Refreshing Southern Iced Tea Recipe for Hot Summer Days

Welcome all to my recipe article on the best southern sweet iced tea recipe you will ever taste. As a chef who specializes in southern-style cuisine, I have honed this recipe over the years to create the perfect balance of sweetness and strong tea flavor that you would expect from a truly authentic Southern sweet tea.

There are few things better than a refreshing glass of iced tea during those hot summer days, and this Southern sweet tea recipe will provide you with just that. With a few basic ingredients and a secret ingredient, you can make the perfect pitcher of homemade iced tea that will quench your thirst and satisfy your taste buds.

Whether you are hosting a barbecue, attending a party or simply want to enjoy an ice-cold glass of southern sweet tea on your porch, this recipe is perfect for any occasion. So grab your favorite tea set, invite your friends over, and let’s make some unforgettable Southern-style sweet tea together!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern Iced Tea
Southern Iced Tea

When it comes to quenching your thirst in the summertime, there’s nothing quite like a cold glass of Southern Iced Tea. But not just any iced tea – we’re talking about the best Southern Sweet Tea that you’ll ever have.

This recipe is a family favorite, and for good reason. The secret lies in the simple syrup that you make with the tea, sugar, and baking soda. The baking soda might seem like an odd addition, but trust me, it’s what takes this sweet tea to the next level.

Not only is this iced tea refreshing and delicious, but it’s also incredibly easy to make. With just a handful of ingredients and a bit of patience while you wait for it to steep, you’ll have a huge pitcher of homemade sweet tea that will last for days.

And let’s talk about versatility for a minute. You can switch out regular black tea bags for green tea or add some lemon wedges for an extra burst of flavor. Plus, you can adjust the amount of sugar to your liking!

So whether you’re having a backyard barbecue, relaxing on the porch swing, or simply need something to sip on while you work from home, this Southern Iced Tea recipe is sure to become your new favorite drink. Trust me – one sip and you’ll be hooked!

Ingredient List

 Cooling down with a classic Southern Iced Tea.
Cooling down with a classic Southern Iced Tea.

Get ready the best Southern Sweet Iced Tea recipe ingredients

The ingredient list is short and sweet, but don’t let that fool you. This recipe packs a punch of flavor that will leave your taste buds feeling happily energized.

Basic Ingredient List:

  • 4 Luzianne family-sized black tea bags (1 bag for every 4 cups of water)
  • 1 and ½ cups sugar
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • Water (divided)

Teaspoon Measurements per Number of Gallons:
For 1 Gallon:

  • 3 family-sized tea bags (or 6 regular)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

For 2 Gallons:

  • 6 family-sized tea bags (or 12 regular)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For 3 Gallons:

  • 9 family-sized tea bags (or 18 regular)
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoon baking soda

Optional Ingredients:

  • Lemon wedges
  • Ice, southern-style or regular ice.

All these ingredients can be found in your neighborhood grocery store or bodega regardless if you are living in the South or not.

The Recipe How-To

 Nothing beats a refreshing glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day.
Nothing beats a refreshing glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day.

To make the best Southern Sweet Tea, follow this easy recipe:


  • 20 Luzianne Family Size tea bags
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of baking soda
  • 10 cups boiling water
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ice cubes
  • lemon wedges


  1. In a large heat-proof pitcher, put the tea bags, baking soda and a pinch of baking soda.

  2. Pour in 10 cups of boiling water and let the tea bags steep for about five minutes.

  3. Take out the tea bags and add sugar to the hot tea. Stir it well so that the sugar dissolves completely.

  4. Add enough cold water to fill up the pitcher to one-gallon.

  5. Taste and adjust sugar level as desired. (Remember that once you put ice, the drink will lose its sweetness)

  6. Refrigerate for about two hours or until chilled.

  7. Serve iced, with lemon wedges or any other fruit of your liking.

  8. Enjoy your homemade iced tea!

Note: For an extra touch, try making a simple syrup by mixing equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan, heating until it dissolves, and then adding it to your Southern Sweet Tea for added sweetness without the grittiness of undissolved sugar crystals.

