Southern Sweet Tea Recipe

When it comes to classic Southern beverages, few things rival the sweet, soothing taste of Southern sweet tea. This iconic drink is a staple at gatherings, picnics, and family dinners across the Southern United States. Its simple yet delicious recipe has stood the test of time, earning a place in the hearts of many as a symbol of Southern hospitality and comfort.

History of Sweet Tea

The origins of sweet tea can be traced back to the early 19th century, when tea became more accessible in the United States. Initially, tea was a luxury item imported from China and was enjoyed primarily by the wealthy. However, with advancements in transportation and trade, tea became more affordable and widespread.

In the South, where the climate is warm and humid, iced tea became popular as a way to cool off during the hot summer months. Sweet tea, made by adding sugar to iced tea, quickly became a Southern favorite. It was not only refreshing but also a welcome treat in a region where hospitality is highly valued.

Ingredients for Southern Sweet Tea

To make Southern sweet tea, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • 6 regular-sized black tea bags (or 2 family-sized tea bags)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 8 cups of water
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon slices (optional, for garnish)


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Remove the pot from heat and add the tea bags. Let them steep for about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags, gently pressing them against the side of the pot to extract as much flavor as possible.
  4. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves.
  5. Pour the tea mixture into a large pitcher and add the remaining 4 cups of water.
  6. Refrigerate until chilled, or serve immediately over ice.
  7. Garnish with lemon slices if desired.

Tips for the Perfect Southern Sweet Tea

  • Use fresh tea bags for the best flavor. Avoid using tea that has been sitting in your pantry for a long time.
  • Adjust the amount of sugar according to your taste. Some people prefer their tea sweeter, while others prefer it less sweet.
  • To make a stronger tea, steep the tea bags for a longer period. Be careful not to oversteep, as this can make the tea bitter.
  • Serve the tea over ice for a refreshing drink, perfect for a hot summer day.

Variations of Southern Sweet Tea

While the classic recipe for Southern sweet tea calls for black tea and sugar, there are many variations that you can try to customize the flavor to your liking. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add fresh mint leaves to the tea while it’s steeping for a refreshing twist.
  • Use honey or agave syrup instead of sugar for a different sweetness.
  • Mix in some fruit juice, such as lemonade or orange juice, for a fruity flavor.
  • Experiment with different types of tea, such as green tea or herbal tea, for a unique taste.

In Conclusion

Southern sweet tea is more than just a beverage; it’s a cultural icon that represents the warmth and hospitality of the Southern United States. Whether you’re enjoying a glass on a front porch swing or serving it at a backyard barbecue, Southern sweet tea is sure to delight your taste buds and refresh your spirit.

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