Here in the South, we love our sweet tea.
Making it from scratch at home is very easy.
Follow these easy steps and tips on how to make sweet tea perfect every time.
This Southern sweet tea recipe is for a 2 quart pitcher.
However, our family loves iced tea so much, we often make it in a gallon jug for family get-togethers.
If we know we are all getting together, we save our recent milk jugs and wash them out to fill with sweet tea.
Often times, we need at least 2 gallons for the size of our family gatherings.
I have included directions to make a gallon sized sweet tea in the recipe card. Enjoy!
Watch how to make
Sweet tea ingredients
You will need the following ingredients to make sweet tea:
- family sized tea bags-black tea
- sugar-white sugar
- water-It is best to used filtered water.
- baking soda -(Optional- see tips below)
How to make Southern sweet tea
Follow these simple steps on how to make sweet tea.
- Boil 2 cups of water. Remove boiling water from heat.
- Mix in your sugar and baking soda (optional, see tip) and stir until dissolved.
- Add your tea bags to the water. Steep 15 minutes for strong tea flavor or 10 minutes for a lighter tea flavor.
- Remove tea bags. Add tea to your pitcher and add the remaining water. Stir.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Some Southerners add a pinch of baking soda. This will take away any bitterness from the tannins that the black tea leaves may release. This is a trick I have learned over the past couple of years. You will not taste the baking soda. My other family members do not add it, so this is totally optional.
Don't add ice to your ready made sweet tea in the pitcher. Your tea is perfectly brewed with the right ratio of water. If you add ice, it will melt and water down your tea. Instead, add ice to a glass and pour the tea over the ice. You will more than likely finish your sweet tea before the ice completely melts and you will not ruin the whole pitcher of tea.
Never pinch the tea bags when removing them from steeping. This could release tannins and add a bitter taste.
Never pour hot tea into a glass pitcher. It may make the pitcher shatter. Wait for the tea to cool if you are using a glass pitcher.
What types of tea should you use for iced tea?
For traditional sweet tea, you will need black tea.
Look for a box specifically made for "Iced Tea," such as Luzianne or Lipton.
Family sized tea bags are best for serving quarts or gallon sized servings because you will use less of them.
However, if you use the smaller sized tea bags, you will want to use 6 small sized bags for a 2 quart sized pitcher.
Can you over boil tea?
You can over boil tea. Adding the tea bags to boiling water can scorch the tea leaves and give a bitter taste.
This is why it is important to remove the pot from heat before adding in your tea bags to steep.
How long will it last?
Sweet tea will last up to one week stored in the refrigerator. However after the first few days it will begin to loose some of its flavor.
How to make unsweetened tea
To make unsweetened tea, follow the exact same steps and measurements and omit the sugar.
What to do with used tea bags
Don't throw away your used tea bags! They can be used the following ways:
- Rebrew the bags for watering your house plants or garden. The tea water protects from fungal infections and adds extra nutrients back into the soil.
- Sprinkle the tea leaves on the base of your plants to fertile soil and repel pests like spiders and ants.
- Add them to your compost pile.
- Refrigerate leftover bags and place them over your eyes to reduce puffiness and dark circles.
True Southern tea use LOTS of SUGAR! This recipe is meant to be sweet like a true Southern sweet tea.
You can reduce the sugar to ¾ cup, but it won't be quite as sweet as the classic Southern sweet tea....
If you are watching your calories or carbs you can substitute with Monkfruit Classic Sweetener.
It is natural and doesn't leave an after taste. The ratio is 1:1 with sugar.
Another option is splenda granular. You would use the same ratio also.
Ways to serve sweet tea
Serve your sweet tea the following ways:
- Serve plain, poured over ice.
- Add fresh slices of lemon.
- Add fresh mint.
- Mix half sweet tea and half lemonade for an Arnold Palmer.
- Mix 4 oz of bourbon with 12 oz sweet tea for a summer cocktail.
Looking for some delicious Southern dishes to serve with your sweet tea? Try these:
- Instant Pot Country Style Steak
- Crockpot Chicken and Gravy
- Southern Collard Greens
- French Onion Chicken Noodle Casserole
- Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
- Chicken and Pastry
- Salisbury Hamburger
- Southern Slow Cooker Green Beans and Potatoes
- Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese
- Southern Baked Spaghetti
Please leave me a comment below if you make sweet tea and tell me how it turned out. I would love to hear back, and so would my readers.
How to Make Sweet Tea-Southern Sweet Tea Recipe
- 2 family sized tea bags 6 small sized bags
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup sugar for less sweet, use ¾ cup
- ⅛ teaspoon baking soda
- Boil 2 cups of water.
- Remove boiling water from heat.
- Mix in your 1 cup sugar and ⅛ teaspoon baking soda (optional, see notes) and stir until dissolved.
- Add 2 family sized tea bags to the water. Steep 15 minutes for strong tea flavor or 10 minutes for a lighter tea flavor.
- Remove tea bags.
- Add tea to your pitcher and add the remaining 6 cups of water. Stir.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Some Southerners add a pinch of baking soda. This will take away any bitterness from the tannins that the black tea leaves may release. This is a trick I have learned over the past couple of years. You will not taste the baking soda. My other family members do not add it, so this is totally optional.
- To make a gallon sized tea, use 2 cups of water to boil, add 2 cups of sugar and ⅛ teaspoon of baking soda after it has been removed from heat, use 4 family sized tea bags when steeping, and add 14 cups of cold water at the end.
- Never pinch the tea bags when removing them from steeping. This could release tannins and add a bitter taste.
- Never pour hot tea into a glass pitcher. It may make the pitcher shatter. Wait for the tea to cool if you are using a glass pitcher.
- For unsweetened tea, follow the same instructions omitting the sugar.