Southern Style Sweet Tea

Introduction: Southern Style Sweet Tea

I've recently found out that some friends of mine (who happen to be from below the Mason-Dixon Line) did not know how to make sweet tea. Whenever they come over I make certain I have 2 gallons at a minimum, because we go through it. When we go see them, they have the Publix variety. So I had to you know how to make sweet tea...I was met with a blank stare. So, here we go:

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Step 1: Fixins

For the purposes of this post I may lapse into some southern-isms, like Fixins. The main ingredients are:

Tea Bags - (I use two family sized, I prefer the brand shown but I do not work for them nor receive compensation for my preferences)
Sugar - more on how much later, but between 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cups
Water - making a Gallon so...a gallon of water but part is brewed, part is ice, you will see as we go.

As for the utensils:

A Gallon sized Pitcher
Measuring Cup
Tea Kettle or large pot with a good kid
Ladle or long handled stirrin stick

Step 2: Boiling the Water

I fill my kettle up as full as possible. Just about 2 quarts or a half gallon. Sit back and wait till boiling nicely

Step 3: The Sugar

While waiting for the water, I put the sugar into the pitcher. Here is the main difference between Southern Style and Northern Sweet Tea. In the south we sweeten the tea while it's still hot. In the north, they ask if you'd like add sugar when they bring it to you in ice you can suck granules of sugar up through your straw with your tea...but I digress.

On sugar, this recipe is making a Gallon. I have found that at least a cup but no more than a 1 1/2 cups makes for a relatively sweet, without being quite McDonald's sweet, tea. I use between 1 1/3 - 1 1/2 cups.

Step 4: Once Boiling

Once the water reaches the boiling stage you should carefully pour enough water to cover the sugar into the pitcher (again, in the south we sweeten while hot). Stir to get the sugar started melting, don't become too concerned if you have a few stragglers, once we add the steeped tea the rest will become one with the tea.

Now it's time to add the two tea bags to your hot water. I let mine steep for at least 12 1/2 minutes. Any less and I find it to be too weak. Much longer than 13-14 and I find it too strong. Much like the sugar, though, this is a personal taste preference.

Step 5: After Steeping

If you've used a pot it will be fairly easy to remove the tea bags. If you have a kettle like mine please be careful to not break the bags open. If you do, a strainer or coffee filter can do the trick. Then just dump into the sugar water.

Step 6: Finishing It Off

What we've basically made is a tea concentrate. From this point you can just add cold water and let it cool over time. I use a 32 ounce to add two full cups of ice to cool it off a bit and then fill to the gallon mark on the pitcher.

And inside of 20 minutes you have a gallon of your very own Southern Style Sweet Tea!

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    6 Discussions


    I'm from Germany, and while drinking tea quite often, I've never made iced tea by myself. It's not that common here. The stuff you can buy in Germany is way to sweet and tastes really artificial. I like to use loose leaf teas, so I'd give it a try. Thanks for the recipe. :)


    5 years ago

    The brand of tea, I think depends on where you lived. I used to live in Georgia and we drank Lipton brand tea. As a true southerner we added the sugar before it cooled down and added water after the sugar was dissolved. Now that I'm older I also love the taste of lemon in my tea. So as a tip: Use lemonaid to add the lemon flavor. I use Countrytime brand lemonaid, just 1 scoop will give it a mild flavor, 2 scoops will give a stronger lemon flavor. I hope this may help others that love their tea as much as I do! Peace! :]


    5 years ago

    I Grew Up in Wisconsin, but I am Southern born, bred and wed (twice). I was always taught to not put sugar in with tea bags or tea bags in with sugar water because half your sugar will soak up in the bags.

    Another "yankeefied" way of doing it: 2 qt pitcher of ice cubes, 4 cup glass measuring cup with 3 1/2 cups of water in it, 5 regular size teabags, one microwave oven. 5 teabags on 6 minutes high should bring it to just under a boil. wait 5-10 minutes, depending on taste. Add about the same amount of sugar (3/4 cups to 2 qts tea) Dump hot sweet tea consentrate over ice. Remove tea bags, if you hadn't done it already. Same great taste.

    I keep waiting for McDonald's to carbonate that stuff they sell. IF I'm desperate enough and thirsty enough to get McDonald's ice tea, I get a big glass of ice,too. (there's never any ice in it either), pour the tea over the ice, then swirl it around a bit to melt the ice. I easily can get two full glasses if I want to (but who would want to? Go home and make your own dump that nasty stuff out!)


    5 years ago

    Thanks for the help. I'm Southern born and bred but I've never made tea this way, mostly because my husband - also Southern born and bred but apparently dropped on his head as a baby - doesn't drink tea, so I reach for a soft drink. When I do get a hankerin' for sweet tea, I 'sun brew' it. I don't know if it really tastes better or it's psychological - you know, using the sun that sustains all living things. [Hear the Pan flute playing in the background? ;-) ]
    Anyway, thanks for the stove method. The only difficulty I see in pulling it off is finding the large pot with a good 'kid.' I'll have to choose the day I try it carefully! :-)


    5 years ago

    Thank you for embracing the southern style. Many northerners don't and it's refreshing to meet one who does.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I am from Wisconsin and this is how i make may tea.