This Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea recipe is a refreshing home-brewed sweet tea made from black tea and boasts hints of lemon goodness and a whole lot of sweetness---just like they like it down south! The perfect drink for the sunniest of days regardless of the season! A true Southern staple, where conversations cannot exist without a good glass of sweet tea.
Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea. One of the few sweet drinks that I can't live without---honestly. Haha. I've been so excited to share this recipe with you guys! If you've been following Orchids + Sweet Tea, then you know that I'm a Southern girl at heart (born + raised), so this cup of goodness brings back so many great memories and fun-in-the-sun moments.
For those of you that are in the South, I do hope that this recipe makes you proud! Haha. I have created a few variations based on this recipe, Southern Strawberry Iced Sweet Tea for little fruity goodness + Southern Peach Iced Tea because it's just such a classic flavor combo!
As you may know, we Southerners usually go big or go home when it comes to food and flavor. This Crispy Oven Fried Chicken, BEST Southern Baked Mac and Cheese, and My Grandma's Baked Southern Banana Pudding are great examples of this...We aren't afraid of flavor, AND in fact, we can't live without it. And this recipe for Sweet Tea is no exception.
Much like Lemonade (for many people), this sweet tea is the epitome of a Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter----- an all-around MUST-HAVE in the South. Yes, ya'll---it's that serious!
For those of you who aren't familiar, a Sweet Tea recipe is not just sugar and water with a tea bag. I know. CRAZY! There's a specific process that has to happen:
So you see, there's a complete science to this stuff, especially with the chilling of it since Sweet Tea MUST BE COLD for it to be considered the true Southern staple! Haha. Sorry if this sounds dramatic, but us Southerners are serious about our sweets------cakes, pies, banana pudding, sweet tea---you name it.
Considered a staple in Southern cuisine, sweet tea's "birthplace" is believed to have come about in St. Louis. It was here, at the World's Fair in 1904, that the oh-so-sweet southern-style sweet tea was born. And it is no surprise that Southerners grasped ahold of this sweet delicacy and mastered the recipe to transform it into a household staple.
OK, so I know that this must be a shocker, but yes---you do add baking soda to sweet tea. Why? Whelp, although it seems super weird to do so, adding baking soda to your sweet tea prevents it from getting cloudy and bitter. If you've ever tried leaving your leftover sweet tea in the refrigerator for a few days, only to find out that after a day or so, it's bitter and not as enjoyable----then know that adding a small amount of baking soda does the trick!
In addition, just know that baking soda has health benefits as well, so it won't harm you! For one, baking soda is great for helping with indigestion and acid reflux. Also, it's great for keeping your mouth healthy among other benefits. So, the next time you add a pinch of baking soda to your sweet tea, just know that you're not adding something harmful to this glass of goodness!
While you can use any brand of black tea that you prefer, I find that the Lipton brand of tea serves the best variation of sweet tea, in my opinion. Oh and they actually have an organic version which makes things even better for me since I'm all about eating healthier and living a healthier lifestyle.
I remember growing up and seeing my Grandma and other relatives use the Lipton brand, so I guess that it's a staple at this point-----a staple for me anyway.
Generally, when drinking black tea, whether to make my homemade chai tea latte or drink black tea regularly, I always stick with my go-to brand, Bigelow tea.
When searching for a big box of Lipton tea bags, I did notice that there were a ton of options available these days when it comes to flavor. They even have the Southern Sweet Tea mix, which makes things a lot easier for those who may not have want to make it from scratch or just need a quick fix without the time.
However, I wanted to make this classic sweet tea recipe fully homemade because I'm just a believer that sometimes homemade is just best. So, I chose to brew my tea bags myself and add in the other ingredients. Plus, homemade always gives you the option of mixing and matching ingredients for your own liking----you know.
Yes, so the major question here is----what about all of that sugar? Firstly, I'll start by saying, there are plenty of sugar substitutes that can work for this recipe without compromising taste!
To start, you can use organic brown sugar or organic pure cane sugar instead of regular white sugar to keep things healthier. Also, you can substitute sugar for stevia or allulose for an even healthier option. While I haven't tried this recipe with maple syrup (because I believe that the overall taste would change), I do think that using Agave might work as a great option as well.
Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator, tightly covered in your pitcher, or in a sealed mason jar (for smaller leftover amounts). Best if consumed within a few days.
Absolutely! This recipe lets you fine-tune the sweetness to your preference, ensuring a customized delight.
Absolutely! Incorporating alcohol can add a delightful twist to your Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea. Vodka, bourbon, or even a splash of rum can elevate the flavors. Just remember to balance the alcohol amount to achieve the desired taste and potency.
To serve, pour the chilled sweet tea over ice, letting its refreshing flavors shine. For an extra touch, consider adding optional garnishes like citrus slices or mint sprigs either directly into the pitcher or to each glass upon serving.
If you make this Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea, tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea
Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea.