Last updated on May 22nd, 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Southern Sweet Tea
- 3 quarts cold water
- 4 regular black tea bags (or 2 family-sized tea bags)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 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.