This Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea is a refreshing home-brewed sweet tea made from black tea and boasts of great hints of lemon 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.
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.
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, Sweet Tea is not just sugar and water with a tea bag. I know. CRAZY! There’s a specific process that has to happen:
Steep (the longer the stronger the flavor).
Mix in sugar for a complete dissolve.
Add to pitcher, add lemons for added taste, and CHILL COMPLETELY before serving it with ice.
Add your favorite liquor or bourbon for a bit of pizazz (Adults-only)!
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 serous about our sweets——cakes, pies, banana pudding, sweet tea—you name it.
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!
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 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.
To start, you have to steep your tea bags in a large pot of boiling water. To speed things up, I generally use 8 tea bags for a large-sized pitcher (as shown in my photo), however, you can always use more if you want to have a bolder black tea flavor.
Obviously for a larger pitcher, you can add an additional 2 tea bags to the brewing process.
Speaking of the brewing process, thank goodness for the little strings attached to the tea bag right? I can’t tell you how many times my entire tea bag (string and all) has fallen into the pot during the steeping process. Haha.
Oh, well! It’s still the perfect taste! Just continue to steep your tea bags for about 20 minutes (minimum) to an hour for the best results. The longer, the stronger!
In a large pitcher, add steeped tea mixture (keeping the tea bags out), lemon slices, baking soda, and 3 cups of ice and refrigerate immediately to keep it cold, about 30 minutes to an hour.
Once sweet tea has chilled considerably, serve: pouring sweet tea into prepared glass(es) and adding a slice or two of lemon, if desired.
It’s super easy to make.
Refreshing, delicious, + a nice classic Southern Sweet Tea feel.
Only uses a handful of ingredients.
Great sweetener substitute options.
Secret trick included for a longer lasting effect!
Just the best glass of sweet tea you’ll ever taste.
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.
Traditional Southern Iced Sweet Tea.