Quench Your Thirst with Our Southern Iced Tea!

Southerners know their sweet tea, and there’s nothing quite like a refreshing glass of southern-style iced tea on a hot summer day. This recipe for Southern Iced Tea is one you’ll want to keep in your back pocket for all those summer gatherings, BBQs, or just a lazy afternoon on the porch swing.

My love for Southern Sweet Tea started when my grandma introduced me to it during my childhood summers in Georgia. Since then, I’ve made it my mission to perfect the best Southern-style Sweet Tea recipe, and this one has become a staple in my family.

This recipe calls for simple ingredients that can be found in any grocery store, but it’s the technique that makes all the difference. When done right, you’ll have a perfect Southern Sweet Tea that’s refreshingly sweet with just the right amount of kick from the black tea.

So grab your family size tea bags and let’s make some delicious Southern Iced Tea!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Another Southern Iced Tea
Another Southern Iced Tea

When it comes to staying refreshed and hydrated, few beverages top a cold, sweet glass of iced tea. And if you’re looking for the ultimate southern-style sweet tea recipe, you’ve come to the right place – this recipe is simply irresistible.

The combination of freshly brewed black tea sweetened with just the right amount of sugar forms the perfect palate-pleasing drink that will leave you feeling refreshed and satisfied. But what sets this recipe apart from others is the addition of baking soda – a small ingredient that makes a big difference in creating that signature southern sweet tea taste.

Plus, it’s an incredibly easy recipe to make using just a handful of ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen. All you need is black tea bags, sugar, water, and some baking soda. It’s also very easy to customize based on your preferred sweetness level or any other flavors you want to add in.

When it’s hot outside and you’re craving something cold to drink, there’s nothing better than a tall glass of ice-cold Southern Sweet Iced Tea. It’s an iconic staple from the American South that has been favored by generations and continues to be enjoyed by everyone around the world.

In short, once you try this recipe, we’re confident that it will become your go-to for years to come – ideal for any casual garden party or BBQ gathering with friends or family.

Ingredient List

 A refreshing glass of homemade southern iced tea with a slice of lemon on the side.
A refreshing glass of homemade southern iced tea with a slice of lemon on the side.

Here’s everything you’ll need to make the best Southern-style sweet tea:


  • 8 tea bags (family-size)
  • 1 gallon water, divided
  • 1 cup sugar

Baking Soda Mixture:

This is what gives the tea it’s signature flavor and cloudy color.
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups boiling water


If you’re like me, you know the importance of getting the ratio of tea-to-sugar just right. No skimping on this ingredient!
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups cold water


Because what’s sweet tea without a little chill?
4 cups ice

The Recipe How-To

 Take a sip of the south with this perfectly sweetened iced tea recipe.
Take a sip of the south with this perfectly sweetened iced tea recipe.

Now, on to the main event. Here’s how you can make the perfect Southern sweet tea at home.

Things You’ll Need:

  • 6 family-sized tea bags or 12 regular-sized tea bags
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 8 cups of boiling water
  • 4 cups of cold water
  • Ice
  • Lemon (optional)

Step 1: Brew the Tea

To start off, bring 4 cups of water to a boil on high heat. Once it reaches a rolling boil, turn off the heat and add in your tea bags. Let them steep for around 15 minutes.

Step 2: Add Sugar

After letting the tea bags steep, remove them from the pot and add sugar. I suggest using 1 cup of sugar for every gallon of tea that you’re making, but feel free to add more or less depending on your preference.

Step 3: Dilute with Cold Water

Now that you have added sugar, it’s time to dilute the tea with cold water. Add 3 cups of cold water to the mixture and stir until fully combined.

Step 4: Add Baking Soda

This step isn’t necessary but it is something that many southern sweet tea lovers swear by. Add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to the sweet tea mixture. It helps to take away any bitterness from the brewed tea.

Step 5: Top it up with Ice

After adding all ingredients properly, fill up your pitcher with ice until it’s roughly three-quarters full. This will help create a perfectly chilled cup of Southern sweet tea.

Step 6: Taste & Adjust Sweetness

Give everything a good stir and then taste your Southern sweet tea. If you prefer it sweeter, go ahead and add a little more sugar (up to a 1/2 cup) to the mixture.

Step 7: Garnish with Lemon

If you like that extra zing, add some lemon wedges and enjoy a great glass of Southern sweet tea.

And there you have it! Follow these steps and trust me, you’ll make the best Southern sweet tea ever.

Substitutions and Variations

 Brewed to perfection, this southern staple will quench your thirst on any summer day.
Brewed to perfection, this southern staple will quench your thirst on any summer day.

