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This Southern Sweet Tea recipe is smooth, sweet, and delicious! It includes tried-and-true tips for how to make sweet tea that everyone loves! Includes Sweet Tea Concentrate!
There are so many drinks that are perfect for enjoying, from lemonade, to strawberry lemonade, to our favorite limeade recipe. But there is just nothing like a glass of great Southern sweet tea.
If you have ever been fortunate enough to enjoy an ice-cold glass of Southern sweet tea, then friends, you will know what I’m talking about when I say that there is good tea and then there is a great tea. My Grandmother Verdie made the absolute best sweet tea that I have ever tasted. After years of watching and asking her a million questions, she taught me her secrets for how to make the best sweet tea. I haven’t looked back since.
Southern Sweet Tea Recipe
There are a few tips and tricks that you’ll need to know to make this tea.
- Use tea specially blended for iced tea. Southern sweet tea is an iced tea, meaning that it is tea made to be served over ice. Some brands that are preferred for iced tea are Red Diamond, Luzianne, Lipton, and Tetley. Look for markings on the package to say that it is specially made for iced tea.
- Don’t burn your tea. Here’s what that means. You should bring your water to a boil, remove it from the heat and then add your tea bags. This prevents the tea from burning and becoming bitter.
- Steeping matters. Allow your tea to steep for 15 minutes.
- Add a little baking soda. This can be controversial. But hear me out. The baking soda prevents the tea from becoming cloudy and bitter. If you know that you will be drinking a gallon of tea in one day, you can skip the baking soda. If you think you’ll have some leftover to refrigerate, then definitely try it with the baking soda. It makes all the difference.
How to Make Southern Sweet Tea
Sweet Tea Ingredients
Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full listing of ingredients, instructions, notes, and estimated nutritional information.
- tea bags
- baking soda (optional)
- Boil. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan or a tea kettle over medium heat.
- Steep. Remove from the heat and drop the tea bags into the water. Allow the tea bags to steep for 15 minutes.
- Sweeten. As your tea is steeping, add your sugar to your pitcher. Remove the tea bags from the saucepan or kettle and press them against the side of the saucepan or kettle to press out as much of the tea as possible before discarding them. Pour half of the tea into the pitcher over the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then pour in the remaining tea.
- Stir in the baking soda and then fill the pitcher the rest of the way with fresh, cold water. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.
How to Make Sweet Tea Concentrate
Similar to my lemonade concentrate, I love to make sweet tea concentrate! The concentrate requires less room in my refrigerator, is easier to transport when traveling, and is great to make ahead and keep on hand! My Grandmother Verdie would have LOVED this for her taking to reunions, church suppers, and family dinners!
Boil. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and drop in tea bags.
Steep. Let steep for 15 minutes.
Sweeten. Add your sugar to a 1-quart, large-mouth Mason jar or similar container. Remove the tea bags, carefully pressing the bags against the side of the saucepan before discarding them. Pour a little of the tea into the Mason jar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour in the remaining tea.
Stir. Add in the baking soda and stir well to combine.
Store. Tighten the lid onto the Mason jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
How to Serve from Concentrate
One recipe makes 16 individual servings or is enough for a gallon of tea!
Single serving. Add ¼ cup of concentrate to a glass. Top with ice and ¾ cup of cold water. Stir to combine.
Gallon. Pour all of the concentrate into a gallon pitcher and fill it with cold water. Stir to combine.
Here’s my Southern Sweet Tea recipe. I hope you love it as much as my family always has.
Southern Sweet Tea Recipe
- 4-5 family-size tea bags
- 1 ½ – 2 cups sugar
- 1 pinch baking soda (optional)
- Boil. Bring 1 quart of water to boil in a medium saucepan or tea kettle set over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Do not allow the tea to become cold.
- Sweeten. In a gallon pitcher, add the sugar and pour in about ½ of the warm tea. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour in the remainder of the brewed tea, being careful not to drop in tea bags.
- Stir. Add baking soda and stir to combine. If serving immediately baking soda may not be needed.
- Serve. Fill the pitcher with cold water and serve over ice. Great with a wedge of lemon, lime, orange or a sprig of mint.
Sweet Tea Concentrate
- Boil. Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and drop in tea bags.
- Sweeten. Add sugar to a 1-quart, wide-mouthed Mason jar or similar container. Remove the tea bags, carefully pressing the bags against the side of the saucepan before discarding them. Pour a little of the tea over the sugar, stirring until completely dissolved. Pour in the remaining tea.
