Southern Sweet Tea Recipe: A Refreshing Summer Drink

Welcome, y’all! It’s my pleasure to share with you one of my favorite recipes that embodies the soulful essence of Southern hospitality. Today, I’ll be teaching you how to create a refreshing, southern-ish style sweet tea from scratch. This tea is a staple on every Southern table and has become an essential part of our culture.

In the South, sweet tea is more than just a beverage; it’s a symbol of warmth, kindness, and cherished traditions passed down through generations. Memories of long summer days sipping on chilled sweet tea are etched into our hearts forever. The aroma of freshly brewed tea and the gentle melting of sugar fill our homes with comfort and love.

I guarantee that with this recipe you’ll have the best southern-style sweet tea in town! Whether you’re having a family gathering or inviting your neighbors over for a backyard barbecue, this sweet tea recipe will satisfy your thirst for something deliciously refreshing.

What are y’all waiting for? Let’s get sippin’ on some Southern goodness!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Southern-Ish Style Sweet Tea
Southern-Ish Style Sweet Tea

Southern-style sweet tea is not just a beverage, it’s an experience that embodies the warmth and hospitality of the South. But what makes this version of sweet tea different? Well, this recipe is a perfect combination of Southern sweetness and refreshing iced tea. Trust me when I say that you won’t find anything like it anywhere else!

Firstly, the recipe uses ingredients that complement each other well. The combination of raw sugar and black tea creates a flavor profile that’s sweet but not too overpowering. The addition of baking soda helps to reduce bitterness and balance out the flavors, resulting in a perfect cup of sweet tea.

Secondly, the process of making this sweet tea recipe is easy and straightforward. Unlike some recipes which call for time-consuming methods such as cold-brewing, this recipe will give you great results in no time. In just under 5 minutes, you’ll have freshly brewed tea that’s perfectly sweetened with sugar.

Finally, there’s just something about Southern-style sweet tea that brings people together. Whether you’re enjoying it on your front porch with friends or serving it at a family gathering, it’s a drink that instantly makes any occasion feel like home.

Overall, if you’re someone who loves a refreshing drink that’s both sweet and satisfying, then this Southern-style sweet tea recipe is definitely worth trying. Give it a go and see for yourself why it’s loved by so many people across the world!

Ingredient List

 Sipping on some Southern-style sweet tea on a porch swing just hits different.
Sipping on some Southern-style sweet tea on a porch swing just hits different.

Here are the ingredients that you will need to make this southern-style sweet tea. These measurements yield approximately eight cups of refreshing sweet tea:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 size-tea bags (preferably black tea, such as Luzianne tea bags)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda (optional)

Feel free to adjust the sugar level based on your preference. Raw sugar can also be used instead of granulated sugar for a slightly different flavor profile. Don’t have black tea? Consider trying it with green tea or even cold brew for a unique twist. Add a slice of lemon for a homemade iced tea or omit the sugar entirely for unsweet tea.

The Recipe How-To

 Nothing beats a hot summer day with a pitcher of cold sweet tea by my side.
Nothing beats a hot summer day with a pitcher of cold sweet tea by my side.

Brewing a Southern-Style Sweet Tea: A Step-By-Step Guide

With just five ingredients in your arsenal, you can create a pitcher of Southern-style sweet tea, the ultimate refreshing beverage on a hot summer day. This recipe all starts with freshly brewed black tea that’s then sweetened with sugar while still hot, giving you that classic Southern taste. Let’s get started!


  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • 3 to 6 tea bags of your favorite black tea
  • 2 cups of raw sugar (or less if preferred)
  • Ice cubes


  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil over high heat. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat.

  2. To the hot water, add tea bags and cover for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the size of the tea bags), or until it has reached desired darkness.

  3. While the tea is steeping, dissolve the sugar in a bowl filled with hot water.

  4. Once tea has reached desired strength, remove tea bags carefully using tongs or sieve and add dissolved sugar mixture.

  5. Stir until sugar has completely dissolved.

  6. Add baking soda, which will neutralize any bitterness in the tea and help with clarity.

  7. Finally, pour the tea mixture into a large pitcher and add ice cubes into it.

  8. Serve cold, preferably over ice!


To adjust sweetness level according to your taste buds, start by adding less sugar than what is stated in the recipe and work up from there. Also, for an extra twist of flavor, consider adding fresh mint leaves or lemon slices!

Substitutions and Variations

 Brewing the perfect pitcher of sweet tea is an art form in the South.
Brewing the perfect pitcher of sweet tea is an art form in the South.

