There’s nothing better on a hot day in the South than a big glass of Sweet Tea. Super easy to make, you won’t find a house south of the Mason-Dixon line that doesn’t have all the ingredients on hand and a pitcher in the fridge. You can easily make it to your personal preference of sweetness, strength, and temperature.

A pitcher of sweet tea next to glasses of tea.

A true Southerner grows up drinking sweet tea before they can walk and it might be the first thing you ever learn to make. And boy, is it easy to make! Boil water until it just starts to boil, let the tea steep, and wait until it cools before adding cold water to the glass pitcher—this’ll keep it from getting cloudy.

My simple tip? Always make a stronger tea than you want as the melting ice will weaken it. 

House Wine Of The South

It was Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolia’s who gave sweet tea it’s famous moniker and she couldn’t have been more right. Every Southern family in ever Southern town will tell you that their family recipe for sweet tea is the best around and I for one, would never disagree with them, even if I do think mine is the best.

Why is iced tea such a big deal in the South? Well, it’s hot down here in the summer and there’s nothing quite like iced tea to quench your thirst. Of course it doesn’t have to be sweet, I for one love it unsweetened. Plus tea has always been plentiful. The largest tea plantation in the US is in Charleston South Carolina.

This recipe makes a pretty sweet gallon of tea so you can definitely cut back on the sugar depending on your preference. 

A pitcher and three glasses of sweet tea.

For the best tea, I recommend using filtered water and Luizzane or Tetley family size tea bags. From there, you can just follow the recipe!

What You’ll Need

Tea bags, sugar and a glass. pitcher.
Gather ingredients.

Tea – I recommend family size tea bags of black tea for this recipe. I prefer Luizanne or Tetley for iced tea. For a gallon of tea, I use 4 family size tea bags or 16 regular size tea bags.

Sugar – This recipe calls for 1 ½ cups of sugar, but you can use more or less sugar depending on your preference.

Simple Steps to Perfect Homemade Sweet Tea

Step One: Steep Tea

A tea kettle with water just coming to a boil.
Boil water.
A water kettle with tea bags.
Steep tea.

Boil 4 cups of water until just bubbling not a rolling boil. If the water is too hot it can give the tea a bitter taste. Add tea bags. Steep for 20 minutes then remove the tea bags with a slotted spoon. If it steeps longer, it can be bitter, so set a timer.

Step Two: Add Sugar

Hot tea being poured over sugar.
Pour hot tea over sugar.
Hot tea in a pitcher.
Let cool.
A gallon pitcher with sweet tea and ice cubes.
Add water and ice.

Add sugar to a gallon pitcher, pour the hot tea over it, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool to room temperature. This will keep it from getting cloudy. Once cool, fill the pitcher with cold water or ice – depending on if you want to drink it right away or not. 

If you’re going to be serving this outside where the ice will melt quickly, don’t fill it up to the gallon mark, leave room for the ice to melt without over diluting the tea.

I don’t think you should be able to see through a glass of iced tea, but the strength and sweetness of your tea is something you’ll have to experiment with.

Step Three: Serve

A glass pitcher with sweet tea and lemons.
Garnish and serve.

Serve with fresh lemon slices as a garnish. 

Another Way To Make Southern Sweet Tea

Sweet tea can sometimes be too sweet for some, or you may prefer unsweetened tea. If you’d rather let everyone sweeten their own tea to their preferred sweetness, you can follow the above directions, but leave out the sugar. Instead, you can make a simple syrup for people to use at their leisure. 

Water and sugar in a measuring cup.
Combine sugar and water.
Sugar and water after it has dissolved in a measuring cup.
Microwave and stir.

To make a simple syrup, add equal amounts of sugar and water to a microwavable safe bowl and microwave until it boils, about 6 minutes. Remove and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once it’s cooled just add the amount you want to an individual glass of tea.

When making Mint Juleps, this is the same simple syrup I use but I’ll seep some mint leaves in it.

Now that you’ve mastered Southern tea, try making blackberry iced tea, it’s so refreshing.

Storing Sweet Tea

Ice tea is best the day you make it but it will stay fresh for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

A glass of sweet tea with a straw and a lemon.

Classic Southern Sweet Tea – Never Bitter

There's nothing better on a hot day in the South than a big glass of Sweet Tea. Super easy to make, you won't find a house south of the Mason-Dixon line that doesn't have all the ingredients on hand and a pitcher in the fridge. You can easily make it to your personal preference of sweetness, strength, and temperature.
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 16
Calories: 72kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 family-size tea bags
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 gallon water

Instructions

  • Heat 4 cups of water until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat and immediately add the teabags. Let it steep for 20 minutes then remove the tea bags.
  • Add sugar to a gallon pitcher and pour the hot tea over the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let it cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Once cooled, fill the pitcher with cold water/ice until it reaches the 1 gallon mark. 
  • Serve with lemon garnish.

Notes

  • Don’t steep the tea bags for more than 20 minutes.
  • Let the concentrated tea cool before adding more water. 
  • Allow some room for ice to melt so that the tea is not over diluted.
  • You can make the tea without sugar and serve unsweetened with simple syrup. To make simple syrup, combine an equal amount of sugar and water and microwave until the sugar has dissolved and it is clear.

Nutrition

Calories: 72kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 0.4mg | Sugar: 19g | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.01mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @easy.southern.desserts or tag #easysoutherndesserts!

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