It seems simple enough—make tea, add sugar—but brewing a high-class glass of Southern champagne is “all about time, temperature, and quality,” according to Clayton Christopher, the founder of Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Company. He should know: In just over ten years, he’s gone from making batches of the stuff at home in 25-gallon crawfish pots to landing a $15.6 million investment by Nestlé Waters. All iced-tea recipes start with two core elements—tea and water—but the secret to making true ambrosia lies in the fine-tuning.
Some things never change, like the irrepressible desire to float a Hill Country river on a 100-degree day—with, most naturally, a cooler of beer. And while the basic art of loading one’s booze boat also remains the same (use a separate inner tube with a bottom, pump it with extra air for a snug fit around the cooler), what is new are a few rules.
Emily Post may have deplored any sort of public spitting as “disgusting” and “too nauseating to comment on,” but such notions of etiquette have never stuck with the patrons of Luling’s annual Watermelon Thump. Every June, the World Championship Seed Spitting Contest draws hundreds of spectators who hope to witness a Guinness-worthy spit (Luling resident Lee Wheelis set the record in 1989 at 68 feet 9 1/8 inches).
The pecan may be our state tree, but the Magnolia grandiflora, or Southern magnolia, has long been the belle of our arboreal ball. With its dramatic canopy, glossy leaves, and creamy blooms, this elegant evergreen is the centerpiece of many Texas gardens. Where does it thrive? “Magnolias prefer warm, rainy climates and well-draining soil,” says Pete Smith, the coordinator of the Big Tree Registry for the Texas Forest Service.
Watching couples coast around at the honky-tonk may intimidate the double-left-footed, but heck, if a cowboy can dance, how tough is it, really? “Two-stepping is just walking to a beat,” says Austin-based Rowdy DuFrene, a two-time United Country Western Dance Council World Champion. “While many variations exist, the true version follows a quick-quick-slow-slow pattern danced over six beats to music with four-four time.” To start, get into the traditional closed position.