I remember when I was a freshman in high school and our church youth group took a summer trip to Pennsylvania. I asked for a tea at a restaurant. It arrived iced but unsweetened. I used my best polite southern girl voice to mention to the waitress that I had intended to order SWEET tea. I was not so politely informed that sugar was on the table.
It dawned on me then that perhaps sweet iced tea was only a thing in, well, the south!
Every southerner has their own way of making sweet tea and I am going to share mine. I think that it might just be the perfect southern sweet tea recipe!
Perfect Southern Sweet Tea Recipe
Before I get into the actual recipe let’s talk about a couple of things.
How much hot water should you use to steep your sweet iced tea?
I have an easy method. I take my pitcher, fill it to the top with cool water, and then pour half to two thirds of that water into a pot to boil. Pretty simple.
Oh, and leave the remaining cool water in the pitcher to mix with the warm steeped tea in your pot! Here is a pitcher that is perfect for making sweet tea because you can pour hot water into without worrying about it breaking.
What is the best brand of tea?
Obviously, this is a matter of opinion and you are allowed to disagree. Try both and and let me know what you think!
Baking soda, seriously?
You might have heard that that some people put a pinch of baking soda in their iced tea to make it less bitter. I personally don’t think this is necessary.
Instead, here are three ways to prevent your southern sweet tea from becoming bitter.
- Do not steep your tea at too high of a temperature. Never, ever boil your tea bags! Bring the water to a boil then turn off the heat and allow it to quit bubbling before you add the tea bags.
- Do not steep your tea for too long. Now…long is relative. The Luzianne box will tell you to steep your tea for 3-5 minutes and that is not long enough. Some southerners steep their tea for more than 20 minutes and that is too much. I have found that the “sweet” spot is 10-15 minutes
- When removing your tea bags from the steeping water do not squeeze them! I know it is tempting to get all that delicious tea out of those bags but don’t do it! Just lift them up, let them drain, and toss them.
If you steep your tea properly it shouldn’t be bitter and won’t need that pinch of baking soda.
However, there is one reason that you might want to use that pinch of baking soda. If your tea is going to be in the refrigerator for more than a day the baking soda will help keep it from becoming cloudy. We are talking only a little here. A pinch. About 1/4 teaspoon so it won’t change the taste of the tea.
Southern sweet tea doesn’t last long enough around my house to get cloudy!
It’s all about the sugar, sugar.
I’ve seen some sweet tea recipes that call for making a simple syrup to add to the tea. Y’all that just isn’t necessary. After your tea bags have steeped for 10 – 15 minutes the water will still be warm enough to melt the sugar. Remove the tea bags and stir in the sugar until it is melted.
I have been told that you shouldn’t add your sugar to the tea water until after the bags have steeped but I confess sometimes I cheat and stir it in even before I add the tea bags! I can’t tell the difference, but “they” do say that the tea steeps better with nothing else in the water.
How much sugar should you add?
Well, how sweet do you want your tea to be?
It’s really a matter of taste. Anywhere from 3/4 of a cup to about 1 1/4 cup is about right. I typically add a scant cup.
The secret ingredient for my sweet southern iced tea.
My perfect southern sweet tea recipe has a secret ingredient. In addition to the Luzianne tea bags I add a small bag of Constant Comment. It adds a delicious something something to the iced tea. I put the small Constant Comment tea bag in with the Luzianne tea bags for the last 5 minutes of steeping.
It can taste too Constant Comment-y if you leave it much longer than that. You want to just get a hint of that delicious spicy orangey flavor in your southern sweet tea.
You want to leave them wondering why your southern sweet tea is just so dang good.
There you have it…all the tips and the secret ingredient for the best southern sweet iced tea.
Here is the recipe…if you can call it that.
Perfect Southern Sweet Tea
- 1 gallon water
- 4 Luzianne family size tea bags
- 1 Constant Comment tea bag
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- mint or lemon for garnish
- Pour water into your pitcher
- Put about 1/2 to 2/3 of the water from your pitcher into a pot
- Bring the water in the pot to a boil
- Turn off the heat
- Add 4 family sized Luzianne tea bags
- Steep for 5-10 minutes
- Add a small tea bag of Constant Comment tea
- Steep for 5 more minutes
- Remove tea bags without squeezing
- Add 1 cup (more or less to taste) of sugar to the warm tea mixture and stir until melted
- If you are going to add baking soda stir a pinch in now
- Pour the cooling tea into the remaining water in your pitcher
- Serve over ice with a little lemon or mint
Hope you enjoy this recipe for sweet iced tea! You also might want to check out my favorite recipe for blueberry lemon iced tea.
Thanks for stopping by!