Southern Sweet Tea

June 30, 2013
Classic Southern Sweet Tea ~ in true Southern style.  Have a nice big glass, y'all!

Classic Southern Sweet Tea with a Lemon Image

Iced tea.  That's what it's called in "the North."

But if you're in "the South?"  Oh, here in the South, it's sweet tea.  There's nothing quite like it.  Yes, in the South sweet tea is indeed an institution.

Having transplanted to North Carolina from "the North" when I was 25, I have learned how to make it ... right ... from my very Southern sister-in-law.

Which is a good thing, because my very Southern husband likes his tea Southern sweet.

The secret to making Southern sweet tea isn't so secret - it's sugar.  But you've got to get the right amount of sugar.

See.  When it comes to tea, there's unsweet, sweet, and Southern sweet.  Anyone born in the South, who has family in the South, has friends from the South, has traveled in the South ... well, you get the point ... knows what I'm talking about, right?

Southern sweet is a special kind of sweet.

And the secret to making Southern sweet tea isn't so secret - it's sugar.  But you've got to get the right amount of sugar.  And then serve it up over lots of ice.  With a lemon wedge.  Please don't forget the lemon wedge!

And once you've got all that, you've got yourself one deliciously refreshing glass of Southern sweet tea.

Glass of Southern Sweet Tea on Ice Image

As my family and I found out, tea is one of those things that carries cultural differences with it.  

I grew up drinking the powdered instant stuff.  You know, that you scoop out of a jar and mix with some water in a glass, stirring until you don't see any of the little powdered granules anymore.

That's even what was served in most - probably close to all - restaurants in the area.  That's just what you got if you ordered iced tea.  

Not so in the South.

In the South, proper iced tea is brewed.  From tea bags.  With sugar in it - a whole lot of sugar.  And there's absolutely no need to use the word "iced" to accompany it. 

In the South, instant iced tea is an abomination.  Proper iced tea is brewed.  From tea bags.  With sugar in it - a whole lot of sugar.  And there's absolutely no need to use the word "iced" to accompany it.  In fact, you get looked at rather funny in a restaurant if you say the word "iced" in front of your tea when you order it.

And what happens in the North if you order using just the word "tea?"

You get a nice steaming cup of hot tea!  My Mom, who happens to be an avid hot tea drinker, learned very fast upon moving to the South that if she wants a cup of hot tea in the South, she has to say "hot tea."  Or, she ends up with a big glass of sweet tea.

Because in the South, tea is sweet tea.  And what wonderfully delicious sweet tea it is.

So grab yourself some tea bags and a "little" sugar, and follow this recipe to whip up a truly wonderful Southern institution.  A Southern sweet institution, that is.

Thank you for stopping by The Kitchen is My Playground. We'd love to have you back soon!

Southern iced tea recipe, Southern sweet tea recipe, iced tea recipe, ice tea recipe
Yield: 2 quarts
Southern Sweet Tea

Southern Sweet Tea

Classic Southern Sweet Tea ~ in true Southern style. Have a nice big glass, y'all!
prep time: 20 Mcook time: total time: 20 M


  • 4 tea bags (regular-sized black tea)
  • 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • water
  • lemon wedges


How to make Southern Sweet Tea

  1. Place the tea bags and 2 cups of water in a glass microwaveable measuring cup or bowl; microwave until boiling. {Or, pour boiling water over the 4 tea bags.} Let cool to lukewarm. Squeeze out the tea bags into the tea liquid.
  2. Place granulated sugar in a 2-quart pitcher. Add about 1/2 c. boiling or very hot tap water; stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Add tea to the pitcher. 
  4. Fill the remainder of the pitcher with cold water (to equal 2 quarts total).
  5. Refrigerate until chilled.
  6. Serve over ice with a lemon wedge.
  1. For true "Southern sweet" tea, use 3/4 cup sugar.  Though I must admit I prefer mine with 1/2 cup sugar.
  2. Can be prepared with a sugar substitute, if preferred.
  3. Decaffeinated tea bags work just fine.
Created using The Recipes Generator


  1. would love if you'd share this at my Sunday Funday Linky Party! :-)

    *Susan @ Adventures in my Kitchen

  2. I love sweet tea, got hooked on it when we were trucking across the country especially in Georgia and the other southern states.

    1. There's no way, for sure, to get through the South without experiencing it. :-)

  3. Love me some good southern sweet tea! Stop by my place to add it to my drink up and link up :)

  4. Oh yes!!!!! All year:) Pinned!

  5. I don't care at all about soft drinks, but can drink sweet tea any time of the day! I still can't believe they served us unsweetened at BBCCHAR!

  6. Wiping the drool off my chin ;-}.....we have lived in the South and we certainly DO love our sweet tea. I've been making sun tea several times a week...I agree the sweetening part is very important. Thanks so much for sharing at Weekend Potluck. Please come back again soon.

  7. Hi! Featured you today! Thanks for linking up to Monday Funday! Stop by and grab a feature button! xoxo Cheryl

  8. I buy the gallon sized tea bags at Sam's Club and make 2 gallons at a time and they last maybe 2-3 days with 2 people drinking it. Got my recipe from an extended family member in Alabama and drink oodles of it when the weather ever gets warmer up here in the Pacific NW! So many great little TIME!! LOL

  9. As a true Southern gal, I find it almost doubly-redundant when folks talk about "sweet iced" tea. As if tea could be anything but sweet. And ice-cold. ;)

  10. Dude you missed it. To make a gallon of tea you need a FULL cup of sugar NOT 1/2 NOT 3/4, 1 FULL cup of sugar.

    1. Dude. You feel free to add however much sugar you'd like. As for me ... I prefer to taste tea in my tea, not just drink sugar water.

    2. ALSO ... if you read the recipe, it's for 2 quarts ... not a gallon. So it actually IS a full cup for a gallon.


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