Are you looking to put your own spin on this classic southern sweet tea recipe? There are a few substitutions and variations that can help you achieve the perfect flavor for your taste buds.

Firstly, if you prefer a stronger tea flavor, try using a different kind of black tea or adding an extra tea bag or two. For a little bit of fizz, swap out the water for sparkling water or club soda. You could also add lemon-lime soda for a sweet and tangy twist.

If you’re looking to cut down on sugar intake, try using brown sugar instead of white sugar or substitute half of the sugar with a homemade simple syrup made with honey or agave nectar.

For those who prefer their tea unsweetened, make southern-style tea by brewing black tea as usual and serving it over ice. For a refreshing twist, add lemon juice or slices to the jug before serving cold.

And if you’re pressed for time or want to make iced tea without turning on the stove, try cold-brewing the tea bags in cold water overnight in the fridge.

No matter which variation you choose, remember that the best southern sweet tea is one that is brewed fresh and served ice-cold.

Serving and Pairing

 The secret to the perfect glass of sweet tea lies in the careful brewing and steeping of the tea bags.
The secret to the perfect glass of sweet tea lies in the careful brewing and steeping of the tea bags.

Serving and pairing are critical factors of any recipe, and Southern sweet tea is no exception. Typically served over ice, this sweet iced tea can be perfectly paired with a wide range of dishes to suit your personal preference. Whether you want to enjoy southern sweet tea with grilled meats, salads, or sandwiches, the pairing options are limitless.

The best way to serve Southern sweet tea is by filling a tall glass with ice and then pouring the tea over it. Ensure that the tea is cold before service, allowing the glass to sweat on the outside in hot weather conditions. Additionally, adding a lemon garnish will add an extra layer of freshness to your iced tea.

For those who prefer a more intense flavor in their black tea, consider serving simple syrup instead of sugar. This adds sweetness without disturbing the flavor balance of the tea.

If you’re hosting a large gathering, opt to use a large pitcher – pitchers filled with ice-cold southern sweet iced tea make for a thirst-quenching crowd-pleaser in hot summer days. You can also serve alongside some homemade lemonade if you want variety in your drink options.

With its refreshing taste and bold flavor, Southern sweet tea pairs well with everything from spicy foods to savory meals all year round. It’s like having a light summer breeze churn through your taste buds every time you take a sip.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 This southern iced tea recipe tastes just like grandma used to make.
This southern iced tea recipe tastes just like grandma used to make.

Making Southern-style sweet tea is a time-consuming process, but fortunately, it can be made ahead of time and stored carefully for later use. After brewing the tea and adding sugar to taste, allow the tea to cool down to room temperature before transferring it to a pitcher with a lid. Place the pitcher in the refrigerator, and let it chill for at least two hours or until you’re ready to serve.

When you’re ready to serve, stir the tea well and add ice cubes. If your tea has been refrigerated for more than 24 hours or if you’ve added freshly squeezed lemon juice, you may find that it has become cloudy due to oxidation. While cloudy tea won’t affect its flavor, appearance is important in most cases.

If this happens, simply make a new batch of tea and add it to the cooled and stored tea. Be sure to stir thoroughly and adjust the sweetness level accordingly.

If you have leftover sweet tea, it’s easy enough to store it properly. Pour any remaining tea into an airtight container like a Mason jar or plastic pitcher with a tight-fitting lid, then store it in your refrigerator for up to three days.

Lastly, reheating Southern-style sweet tea is not recommended as boiling or heating can turn the liquid bitter or perhaps even throw off its flavor balance. If you need more refreshing Southern-style sweet tea, simply brew another batch from scratch as usual or make cold brew by steeping black tea bags in cold water overnight which would yield a slightly different but equally delicious cup of Southern-style sweetened iced.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Dive into the deep south with every sip of this classic iced tea recipe.
Dive into the deep south with every sip of this classic iced tea recipe.

To achieve the best Southern Iced Tea, you have to pay attention to every detail, from the ingredients to the steeping process. Here are some tips that will help you make the perfect southern-style sweet tea recipe every time:

1. Choose Quality Tea Bags

One of the essential ingredients in Southern Sweet Iced Tea is black tea. Ensure you choose good quality tea bags and brewed them correctly because it will affect the final taste of your iced tea.

2. Add Baking Soda

Adding a pinch of baking soda will make your Southern sweet tea less bitter and smoother. Be careful not to overdo it since too much baking soda can give your tea a soapy aftertaste.

