Anatomy of a Classic

Sweet Tea Granita

Makes about six cups

Sweet tea gets the dessert treatment in a slushy icebox granita

Photo: Johnny Autry

Pastry chefs are persnickety people. They like to work early in the morning, toying with formulas and temperatures and textures. Andrea Litvin is no exception. Her laboratory is the kitchen at the Spence, the Atlanta restaurant started by Richard Blais, a student of molecular gastronomy whose star rose on Top Chef. And though she concocts intellectual assemblies of desserts made from sweet potato chips, marshmallows, and white chocolate, Litvin also has simpler loves, such as sweet tea. “I grew up drinking sweet tea by the gallon,” she says. “I was usually the one who made it, solely because I had it down to a science.”

At her family’s house in Athens, Georgia, Litvin learned early that even something as simple as steeping tea and stirring in sugar could be enhanced with a bit of experimentation. Early batches were bitter from leaving in the tea bags too long—“My family wasn’t very happy about it,” she says—so she tried using the sun to steep the tea, and played with the addition of fruits and different kinds of sugar. She finally landed on a decadent brew her family calls “glucose tea.”

In the summer, she adapts her recipe to make a sweet frozen granita. Like your tea with lemonade? Mix in the juice and zest from a couple of lemons for an icy Arnold Palmer. Either way, the recipe is ridiculously easy. The only challenge is tending to it while it’s in the freezer. Once it just starts to harden, you need to run a fork through the ice crystals every fifteen or twenty minutes. After an hour or two, you’ve got a fluffy cooler that Litvin likes to pair with shortbread made from cornmeal or cookies sweetened with white chocolate.

But, like a glass of good sweet tea, the granita is also perfectly refreshing all by itself.


    • 2/3 cup sugar

    • 3 cups water

    • 2 black tea bags, preferably English breakfast or other good-quality tea


  1. Bring sugar and water to a boil. Add tea bags and steep for five minutes. Cool to room temperature.

  2. Pour liquid into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish (any shallow, freezer-proof dish will do); cover with plastic wrap and freeze.

  3. After an hour, run a fork through the mixture to break up any large pieces of ice; return to the freezer. Repeat every 15 to 20 minutes until the consistency is fluffy and no large ice crystals remain, about two or three more times. Scoop into glasses and serve.

  4. Granita may be made ahead and stored in a plastic-covered container in the freezer for up to three days. Fluff with a fork before serving.

  5. For an Arnold Palmer variation:
    Reduce water to 2½ cups. Zest two lemons; then halve and juice. After steeping the tea bags, add lemon juice and zest and begin the freezing process as directed.

Meet the Chef: Andrea Litvin

Current restaurant: The Spence, Atlanta, GA
Hometown: Athens, GA
Secret food vice: Instant brownies that you mix with water and microwave for thirty seconds
Music in the kitchen: Lots of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, with a little Peter Gabriel mixed in
Menu pet peeve: Descriptions that don’t describe the texture and flavor
Favorite kitchen tool: A four-inch serrated sausage knife she stole from her fiancé