- Stir. Stir in the baking soda and stir to combine.
- Store. Tighten the lid of the container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Serve. To serve a single serving, add ¼ cup concentrate to a glass and top with ice and ¾ cup water. Stir to combine. To serve a gallon, add all of the concentrate to a gallon pitcher and top with water. Stir to combine.
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Awesomely great Southern Sweet Tea, Robyn. I made it today, and it was a perfect combination with my Sunday dinner to include collard greens, mac and cheese, baked pork steaks, rotisserie chicken, cornbread lemonade and good ole sweet tea. It was a hit!!! Thanks so much, and God bless you and your loved ones!
What an awesome meal! Wish I could have been there. Thanks so much! xo
Yeah! You it right! And who has tea left over? The weird thing about our family is my mom didn’t drink sweet tea so her kids didn’t either. But when we had family gatherings, there was always a pitcher for Sister and her kids. She was in the Navy when she learned to drink coffee and tea. Without sugar or cream. None was around the airplane hangers or mess hall to add. WW2 days. Enjoy your sweet tea on these hot days!!
Thank you, Linda. And a special thanks to your aunt for her service! Sweet tea has really been a joy this summer on these unusually hot days in Georgia.
This is the way I do it and it’s very simple. In have a Mr. Coffee maker, that was retired from coffee making and I only use 2 of the small tea bags for iced tea. Placing them in the compartment on top of each other directly where the water comes through. I set my maker on the strong setting, add my water and then I put 15 whole grain saccharin in the decanter and turn on the maker. That way my water doesn’t boil which can make your tea bitter. I use fewer teabags this way because when the water goes directly through the tea bags it gets all the goody out of the tea bags and is plenty strong enough. Of course, this is a sugar free tea but really good! My family and grandkids love it. You could always use sugar instead if you want to. Enjoy.
I’m Southern and I approve!
Hi! Just wondering what the baking soda is for? I have never seen this in an iced tea recipe before.
Hi Joan. I believe the baking soda hinders your leftover tea from becoming cloudy. At least that is what I have heard and since I started doing this, my tea is never cloudy. It literally takes just a pinch for a gallon. And we have really hard water here.
As I stated in my post, the baking soda keeps the tea from becoming cloudy and bitter if you have any leftover and it sits in the refrigerator for a period of time. You use just a pinch so you won’t taste it in the tea. Thanks!
Robyn, thank you for this recipe. I am from Southern IL and according to most people living south of Chicago, I am from The South (and yes, I do have a Southern accent)! I am a bit confused though by your recipe. I always heard pressing the remaining fluid out of the tea bag can make the tea bitter. I also have read that many Southerners will make a simple syrup with the sugar and water instead of diluting the sugar with the warm tea because they claim it “burns” the sugar. Interesting to read how it is done in different parts of the South. Oh-I drink unsweet tea but often make sweetened tea for company. I call it “Northern Tea” for the unsweet tea and Southern Tea for the sweet! Anyway, thanks again for sharing this and your many other recipes!
This is the way my grandmother and mother always made sweet tea and it was always delicious. I have seen other “Southern” cooks make tea differently but this was the one I grew up drinking. Love your Northern Tea and Southern Tea idea!
Robyn, this is not about sweet tea, but about my sugar cookies. My sugar cookies crumble easily.
Not enough cream of tartar
I’m not sure what sugar cookie recipe to which you are referring since none of my recipes use cream of tartar. Can you be more specific?
Hi! I am a European trying to make sweet tea, would you care to tell me what kind of tea you use? Thank you 🙂
I use Lipton tea bags made for iced tea, Lola.
I never steep that long. About 8 minutes is more than enough for my taste. I use five bags of Bigelow English Teatime brand to a pitcher. Its 100% black tea and primarily marketed for hot tea, but it has such a great rich flavor it works really well for sweet tea too.
Girl- 😂 you have the patience of Job. The comments though.
My gosh you’re not kidding ! More than once I just want to reply with ” HELLO can you read??? ” 😲lol 😁
This is exactly like I make my tea only I am not allowed sugar so I use the same amount of Stevia. Stevia is a little harder to dissolve but taste not much different than sugar.
I’m happy to know the Stevia works so great with this tea, Terry. Thanks!
Very easy to follow directions and has wonderful flavor. Love it!
Thank you, Karen!
Hi Robyn and Sweet Tea Lovers everywhere!!
