Southern Sweet Tea – a refreshing Southern thirst-quencher drink made with only 5 simple ingredients and pretty customizable based on your preference. A perfect beverage for entertaining or simply for some “me time drink” at home.
I may be a west coast girl, but my heart somehow also belongs down south. And one of that Southern trademarks that have been etched in my house for years is my deep liking to this Southern Sweet Tea or also called the “house wine of the South”. The weather has been really funny in my neck of the woods – sometimes we feel as if it’s Summer and the next day it’s winter. I don’t know about you but am ready for summer already.
Afternoon tea time for me is usually some biscuits or cakes and a few glasses of this sweet tea. The sweeter my tea, the better (shhh..sweet tooth gal here. 😉) By the way, that’s why it’s called sweet tea, if you find it too sweet to your liking, you can cut down the sugar or sub it with Splenda.
Nothing could be better than a pitcher of a homemade drink made from scratch, right? Keep it chilled before serving it for an ultimate satisfying sweet tea drink! Bottoms up!
There’s nothing complicated about this drink, although it requires a bit of work compared to using your powdered Lipton iced tea. I don’t mind that extra work, though, ’cause believe me; there’s a huge difference between the two.
The soothing, thirst-quenching flavor of this homemade drink will take you to a summery and vibrant place. You’ll have to keep a pitcher of this in your fridge.
You can always add some lemon wedges or a sprig of mint to amp the flavor, and in my case, I added few slices of strawberries for added natural sweetness.
For a grown-up version, you can add a shot of your favorite liquor (I always go with Bourbon) with this one.
Southern Sweet Tea Ingredients
- Teabags – The basis for any caffeinated black tea. However, I really like green tea or even herbal tea from time to time.
- Water – Clean, filtered water is a must for good tea. You don’t want to taste chlorine and other stuff.
- Baking Soda – This is a trick I learned to calm down the tannins in both black and green tea. It smooths out the flavor and removes bitterness, and makes your tea beautiful and clear.
- Granulated Sugar – A grocery store staple that sweetens up life and tea. Sugar doesn’t like melting in cold water. Making a simple syrup solves that problem. Dissolve the sugar in hot water, and you can adjust the tea’s sweetness after the tea is cold.
- Teabags – You can use almost any tea you enjoy hot. That includes green tea, mint tea, herbal, red, and white tea.
- Baking Soda – You can leave it out. I like tea’s bitter taste, and cloudy tea doesn’t bother me. That really is why it’s included.
- Granulated Sugar – This is another ingredient you can simply leave out and adjust the desired sweetness with simple syrup.
- Lemon – I change out the lemon with lime or orange slices. If you’re not into citrus, you can just leave it out.
- Simple Syrup – If you prefer unsweetened tea, you can just leave it out. You can make a paleo version by omitting the simple syrup and sugar and adding maple or agave syrup to sweeten it. However, it does change the flavor.
- Mint – I love the cooling effect mint contributes to sweet tea. There are other options, though, like lemon balm, peppermint, and (would you believe?) lavender.
Sweet Tea FAQs
Southern sweet tea is typically made with black tea. I like to use Lipton tea bags, but there are many good brands available; loose-leaf tea is especially good. However, you can make it with almost any tea (green, red, white, herbal, etc.)
Is drinking sweet tea good for you?
Well, that will depend on how much sugar you put in it.😉 That aside, there are health benefits to drinking tea. According to Healthline, black tea has antioxidants, may boost heart health, may lower bad cholesterol, may improve gut health, may reduce blood pressure, may reduce the risk of stroke, and may lower blood sugar (as long as it is unsweetened). Sounds like my kind of healthy drink!
Back in 1928, the cookbook “Southern Cooking” published an excellent recipe for sweet tea. It then became an icon in Southern cuisine. Alcohol was a common addition until Prohibition. That part of history is over, so you can add Southern Comfort to your tea if you want.😍
I have my own opinion about why Southerners love their tea sweet. Everywhere I’ve gone that is tropical or enjoys hot weather, people love sweets. Where it is colder, most people tend to go for unsweetened tea. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.
Tea is a drink that is best fresh. It will be fresh if you keep it in the fridge for 8 hours. It’s still drinkable for a couple of days, but the more sugar it has, the faster it will ferment and get funky.
Sweet tea is sweet; iced tea is not sweet. It’s as simple as that!
PRO TIP: Adding a little bit of baking soda to the mixture will remove any cloudiness resulting in a pitcher of crystal-clear and smooth sweet tea.
- Southern Tea Cakes – What better to pair with sweet tea than these incredible tea cakes. Yum! And, it’s an incredible pick-me-up for the middle of the afternoon.
- Lemon Blueberry Scones – Scones are another of my favorite snacks to enjoy with a cold refreshing glass of Southern sweet tea.
- Ham & Cheese Sliders – Savory and salty are the perfect balance for the sweetness of this tea. A quick lunch or a good snack when the munchies hit.
- Fluffy Cathead Biscuits – Slather these babies with some lemon curd for a sweet, sour, and savory combination to go with your sweet tea.
More Drinks to Try at Home
- Ginger Tea – This tea warms the soul on a chilly day. However, if it gets hot out, you can make it cold by adding ice after it cools off. Delicious!
- Strawberry Watermelon Juice – A fruity and refreshing drink made from my two favorite fruits. The slight tartness of the strawberries is the perfect mix with sweet watermelon.
- Lemonade – This one is a no-brainer for a hot day. And this wonderful recipe gives you three delicious ways to make it.
- Homemade Pineapple Juice – Why spend all your money on stuff you can better at home? This sweet drink with just the right amount of tart is all you need.
How to Make Southern Sweet Tea
- Make the sweetener – Boil the water and sugar to make the simple syrup. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved – about 5-7 minutes. Throw in mint if using any. Let it cool.
- Boil the water – Bring about 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Then add tea bags and baking soda, remove the pot from the heat.
- Let it steep for 5-7 minutes. Add remaining water, remove tea bags from the pot, add simple syrup, pour the hot tea into a jug, and stir well.
Serve your Southern Sweet Tea
- To serve, fill iced tea glasses with ice and pour the tea over the ice. Add strawberries and lemon slices, if desired.
Watch How To Make It
This post was first published in February 2018 and has been updated with an additional write-up and a video.
Southern Sweet Tea
- ¾ cup (150 g) sugar more or less; adjust to taste or replace with honey or another sweetener
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- a few mint leaves optional
- 5-6 teabags
- 7-9 cups (1.6 - 2.1 L) filtered water
- ⅛ teaspoon (0.50 g) baking soda optional
- lemon slices and/or strawberries optional
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil; keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved - about 5-7 minutes.
- Throw in mint if using any. Let it cool.
- Bring about 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Then add teabags and baking soda, remove the pot from the heat.
- Let sit 5-7 minutes. Add the remaining water, remove the teabags from the pot, add simple syrup, pour the hot tea into a jug, and stir well.
Tips & Notes:
- Steep the tea longer for a stronger tea, if desired.
- Cut back or add more sugar, depending on your preference. But if it’s your first time making this, you can start with this recipe.
- A simple syrup (a solution of sugar in water) brings sweetness to this recipe without worrying about loose sugar granules.
- Adding a little bit of baking soda to the mixture will remove any cloudiness resulting in a pitcher of crystal-clear and smooth sweet tea.
- You can add a shot of your favorite liquor for a grown-up Friday night drink.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.
Leave a Review