3. Steep for The Right Amount of Time

Steeping time plays an essential role in achieving perfect flavor. Over-steeping your tea bags will result in a bitter-tasting tea, while under-steeping may make the iced tea bland. Steep for 5-8 minutes for a well-balanced flavor that is not too strong nor too weak.

4. Use Freshly Boiled Water

When brewing tea, using freshly boiled water is crucial as it will impact how your sweet tea taste like. Ensure you bring cold water to boil and let it sit for 1-2 minutes before pouring it over the teabags to bring out its full flavor.

5. Sweetening Your Tea

Use simple syrup instead of plain sugar to ensure it dissolves easily in cold water, thereby avoiding graininess at the bottom of your pitcher. Brown sugar also adds a nice depth of flavor to your southern style sweet tea.

6. Perfect Ice Ratio

Add ice to your pitcher or glass before pouring the hot brewed tea over it if you prefer your iced Southern Sweet Tea served ice-cold. For those who like their iced tea less chilled or cold, use less ice or allow enough time f or it to warm up a bit before serving.

By following these tips, you will make the best Southern Iced Tea Recipe for your next gathering. Be creative with variations suiting your taste and preferences.


Now, let’s move on to the FAQ section of this recipe article. In this section, I’ll provide you with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about making southern-style sweet tea, and hopefully, clear up any confusion or doubts you might have had along the way. So, let’s dig in!

What is Southern iced tea made of?

A refreshing and classic drink of the southern region is made by steeping black tea leaves, adding sugar to the hot liquid, and letting it cool before pouring over ice. This traditional beverage is famously known as Southern-style sweet tea.

What is the difference between Southern sweet tea and iced tea?

When it comes to cold tea beverages, people often wonder about the difference between iced tea and sweet tea. While both drinks are served chilled, the defining factor between the two is the addition of sugar in sweet tea. Interestingly, Iced tea is more popular in the northern parts of the United States, while sweet tea is a preferred choice among southerners.

What makes Southern sweet tea different?

In southern cuisine, there is a delicate balance of flavors in the iced tea. The tea is steeped for a significant amount of time, giving it a bitter taste that must be counteracted with a generous amount of sweetness. Southerners have a fondness for sugar that surpasses that of northerners.

Why do Southerners put baking soda in tea?

Did you know that baking soda can be used to make your tea taste smoother? It works by neutralizing the tannins in black tea, and can even remove the bitterness from green tea. All you need to do is add a small amount of baking soda to your mug while your tea is steeping for a more enjoyable taste.

Bottom Line

As a chef specializing in southern-style cuisine, I can attest to the power of a perfectly brewed Southern style sweet tea. This recipe incorporates all of the essential ingredients to create the perfect balance of sweetness and strength. With the right mixture of sugar, black tea, and baking soda, this Southern iced tea recipe will satisfy your taste buds any time of the year.

But why stop here? With some substitutions or variations, you can take this classic recipe to new heights. You could try adding brown sugar or making a simple syrup to enhance the flavor. Or you could opt for a cold brew instead of brewing hot tea before cooling it down.

Most importantly, remember that homemade iced tea is the perfect addition to any meal or gathering. Whether hot, chilled or cold served with ice, it’s a true crowd-pleaser. So next time you’re looking for the best sweet iced tea recipe out there, choose this Southern sweet iced tea recipe for the perfect taste.

I hope this recipe has inspired you to make your own perfect Southern sweet iced tea in your home kitchen. Give it a try with your friends and family and let us know how it turns out!

Another Southern Iced Tea

Another Southern Iced Tea Recipe

I looked to Zaar to see if this way of making tea was on here, but I gave up in my search. My son's pre-school teacher gave me this recipe and it works best for me.
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Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Course Beverage
Cuisine American
Calories 96.8 kcal


  • 1 gallon water (or less)
  • 4 family-size tea bags
  • 1 -2 cup sugar (I use about 1 1/4 cup, the teacher used 2 cups)


  • In a 2 qt pot, bring about 5 cups of water to a full boil.
  • Add the four family size tea bags and remove from heat.
  • Set your timer for 5 minutes (and 5 minutes ONLY!).
  • During this time add sugar to gallon sized tea pitcher.
  • When 5 minutes are up, add tea to sugar in pitcher and press gently on tea bags to remove left in liquid and stir. Discard tea bags.
  • While stirring, add rest of water to pitcher filling to about two or three inches from top. (watching color, I do about three inches from top.
  • Pour over a tall glass of ice and enjoy the goodness!

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 499gCalories: 96.8kcalCarbohydrates: 25gSodium: 9.3mgSugar: 25g
Keyword < 15 Mins, Beginner Cook, Beverages, Brunch, Easy, Inexpensive, Sweet
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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