I’ve found that stevia has a bitter after taste. Sugar has a very high glycemic impact. I use powdered (not granular) Erythritol, like confectioners sugar. Granular will disolve in hot water but will return to granular when chilled. Erythritol is equally (1:1) as sweet as sugar. It is a sugar alcohol and has a very low glycemic value. Overall, a much healthier sweetener. Nothing is lost in sweetness and without the glycemic impact.
By the way … how much is “a little baking soda” ?
My pinch is 3x as much as my wife’s.
John, technically, a pinch is 1/16th of a teaspoon. Thanks for your tip regarding erythritol.
Thank you so much for your fantastic sweet tea recipe! As a college student, I am trying to find new ways to cook at home and use homemade recipes more often. Of course, eating out at as a treat sometimes is fun. But that is something that I do excessively lol. I am a chef in process though! One of the most rewarding things about eating at home is when you have that satisfaction of “I made this!” when you take that first bite of food or first sip of drink. Thanks for all that you do.
Thanks, Clay. Good luck with your classes and your work toward becoming a chef.
How many small tea bags do we use?
Each family size tea bag equals 3 small tea bags, Lisa. So use 12 to 15 small tea bags.
Hi! What kind of tea should I use for this?
As I state in the post: Use tea specially blended for iced tea. Southern sweet tea is an iced tea, meaning that it is tea made to be served over ice. Some brands that are preferred for iced tea are Red Diamond, Luzianne, Lipton and Tetley. Look for markings on the package to say that it is specially made for iced tea. Hope this helps.
This is so good. I make it all the time. I use sugar sometimes but I also use sugar substitute because I’m not really supposed to have sugar. It works great with Stevia. It tastes the same. I’m making some right now as I type this. Thank you for sharing. I’ve seen some southern sweet tea recipe s that use so much more sugar and it’s just too much for us.
Thanks, Ann. I’m glad you can make it with Stevia as you need and still have the same flavor.
Why backing soda?
As I state in the post, Wendy, the baking soda prevents the tea from becoming cloudy and bitter. If you are going to drink all the tea the same day, you can omit it.
Your recipes look so good I’ll have to try them.
I hope you find many that you try and love, Darlene.
EXCELLENT Southern Sweet Tea as usual, Robyn. This remains my go to recipe. Very easy and straight forward recipe. Thanks again.🙂
Thanks, Andrea. I’m so glad this recipe is a favorite of yours.
So, the original recipe ends up being two quarts? 1 quart to make the tea and another cold quart added at the end?
Darlene, the sweet tea concentrate recipe makes 1 quart of concentrate. You place one quart of water in a tea kettle to boil and then add the sugar and tea to a quart jar to make one quart of concentrate. You can add enough water to the concentrate to make one gallon of tea or make one glass at a time.
Exactly the way I make it! Walmart has 1 gallon size tea bags. I never use artificial sweetener I hate the after taste and I have tried them all ! Good old sugar or cane sugar 🤣👍🏻
what is the baking soda for?
Barbara, as I state in my post with this recipe “The baking soda prevents the tea from becoming cloudy and bitter. If you know that you will be drinking a gallon of tea in one day, you can skip the baking soda. If you think you’ll have some leftover to refrigerate, then definitely try it with the baking soda. It makes all the difference.”
Robyn, What is the baking soda for? Never use any for making Sweet Tea or any T ,, just wondering ? Never just read your response about using it. Keeps it from turning bitter> Thx
Stony, the baking soda prevents the tea from becoming cloudy and bitter. If you know that you will be drinking a gallon of tea in one day, you can skip the baking soda. If you think you’ll have some leftover to refrigerate, then definitely try it with the baking soda. It makes all the difference. Hope this helps
I have been making this recipe for years and it never fails. I use 1/8 teaspoon soda. Perfect recipe.
I can’t have caffeine but the decaf bags are less concentrated. Do you have a recipe for that?
Susan, I use the same recipe for decaf bags as I do for the regular ones. If that is not strong enough for you, you can add another bag.
I find squeezing the tea bag makes it bitter.
Patricia, I don’t squeeze the tea bags. I gently press the bag against the side of the sauce pan. My tea never tastes bitter.
I have read (wish I recalled where) that we should not press on the bags because it could make the tea bitter. Plenty of people do it, but there could be something to that advice.
The word “water” is missing from your concentrate recipe’s first sentence.
Thanks, Daphne. I have corrected the recipe.
I’m so glad I found your site 🥰
Laura, thank you. I hope you find many recipes here that you love.