Sweet tea plus sorbet: It's an equation that adds up to one of Beaufort's most unique and sought-after treats.
Tucked away at the back of Scout Southern Market in historic Downtown Beaufort is the Sweet Tea Bar. This is where South Carolina's favorite beverage gets a frosty addition in the form of generous scoops of lemon, peach, strawberry or mango sorbets.
"I'd say 60 percent of customers mix the tea and sorbet together," said owner Ann Higgins, "and 40 percent drink the tea, then eat the sorbet."
Whatever your preference, the result is sweet, icy cold and delicious. Judging by its popularity with customers, sweet tea sorbet floats are a hit with Southerners and non-Southerners alike, though the unusual pairing sometimes raises questions.
"What are you doing to sweet tea?" is a common customer question, according to Ann, as is the declaration, "I've never heard of that!"
How It Began
Higgins, a California native, moved from the West Coast with her husband, an advertising executive, and two children in 2013.
"I had a store in San Francisco," she said. Then, she began envisioning a new enterprise: an all-things-Southern shop.
"I embrace it all: the culture, the hospitality," said Ann.
Her love affair with the South began decades ago when she drove from California to Savannah after reading "Beach Music," a novel by the late Beaufort author, Pat Conroy. A literary center in town named in his honor is considered a South Carolina literary landmark.
"I looked on a map and saw Beaufort was so close to Savannah . . . and here we are."
Looking for a way to stand out among other downtown Beaufort businesses, the family started The Sweet Tea Bar inside their Scout Southern Market.
"I knew I wanted a sweet tea bar, and we were trying to think of something unique," she says. "At first we thought about infused teas, but then a friend said, ‘How about sorbet?'"
About Scout Southern Market
The bar stocks a variety of snacks, from sweets - macarons, cookies, peanut bars and the like - to savory (pimento cheese and crackers, pickles), with plenty of "grab and go" items.
Many customers, however, "come only for the sweet tea," said Ann. "And a lot of locals bring their visitors."
Scout Southern Market, named for the beloved character from the novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird," offers up not just tea drinks and foods, but other Southern-themed merchandise, too.
There are furnishings, artwork, note cards, candles, home decor items and more - from light fixtures to dill pickles. The shop also caters children's parties, serving up a special dessert bar for kids.
If it's Southern, it's here: peanuts, specialty paper products, throw pillows, and more. The design of the shop exudes Southern graciousness for a casual, yet refined shopping experience.
The Sweet Tea Float Experience
So, what about that sweet tea float?
Well, a first taste presents tea's sweet/tannic mix (order sweet, half-sweet or unsweetened tea), and then the creaminess of the sorbet kicks in. The sound of straws sucking up the last bit is a common one.
Then, it's pure refreshment all the way!
No matter how you drink it - separately or stirred and blended - it's a treat that keeps folks coming back.