Beginner, Beverage Recipes, Spring and Summer

Southern Sweet Tea

Love sweet tea? Look no further than this Southern sweet tea recipe. Nothing is more refreshing on a hot day than slowly sipping on an ice cold glass of tea.

a glass pitcher of sweet tea with lemon and two serving glasses on a pewter tray with a multicolored napkin

I wondered if sweet tea was too plain for a blog post; too low key. But then I realized that sweet tea had have its own blog post. It’s how we welcome you into our homes. It’s the life blood that binds us together.

I think this guy said it best:

In our dining rooms and diners, we stir together a handful of humble ingredients to produce an amber elixir that tastes like the South and feels like home.” – Tommy Tomlinson

He was talking about sweet tea in North Carolina, but his article sums it up beautifully. Once you read it, you’ll have an understanding.

Sweet tea is always served during family gatherings with my in-laws. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas Eve or Mother’s Day. My mother-in-law and her sisters each take turns hosting family events and it’s the hostess’s responsibility to make the tea. Each sister has her own recipe.  

Which brings me to my next point. Even though the basic recipe is the same – water, tea bags, and sugar – there are at least ninety thousand different methods for making a good glass of sweet tea and every mother, grandmother, son, and daughter swears that their tea recipe is the best.  The recipe below belongs to The Husband’s Aunt J.

The Best Type of Tea Bag to Use for Iced Tea

This is another topic of debate among Southerners. A year or so ago, I polled my Facebook friends to find out which brand of tea bag they used for their sweet tea. While a few admitted to using generic store brand, but most swore by either Lipton or Luzianne brand of tea bags.

I personally prefer Luzianne. I think it has more of a clean, tea flavor and a rich dark brown color. Bottom line, it all comes down to your personal preference. Try a few different brands of tea and decide for yourself. Just be sure to take note if you’re purchasing regular-sized tea bags or family-sized tea bags. They are interchangeable; the only difference is family-sized are twice as large so you’ll just need to use half the amount of tea bags if the recipe does not specify.

How to Make Southern Sweet Tea

This recipe will make one gallon (128 ounces) of sweet tea — enough to serve a crowd. Feel free to half the recipe if  one gallon is more than you will drink within a few days. 

southern sweet tea ingredients

Start by filling a large saucepan with three quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Add four regular-sized tea bags or two-family sized tea bags to the water. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the water simmer for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the tea bags steep for 10 minutes.

tea bags steeping in a stainless steel pot

Remove and discard the tea bags. Resist the urge to squeeze, or wring out, the tea bags over the pot. Doing this will release the tea’s tannic acid and create a bitter flavor. Just strain them out and throw them away.

Add 1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar. Yes, this does seem like a lot of sugar. True Southern sweet tea almost tastes like syrup. If it’s too sweet for your palate, simply adjust the amount of sugar accordingly until it suits your taste. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

pouring sugar into the pan of steeped tea

Once the tea has cooled slightly, pour it into your pitcher, Top it off with enough cold water, roughly one cup or so, to make a gallon. Place the pitcher in the fridge and chill until cold, about 2-4 hours.

How Long Will Sweet Tea Last?

Can sweet tea go bad? Yes! Unfortunately in this case, the sugar is working against you. It speeds the growth of mold and bacteria. Tea stored in an open container at room temperature should be consumed within a few hours. Your best bet is to store the tea in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  This slows the growth of bacteria and prevents the tea from absorbing odors from any nearby foods. Even then, sweet tea will only last about 72 hours. Brewed tea with no sugar added will last longer — about five days.

How can you tell if your tea has gone bad? First, you will notice the clarity start to go from clear to cloudy. Second, the flavor will taste off. Trust me, you will be able to tell. The tea will taste stale. At this point, you will need to dump the tea down the drain and brew another batch.

pitcher of sweet tea and two glasses on a pewter serving tray infront of a window

You Might Also Enjoy:

a glass pitcher of sweet tea with lemon and two serving glasses on a pewter tray with a multicolored napkin
Print Pin
4.5 from 2 votes

Southern Sweet Tea

Love sweet tea? Look no further than this Southern sweet tea recipe. Nothing is more refreshing on a hot day than slowly sipping on an ice cold glass of tea.
Course Beverages
Cuisine American, Southern
Cook Time 17 minutes
Chill time 4 hours
Servings 12 people
Calories 80kcal
Author Lisa B.

Ingredients

  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 4 regular black tea bags (or 2 family-sized tea bags)
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Instructions

  • Bring water to a rolling boil in a large pan. Add tea bags. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. 
  • Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes. 
  • Remove tea bags and add sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. 
  • Add enough cold water to make a gallon.

Notes

Store the tea in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Sweet tea will last about 72 hours. Brewed tea with no sugar added will last longer — about five days.

Nutrition

Serving: 8oz | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Potassium: 50mg | Sugar: 20g

5 Comments

  1. This book is still on my list of things to read this summer! Everyone who talks about it says that it is awesome! And the sweet tea sounds yummy!

  2. There’s clearly not enough ice in that glass to be called Southern Ice’d Tea proper.

  3. 5 stars
    im Mr. Joe a mexican from San diego Ca. when i was 20yrs old. got tired of the city life went to visit my Dad and his family in GA. on vacation fell in love with southern hospitality and it’s sweet tea. boy in the summer out in the fields every single day. the best invention ever made. 12years later i finally decide to come back to California my dad had pastaway and had no one. i sure miss it and definitely miss my sweetTea. i definily enjoyed readingvtbis awesome blog. i guess im ganna have to take my and wife to the state of Mississippi. for some good old fashioned hospitality, good food and the best sweetTea in town. thank and have a blessed evening. love Mr. Joe

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.