What Makes Tennessee Fruit Tea A Unique Iced Drink Of The South

Sweet tea may be a culinary pillar of the South, but fruit tea belongs to Tennessee. Different cities and states hold tightly to their signature drinks, including Chicago's Malört, the Moxie Soda of Maine,  and Edna's Lunchbox of Oklahoma City. In Tennessee Fruit Tea (aka "Tea Punch"), sweet tea meets fruit juice for a golden-hued, when-worlds-collide collab that feels oh-so-right. It's a combination of brewed sweet tea, orange or pineapple juice (or both), and sometimes an additional finisher like ginger or lemon. Some brewers stir lemonade into the mix, and different folks use different proportions of each ingredient for a customized flavor.

If you purchase pre-brewed sweet tea and juice blends from the grocery store, whipping up a batch of Tennessee Fruit Tea can be as quick as cracking open the bottles. Or — if you happen to live in the South — you might even be able to find bottles and gallon jugs of ready-made Tennessee Fruit Tea for immediate enjoyment. Franklin's Fruit Tea brews and bottles small-batches of it in Murfreesboro, TN, and its product has captured the attention of thousands on social media. Fruit Tea Chicks makes a handcrafted offering on a farm in Hartsville, TN, and also has a flourishing fanbase in Kentucky (for particularly enthusiastic fans, they even make Fruit Tea scented candles). 

The ultimate porch-sipping tea

In addition to its uniquely tangy flavor, Tennessee Fruit Tea also packs a kick of caffeine, perfect for a midday pick-me-up when the afternoon slump hits. As such, the beverage is a menu fixture at local establishments like Legends Steakhouse, Puffy Muffin, Bread & Company, The Picnic Café, Frothy Monkey, and more, covering arenas from breakfast bagels to dinnertime barbecue. In other words, Tennessee Fruit Tea can (and, locals might argue, should) be enjoyed at all times of the day.

Serve in a Collins or Rocks glass over ice with an orange slice, peel intact. You could even garnish with a whole strawberry, a calendula flower, or fresh mint for a bright herbaceous element. Thanks to its simple ingredient lineup, Tennessee Fruit Tea is easy to batch by the gallon for serving large crowds at backyard barbecues, tailgates, and potlucks. 

You could easily transform Tennessee Fruit Tea into a boozy refresher with plain, vanilla, or citron vodka. Or, use gin for a complex take on a classic Tom Collins. Tennessee Fruit Tea could also be cut with Prosecco for a fizzy, reimagined mimosa. Kick it southern style and hit it with a shot of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey whiskey. But whichever way you decide to enjoy it, Tennessee Fruit Tea doesn't need any help — the drink holds up just fine on its own, and it's a regional Southern classic for a reason.