Fans of classic Southern sweet tea can now make it at home! It’s a delicious hot weather drink recipe that’s easy to adjust to your preferences. We even have a strawberry twist as a summery variation!
Full of fresh, sweet flavor of summer. It’s easy to make and great to have on hand for some thirst quenching relief.
Our version uses a special secret ingredient you’ll love too!
Delicious Sweet Tea Recipe
Sweet tea is sacred in the south (I have relatives there, I know). It’s as much a ritual as it is a refreshing summer thirst quencher.
Everyone has their own formula but one thing is common, this iced tea takes the sizzle out of the steamiest of days.
We’re sharing our tried-and-tested version AND a way to change it up adding the delicious flavor of strawberries to this summer classic drink.
What is sweet tea?
It sounds like it would be iced tea with sugar added, but it’s not.
A tea concentrate is first made. After the tea steeps, the sugar for the batch is added and dissolved.
More cold water is added to a large jar or pitcher and it’s all allowed to chill.
The process makes for a smooth sweetened iced tea.
The strength of the tea and the sweetness can be controlled to your preference too.
A secret ingredient
We swear by a secret ingredient for our southern sweet tea recipe. And it’s not something you’d ever expect but it’s a game changer.
Just a pinch. It removes bitterness from the tea and keeps the tea clear, not cloudy.
You’ll never taste it. Just taste the benefits from it.
Though the traditional version is perfection, we love a summer version turning it into strawberry tea.
The ingredient that makes this variation so special is the strawberry simple syrup. It’s easy to make and absolutely delicious.
The two flavors work together perfectly for a fun change up of the original iced tea.
Recipe Ingredients + Notes
Water. The water will be divided with some being heated with the tea and the rest (chilled) added to finish the tea.
Black Tea bags. Use regular size tea bags and use black tea. We used Lipton tea bags. Luzianne is another popular brand.
Baking soda. Our secret mystery ingredient that makes a difference! A pinch is needed (1/16th of a teaspoon).
Granulated Sugar. It’s the sweetener.
Ice. You can’t fully enjoy it without serving it ice cold!
Lemon juice. Optional. Add to taste.
How to make sweet tea – Step-by-Step
STEP 1. Steep the tea
Bring 2 cups of water to a simmer (not boiling) and add the tea bags and the pinch of baking soda (photo 1).
Turn off the heat and allow to steep for 10 minutes (photo 2).
Remove and discard the tea bags.
STEP 2. Add the sugar
Add the sugar to the small saucepan with the hot tea and stir to fully dissolve (photos 3-4).
STEP 3. FOR THE STRAWBERRY VERSION ONLY
Add the strawberry simple syrup to a glass pitcher or jar (photo 5).
STEP 4. Finish
Add the sweetened tea to the pitcher or large glass jar (photo 6).
Pour in 4 cups cold water (photo 7). Stir and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve (photo 8).
Adjust to Taste
The great thing about recipes like this, and the reason everyone has their own favorite way to make it, is it can easily be adjusted.
If you like a stronger tea flavor or more caffeine the tea can be steeped longer.
A risk with over brewing is bitterness in the flavor. This is another reason we love the baking soda trick; it takes the edge off that.
We don’t suggest brewing longer than 15 minutes.
Also this recipe is lightly sweet. If you love a lot of sugar in your tea add more.
Adding the sugar during the tea making process ensures it is dissolved into the tea and not sitting on the bottom of your glass.
Only add ice when serving. If ice is added to the container of sweet tea and left in the refrigerator the ice will dilute the tea as it melts. Add to serving glasses or the pitcher when serving a group.
Do not bring the water to a boil. The water should be heated to just before boiling. This creates the ideal temperature to extract the flavor from the tea.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! It can be doubled or tripled keep the ingredient proportions the same.
How to store it
Store in a pitcher or jar in the refrigerator for up to one week.
More recipes you’ll love!
- 8 cups water divided
- 6 black tea bags I used Lipton
- 1/16 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- lemon juice optional, to taste
- 1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup
- Bring 2 cups of water almost to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn off the heat and add the tea bags and the baking soda.
- Allow the tea to steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags.
- Add the sugar to the tea mixture and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Pour the tea mixture into a large glass pitcher (at least 64-ounces) or large jar.
- Stir in 6 cups of cold water. Chill fully in the refrigerator.
- Follow steps 1 and 2 above.
- Reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup and stir into the tea concentrate/mixture.
- Add 1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup to a 64-ounce pitcher or jar. Follow by adding the tea mixture.
- Stir in 5 1/2 cups of cold water. Chill fully in the refrigerator until serving.