Southern Sweet Tea

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When it comes to quenching thirst, you’ll be hard-pressed to come up with something more southern and satisfying than a jug of sweet tea!

best southern sweet tea recipe

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History of Southern Sweet Tea.

The first recipe that closely resembled the sweet “iced tea” we know and love today wasn’t printed until 1879. A cookbook titled, “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” shared the original recipe by Marion Cabell Tyree. Although it used green tea, this was the first recorded recipe to flavor the drink with sugar and lemon.

Why is sweet tea a southern thing?

Tea drinking became more popular in the South after Prohibition was enacted. In fact, prior to the great dry out, tea was frequently served with alcohol.

All those beautiful crystal glasses that had previously been filled with stiff drinks couldn’t go to waste, so sweet tea soothed the South until the bitter end.

What kind of tea is sweet tea?

Sweet tea is most commonly made by adding sugar or simple syrup to black tea while it is still brewing or while it is still hot, though artificial sweeteners are also commonly used.

Ice-cold sweet tea is almost always served. It is occasionally flavored, most commonly with lemon, but also with peach, raspberry, or mint.

What you’ll need to make this Southern Sweet Team recipe

Do real southerners put lemon in their tea?

There’s no hard rule regarding adding lemon, although it’s normally served on the side; and if you’re making sweet tea at home, southerners prefer Luzianne brand tea. Any sweet tea with a darker color may be mistaken for coffee, whereas any tea with a lighter color is most likely just sugar water.

INGREDIENTS – Yields 1 gallon

  • 3 family-sized black tea bags (or 12 individual tea bags), such as Lipton or Luzianne
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Ice
  • Fresh mint leaves or lemon slices (optional)


Boil the water. Bring 4 cups of the water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat.

Steep the tea for 5 minutes. Dunk the tea bags a few times in the water to fully hydrate, then leave them submerged with the strings hanging over the side of the pot. After 5 minutes, remove the bags and discard them.

Add the sugar to the tea. Add the sugar and stir until completely dissolved.

Pour the tea base into the pitcher. If using multiple pitchers, divide the tea evenly between them.

Top off the pitchers with water. Add 3 more quarts of water to the tea base to make a gallon of sweet tea and stir to combine.

Refrigerate until very cold. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or, ideally, overnight.

Serve over ice. Pour the sweet tea into ice-filled glasses. Add a sprig of mint or a slice of lemon to each, if desired!

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