Substitutions and Variations

 One sip of this tea and you'll be transported to a front porch swing in the deep South.
One sip of this tea and you’ll be transported to a front porch swing in the deep South.

If you want to switch things up in your Southern iced tea recipe, there are a few variations that you can try.

One option is to use green tea instead of black tea. Green tea has a milder flavor than black tea and can give your Southern sweet tea a lighter taste.

Another variation is to make a homemade simple syrup instead of using granulated sugar. To make the simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Use this instead of the cups of sugar in the recipe for a smoother consistency.

If you prefer unsweet tea, simply omit the sugar from the recipe. You can still use the same basic ingredients and brewing process as with sweet tea.

For those looking for a caffeine-free option, try cold brewing herbal tea bags. Place four herbal tea bags in a pitcher of cold water and steep in the refrigerator overnight before serving over ice.

Lastly, add some zest to your Southern sweet tea by squeezing in some fresh lemon juice or adding a lemon wedge to each glass. This will give your sweet iced tea another layer of flavor that will complement the sweetness and richness of the drink.

Serving and Pairing

 The perfect balance of sweetness and tea flavor.
The perfect balance of sweetness and tea flavor.

Southern sweet tea is a versatile beverage that can be enjoyed any time of day or year. It is a classic Southern drink that is served on porches, at family gatherings, and alongside traditional Southern dishes. When it comes to serving and pairing southern sweet tea, there are many options to choose from.

Firstly, the best way to enjoy southern sweet tea is over ice – cold and refreshing. The addition of a lemon wedge serves to brighten up the flavors of the tea, adding a tangy and citrusy note. The sweetness and tartness of the lemon wedge perfectly balance out the richness of the tea.

Pairing wise, southern sweet tea pairs beautifully with a wide range of Southern dishes such as pimento cheese sandwiches, fried chicken, biscuits, cornbread, fried okra, mac and cheese, collard greens, and more. It provides a crisp and refreshing contrast to rich and savory dishes that will leave your taste buds feeling invigorated.

Southern sweet tea can also be turned into a cocktail when mixed with alcohol such as bourbon or vodka. In addition, it makes for an excellent mixer when paired with fresh fruit juices such as peach or strawberry juice.

Finally, whether you are pairing it with dishes or cocktails or simply enjoying it on its own over ice, make sure you serve your southern sweet tea in tall glasses or mason jars – this adds to its charm and goes well with its rustic Southern roots.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The ultimate crowd-pleaser for any summer barbecue or picnic.
The ultimate crowd-pleaser for any summer barbecue or picnic.

If you’re planning a big family gathering or a party, prepare the Southern Iced Tea recipe ahead of time to save some time on the day of the event. You can easily make this recipe up to 24 hours in advance.

Once the tea is brewed, all you need to do is transfer it to an airtight container and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to serve. You should add the lemon wedges right before serving so that they don’t lose their flavor and taste.

If you have any leftover sweet tea, store it in a sealed container in the fridge for up to five days. Reheat it by pouring the cold tea into a saucepan and heating it over medium heat until it’s warmed through. However, it’s best enjoyed cold, so only reheat what you need.

If you prefer your sweet tea over ice, simply store it in the fridge as is and add ice when ready to serve. Another great tip is to freeze some of the sweet tea in ice cube trays for extra refreshing iced tea!

Remember, never leave iced tea at room temperature for long periods of time as bacteria can grow rapidly in it. Always keep it chilled to prevent spoilage and ensure maximum flavor.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Sweet, simple, and satisfying.
Sweet, simple, and satisfying.

Now that you have all the ingredients for Southern Sweet Iced Tea, it’s time for some tips on how to get the perfect result!

First and foremost, brew your tea to perfection. Use high-quality black tea bags (such as Luzianne Family Size Tea Bags) and steep them in boiled water for 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to over-steep the tea, as it can result in a bitter taste.

To avoid cloudiness in your tea, add a pinch of baking soda to the hot water before brewing your tea bags. It balances out the acidity of the tea and makes it clearer and smoother.

When adding sugar, use cane sugar instead of granulated white sugar. Cane sugar dissolves much better and gives a richer taste to your sweet tea.