Southern-style sweet tea is an all-time favorite beverage for many. And with the recipe’s simplicity, comes the ability to make a few changes here and there while still maintaining its Southern charm. Here are a few options you can consider when making this classic drink.

– Tea Bags: The key ingredient in any tea recipe, including Southern-style sweet tea, are tea bags. While black tea bags are commonly used, green tea bags also work great if you want to add a twist of healthiness to your drink. You can also experiment with different brands of tea bags – some of my favorites include Luzianne and Lipton.

– Sweetener: For sweetness in the recipe, raw sugar is traditionally used. But for a healthier substitute, you can use honey or agave instead. If you’re using honey or agave, reduce the amount by half since they are sweeter than raw sugar.

– Cold Brew: Do you prefer your sweet tea less bitter? Then cold-brewed sweet tea is for you! To make cold-brewed sweet tea, place four to six teabags in one or two quarts of cold water and let steep at least 3-5 hours.

– Add Flavor: If you’re adventurous in the kitchen, feel free to add flavor twists to your sweet tea! One option is to add a slice of fresh lemon when serving for additional sweetness and acidic flavor.

– Unsweet Tea/Coffee: Not everyone loves their drinks saccharine, so consider making southern-style unsweetened iced tea or even coffee instead. The steps remain the same except you don’t need to add any sugar at all.

Whatever variation you decide on, be creative and have fun with it! Southern-style sweet tea always has room for experimentation without losing its signature taste.

Serving and Pairing

 Sweet tea is not just a drink, it's a way of life in the Southern United States.
Sweet tea is not just a drink, it’s a way of life in the Southern United States.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of making Southern-Ish Style Sweet Tea, it’s time to enjoy it with some delicious food pairing options!

This sweet tea pairs well with a variety of dishes, especially those that are savory or spicy. You can serve it alongside fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, collard greens, black-eyed peas, or any other classic southern dish for a truly authentic experience.

If you’re feeling like something sweeter, try pairing it with baked goods. The sweet tea tastes great with pecan pie, banana bread or traditional southern desserts like peach cobbler or sweet potato pie.

But why stop there? You can also use this sweet tea in your cooking to add depth of flavor to your dishes. It works well as a base for marinades and sauces too.

For those who prefer a more adult beverage pairing option, you can turn this sweet tea into a beautiful cocktail by adding bourbon or vodka along with some lemon zest for an extra kick.

Regardless of the dish or occasion, Southern-Ish Style Sweet Tea is the perfect refreshment to cool you down and satisfy your taste buds. Don’t forget to garnish it with some mint leaves or lemon wedges for the perfect finishing touch!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The best sweet tea is made with love, some fresh mint, and bright lemon wedges.
The best sweet tea is made with love, some fresh mint, and bright lemon wedges.

Now that you have made this spectacular Southern-style sweet tea, I bet you would want to know how to make it ahead of time and store it properly, so you can savor it anytime you feel like. First things first, let’s talk about how to store your sweet tea.

After brewing and sweetening the tea, ensure that it cools down to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container. You can also pour the tea into individual bottles or jars that are tightly sealed. Then put them in the refrigerator where the tea will keep for about a week. However, please note that even with refrigeration, the tea won’t remain fresh forever. The flavor profile gets less pronounced and may not taste as great after five days.

Reheating the tea is easy too! You can do it by microwaving the desired portion in a microwavable cup or mug for twenty seconds at high heat while stirring intermittently. Another alternative is to pour some of your stored cold-sweetened tea into a kettle or saucepan and reheat on medium heat until steaming hot.

If you haven’t brewed your sweet tea yet but plan on doing so in advance, we’ve got you covered! Brew your tea without adding any sweetener or flavoring before refrigerating for later use. When ready to consume, add sugar syrup and stir until dissolved, then proceed with serving.

I hope these tips on Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating come in handy when you need them!

Tips for Perfect Results

 It may look like ordinary tea, but Southern-style sweet tea is a whole different ball game.
It may look like ordinary tea, but Southern-style sweet tea is a whole different ball game.

When it comes to making the perfect Southern-style sweet tea, combining the right ingredients in the correct proportions is only half the battle. Here are some tips that can help you achieve mouthwatering Southern sweet tea:

1. Baking soda is your friend

Adding just a pinch of baking soda to your boiling water before steeping your tea bags can help to remove any bitterness in the tea, and this will give you a smoother-tasting cup of sweet tea.

2. Water quality counts

The quality of water used can greatly affect the taste of your sweet tea. Fresh, filtered water is best when brewing tea.

