This recipe for Sweet Tea is quick, easy, and refreshing. Enjoy this drink all summer long by the pool, for brunch or dinner, with your family or friends. You can easily double the quantities to accommodate a big group!
If someone asked me if I prefer a warm cup of coffee or tea, I’d say neither. But if I was offered a glass of iced coffee or cold sweet tea, I’d gladly take either. Especially on a hot summer day!
There’s something wonderful about a tall glass of sweet iced tea when you’re lounging by the pool, which we do all summer long. My family loves this recipe and hopefully you will, too!
Ingredients you need for this Sweet Tea Recipe
- Filtered water
- Black tea, tea bags
- Granulated sugar
- Baking soda
Tips for making perfect Iced Tea
Making iced tea is all sorts of contradictions, if you think about it – we boil water to make it hot, but then put ice in it to make it cold. Then we use sugar to make it sweet, but then we use lemons to make it sour. Lol. But it all works somehow. Chemistry.
- Use filtered water. The type of water used really does a make a difference in the way your tea will taste. Bottled or filtered water is preferred. Hard water has a tendency to make cloudy tea.
- Start with cold water. When you start with warm or room temperature water and then boil it, tannins are released and can make iced tea cloudy, so boil cold water. Weird, I know!
- Prepare your tea in a non-reactive saucepan or teapot and then transfer to the pitcher, once cooled.
- Use the right type of pitcher. The pitcher should be safe to use with boiling hot and icy cold temperatures.
- Don’t skip the steeping. The steep time extracts the best flavor from the tea bags. But don’t steep too long, or you’ll end up with bitter iced tea.
- Never squeeze the tea bags, which can result in flecks of tea leaves in your liquid and also make the overall taste bitter.
- Fresh lemon juice delivers the best results, so skip the bottled stuff.
- Add ice to your glass instead of the pitcher to avoid the tea being watered down.
Just how sweet is this sweet iced tea?
I like my tea sweet, like the southern way, so this recipe calls for a lot of sugar. And honestly, I could probably add more. But it’s so easy to adjust the sweetness of iced tea recipes.
If you don’t like your tea very sweet, try adding the sugar a little at a time and adjust to your taste.
- Any grain of sugar can be used, but refined is best – it’s smaller and will dissolve in the hot tea faster.
- You can also make unsweetened tea and sweeten each individual glass with a simple syrup, to your sweetened preference. Simply combine 1 part sugar to 2 parts boiling water, reduce, cool, and refrigerate.
- Another option is to use honey in place of the sugar. TIP: if using honey, mix it with some warm water before adding it to your iced tea, that way it will dissolve easily when you stir, and not end up in clumps.
What is the baking soda for?
Seems like a strange ingredient, right? A little bit of baking soda actually neutralizes the bitterness of the tea and gives it a much smoother taste!
- Try different tea blends – black tea is what’s used for classic iced tea, but feel free to change up the flavor with green tea, white tea, or fruit-infused teas. Raspberry or peach are wonderful!
- Add in brown sugar instead of granulated sugar, for a different flavor.
- Use honey instead of granulated sugar.
- For a stronger tea, add an extra tea bag and steep for an additional five minutes. For a lighter-colored tea, only use two family-sized tea bags and add in more water.
- If you don’t want the lemon-y flavor, simply omit the lemon juice.
- Booze it up, by adding in some gin, rum, bourbon, or vodka (2 ounces per glass.)
How long does sweet tea last in the refrigerator?
You’ll want to store the tea in the refrigerator and ideally drink it within one day. But it will stay good for up to three days max. After that, the flavor actually gets sort of funky.
This recipe makes a big batch of tea, so you’ll need a very large pitcher or two medium-sized ones. If you just want to make a small batch for yourself and family, simply cut all the ingredients in half.
Iced tea recipes are easily adaptable. Brew it strong or light or make it sweetened or unsweetened. Play around with it and find that perfect blend for your taste. Now who wants a glass?!
Other summer drinks we love!
How to make Sweet Tea
Southern Style Sweet Tea
- 10 cups cold filtered water , divided
- 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 family-sized tea bags (or 9 regular)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- juice of 2 fresh lemons , optional
- Sliced lemons , of serving
- Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil in a non-reactive teapot or saucepan; remove from the heat.
- Add in the baking soda.
- Drop in the tea bags; let steep for 5-7 minutes (depending how strong you want the flavor.)
- Carefully remove tea bags and discard (do not squeeze or press on them.)
- Add sugar and stir until completely dissolved.
- Pour into a large heat-proof pitcher/jug.
- Add in the remaining 8 cups of cold water and lemon juice.
- Refrigerate until ice cold (a few hours.)
- Fill a glass with ice and pour in the tea. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired, and enjoy!