If you really want to take your sweet tea up a notch, make a simple syrup instead of adding sugar directly to the brewed tea. In a saucepan, combine equal parts sugar and water and gently simmer until the sugar is fully dissolved. Let cool before adding it to your brewed tea. This will give you Southern Sweet Tea with zero grains of undissolved sugar.

For an even more refreshing drink, try using green tea instead of black tea! Green tea is less bitter than black tea and has less caffeine too.

Don’t forget the ice! The best Southern Sweet Iced Tea should be served cold over lots of ice cubes—and if you want to go “all-in” add some lemon wedges for tanginess.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be making Southern Sweet Iced Tea like a pro in no time!


Now that you have mastered making the perfect Southern Iced Tea, it’s time to answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to this sweet and refreshing treat. In this section, I will address some common queries that you may have in mind and provide my expert tips and tricks for making the best iced tea recipe. So, let’s dive in and clear up any confusion about making Southern Sweet Tea!

What is Southern iced tea made of?

Sweet tea that’s true to its southern roots is made by brewing black tea, sweetening it with sugar while it’s still hot, and chilling it until it’s nice and cold. You serve it over ice for a refreshingly sweet treat.

Why do Southerners put baking soda in tea?

Did you know that baking soda can be used to improve the taste of black tea? By neutralizing the tannins present in the tea, it can provide a much smoother and less bitter flavor. This trick can also be applied to green tea by adding a tiny amount of baking soda to the tea while it’s steeping.

What makes Southern sweet tea different?

When it comes to brewing traditional southern-style tea, there’s a fine line to toe between astringency and sweetness. The key is to brew the tea long and strong, allowing it to develop a sharp, tannic quality that can only be balanced out with a generous amount of sugar. As a chef who specializes in this style of cuisine, I can attest that southerners definitely have a unique and distinct preference for sweetness that you won’t find quite as strongly in the north.

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

When it comes to cold tea, you may be wondering about the difference between Iced Tea and Sweet Tea. Although both are served chilled, the main distinction between them is the inclusion of sugar in Sweet Tea. While Iced Tea is commonly enjoyed in the northern regions, those in the southern parts of the country tend to gravitate towards Sweet Tea.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, there’s nothing better than a refreshing glass of Southern Iced Tea on a warm summer day, and with this recipe, you’ll be able to make the best Southern Sweet Tea around. The combination of simple ingredients that come together to create such a delicious taste is what makes it so popular.

So don’t wait, grab yourself some tea bags, sugar, and baking soda and get ready to make the perfect pitcher of iced tea. Whether you’re serving at a family gathering or just want to enjoy a glass for yourself, this Southern Sweet Iced Tea recipe will definitely impress your taste buds.

With the option for substitutions and variations, this recipe is versatile enough to suit any palate. And by following these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to perfect your sweet tea-making skills in no time.

So go ahead and give it a try. Sip back and relax with a refreshing glass of Southern Iced Tea. Who knows? It might just become your new go-to drink!

Southern Iced Tea

Southern Iced Tea Recipe

A table staple in most households and restaurants throughout the South. This is the beverage our mamas taught us to make.
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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 min
Course Beverage
Cuisine American
Servings 2 quarts
Calories 387 kcal


  • 2 quarts water (divided)
  • 6 regular-sized tea bags or 3 family sized tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar
  • lemon wedge (optional)


  • Place tea bags in a 2 quart glass pitcher.
  • Pour one quart boiling water over tea bags.
  • Let this steep for five minutes.
  • Remove tea bags from water, and press tea bags gently against the side of the container with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Remove tea bags from container and discard.
  • Stir in one cup sugar.
  • Add the remaining one quart of water.
  • Stir, cool to room temperature.
  • Serve over ice.
  • If desired, garnish with lemon wedge.
  • Note: You may store any leftovers in the refrigerator, but the tea will turn a bit cloudy.
  • (This does not affect the taste).
  • If you want to take the haziness out of the tea, you may stir in 1/4 cup boiling water per quart of iced tea just before serving.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 2096gCalories: 387kcalCarbohydrates: 100gSodium: 19mgSugar: 99.9g
Keyword < 15 Mins, Beverages, Easy
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