folksy article from a North Carolina newspaper on the southerner’s love and loyalty to this drink. The writer has decided that the serving of sweet tea from the un -sweetened tea divides the south from the north more accurately than the Mason-Dixon line. Enjoy!

Sweet and Sugary…Tommy Tomlinson

“More than a drink”

People divide the South from the North at the Mason-Dixon Line, but I’ve always thought the real marker is the sweet-tea line — the point where, at the next diner north, they don’t have sweet tea ready to pour. I’m not sure just where the line is. I feel sorry for those poor souls up above it. But one thing’s for sure: The Carolinas are on the good side.
And over the years, in this part of the world, sweet tea has become infused with meaning.

It’s more than just a drink. Sweet tea is our alchemy — our gift of making something special from humble ingredients. (Just like barbecue, conjured into glory from the cheapest cuts of meat.) Sweet tea is our love offering, poured for family and neighbors and even the guy trying to sell us new gutters. And at its most basic, sweet tea is a cold blast on a hot day, like a dip in a river from the inside out.

We have been drinking sweet tea down here for nearly two centuries now, although the tea of the early 1800s doesn’t much resemble what most of us drink with cornbread and greens. Back then, the tea was green tea, and it was served as an ingredient in punch — spiked with champagne or rum, and sweetened with sugar and cream.

By the early 20th century, most people in the South drank black tea imported from China or India. (All types of tea come from the same species of tea plant,Camellia sinensis; the different types of tea come from different varieties or how the leaves are processed.)

Cookbooks had recipes for basic sweet tea, but people still drank it mostly in punches. The two big events that converted the South to the sweet tea we know today were Prohibition, which got rid of (most of) the nation’s alcohol, and ice delivery, which gave people a way to cool down a big glass. By the 1930s, sweet iced tea was as common at the Carolina table as salt and pepper shakers.


imagesHaving Summerville, our beloved hometown, share in the history of sweet tea just adds to the charm of our town and the abundance of sweet tea pecan pies and sweet tea fried chicken dinners available.. You name it we can put sweet tea in it.

Southerners are actually downright spiritual about their sweet tea….calling the method of making it the “Trinity” Sweet Tea Method…mixing water, tea bags, and sugar together. No two pitchers ever taste the same because it depends on how long you boil the water,  the temperature when poured, the number of tea bags used per water and when you add the sugar. Just remember the ice cubes and lemons….a southern woman who doesn’t have both can be shunned for eternity.

So until tomorrow….Just remember: There’s no magic formula to making tea, because sweet tea is about people. That’s the magic part.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh


These cute pig statues caught our attention before going in to eat…especially the black and white hog with pearls on….we kept remembering there was something about pearls and swine in scripture….Anne later found it and sent it to me…definitely not uplifting!

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” Matthew 7:6

After barbecue Thursday I was off yesterday (Friday) with Debbie Baker, Gin-g Edwards and Honey Burrell on an adventure to Kiawah. Even though it misted in intervals we didn’t let a thing like weather deter us….lots of looking around stores (not as much buying….it is February after all and we are still digging out from Christmas.)

We walked around The Sanctuary and warmed up in front of the big fireplace there in the bar. And speaking of bars…we ended up at the Ryder Cup Bar for lunch. It was packed in there for such a cool, wet February day. The view of the ocean from the restaurant is spectacular. We all got a yummy lunch and could hardly keep from yawning all the way home.









We did stop at the Tree House nursery on the way home….so many beautiful garden displays..In my parallel life I would decorate my garden with the whole shop. Gin-g and I decided to ring the gigantic chimes out front from the shop….In actuality the bells rang for all of us all day, because we were together and sharing smiles,laughter and most importantly…memories!









We passed many signs today as wandered around John’s Island and Kiawah, but this was our favorite sign! Tommy was such a special person….glad to see his name lives on with his passion for family, friends, and the game of golf. What a mentor Tommy was for young people interested in the game. There was no better role model for our children!


I had a wonderful surprise last evening…I discovered a FedEx package on my porch and it was a Ya Ya Plaque from a former Erskine College gal who thought of Libby, Jackson, Brooke, and me when she came across this message. How sweet! Thanks Mac for your thoughtfulness and kindness. We love it!





About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sweet Tea, Barbecue, and Special Camellias

  1. Jo Dufford says:

    What a great way to spend two cold, February days: eating lunch with such good friends, a beautiful beach, too much laughter and drinking sweet tea! The plaque for Ya Ya’s was certainly just made with you ladies in mind. Of course, the storyteller in you would never let you miss a good story: Jimmy’s amazing story, the tea plant coming from the Camellia family (tea and camellias, so southern), a pig with pearls and “More Than a Drink” by Tommy Tomlinson. Thanks for sharing with words and pictures.


  2. Becky Dingle says:

    Today’s blog is definitely a little bit of this and a little bit of that….but then that is life too, isn’t it? Always love hearing from you dear friend. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.