3. Brew time is crucial

Avoid the temptation to over-steep your tea bags in boiling water, as this can lead to bitter tasting tea. Instead, try steeping for 3-5 minutes at most.

4. Tea bags matter

The size and quality of your tea bags make a big difference in taste. Opt for Luzianne or other high-quality brands for optimal results.

5. Lemon adds zest

Add a slice of lemon while the tea steeps to add a bright and fresh flavor to your sweet tea. It’s also a great way to balance out the sweetness if you’re using raw sugar.

6. Make-ahead adjustments

If you plan on making a large batch of sweet tea ahead of time, adjust your proportions accordingly so that it doesn’t become too syrupy as it sits in the fridge.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to whip up a perfect glass of Southern-style sweet tea that would give any Southern grandma a run for her money!


Now that you have all the details on how to make this delicious Southern-style sweet tea recipe, it’s understandable that you may still have some lingering questions. Below, I’ll answer some commonly asked questions about sweet tea recipe-making and share some tips so you can make the most out of your Southern-ish Style Sweet Tea experience. Let’s get started with the FAQ section!

What makes Southern sweet tea different?

Achieving the perfect flavor in southern-style sweet tea requires a delicate balance of ingredients. A robust and lengthy brewing process creates a unique astringent flavor that must be carefully offset by a generous amount of sweetener. Southerners are known for their love of all things sweet and their preference for indulging in sugary treats may be stronger than those living in other regions of the country.

What are the ingredients in Southern sweet tea?

When it comes to southern-style cuisine, sweet tea is a beloved beverage that stands out. In simple terms, sweet tea is made from brewing black tea while it’s hot, adding sugar for sweetness, chilling it until cold, and serving it over ice.

Why do Southerners put baking soda in sweet tea?

Did you know that baking soda can be used to improve the taste of your tea? By adding just a small pinch to your hot black tea, it can neutralize the tannins and create a smoother, less bitter flavor. This handy trick also works for green tea, so why not give it a try and elevate your tea game?

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

When it comes to the refreshing drink served over ice, iced tea and sweet tea are quite similar. The only discernible difference between the two drinks is the generous amount of sugar added to sweet tea. While the popularity of iced tea is more widespread in the North, southerners are known to favor the sweeter alternative of sweet tea.

Bottom Line

So, what are you waiting for? If you’re in the mood for a delicious and refreshing drink, then you must try this southern-ish style sweet tea recipe that will make your taste buds dance with joy. With a few simple ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, you can make this perfect Southern-style sweet tea in no time.

The addition of baking soda helps to balance the flavors and remove any bitterness, ensuring that each sip is as smooth and sweet as possible. It’s a great option for those who crave something refreshing on hot summer days or those who just need a caffeine boost to start their day.

This recipe is versatile and adaptable to different preferences, allowing for customization to your liking. Whether it’s served over ice on a hot day or paired with your favorite sandwiches or barbeque dishes, this sweet tea recipe is sure to be a hit.

So go ahead, grab some tea bags and sugar, boil some water, and indulge in the heavenly taste of Southern-ish Style Sweet Tea – truly the perfect combination of Southern charm and refreshing sweetness!

Southern-Ish Style Sweet Tea

Southern-Ish Style Sweet Tea Recipe

I created this after surfing the web for a good recipe. I combined a few different recipe's and made my own adaption. I really like it, but like all good cooking, it's a work in progress. Oh, and my disclaimer: I was raised a Yank, but fell in love with Sweet Tea living in North Carolina. Sweeten to taste (of course). The "secret sugar" really changes the complexion of the sweet tea. Recipe is easily adaptable.
No ratings yet
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Beverage
Cuisine American
Calories 129 kcal


  • 4 quarts size tea bags (Luzianne)
  • 1 cup raw sugar, not granulater (regular)
  • 1 gallon water
  • no need for baking soda, the molasses in the raw sugar cuts the bitterness
  • don't forget the gallon pitcher and maybe some mason jar (I did my first time)


  • Pour 2 quarts of water and your raw sugar to pan - bring to boil.
  • Add tea bags when water starts to boil.
  • Cut off the fire, and let steep for about 20 minutes.
  • Pour 2 quarts of water into gallon pitcher.
  • Add tea to pitcher.
  • Quick stir.
  • Chill in fridge.
  • Get ready to make some more.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 665gCalories: 129kcalCarbohydrates: 33.3gSodium: 12.5mgSugar: 33.3g
Keyword < 30 Mins, Beginner Cook, Beverages, Easy, Kid-Friendly, Spring, Summer, Sweet, Toddler-Friendly
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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