Southern Sweet Tea, Y’all

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Sweet tea is a Southerner’s dream come true when made right (not green tea…there’s a big difference).

As with anything else in the South (or anywhere else, for that matter) there are lots of variations of standard classics.

Southern Sweet Tea

The German did not make sweet tea.  She wasn’t Southern, after all.

Yet, it was one of my favorite drinks as a kid.  It followed right after grape Kool-Aid and the occasional ice cold Coke.

I grew up in a diverse neighborhood.

I was fed, and loved, Menudo and homemade tortillas from my neighbor from Mexico.

I ate potato pancakes with applesauce and schnitzel at home.

I drank gallons of sweet tea from the Southern crew.

When I got to the age of interest, I asked several moms how they made their sweet tea and each had a different answer.

Today, I have two go-to methods, dependent on how much time and effort I want to expend.

Easy Method for 1 gallon of Sweet Tea (seems like a large amount, but trust me, once your family starts drinking it, a gallon doesn’t go far)

~ Boil 4 cups of water.

~ Take off heat.

~ Place 4 large tea bags in water and let steep 5-7 minutes…go 10 if you’re feeling crazy.

~ In gallon pitcher, place 1 cup of sugar, or more/less to taste (if I’m making sweet tea for company, I ALWAYS use 1 cup of sugar, or more…mmmmm).

~ Discard tea bags and pour hot concentrated tea into pitcher and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

IMPORTANT STEP: fill the remainder with cold water from fridge.  Tap water isn’t cold enough.  This step helps prevent the tea from clouding.

Pour over ice, garnish with lemon or orange slices and drank.

Pinkies up!

Best Tasting Method (or at least I think so) for 1 gallon of Sweet Tea (with pics!)

~ Using large sauce pan, pour in 4 cups of water.

~ Turn heat to high.

Southern Sweet Tea

~ Gently sprinkle 3 heaping tablespoons of loose tea on top of water.

~ DO NOT mix or stir. 

~ Let the loose tea rest on the surface.

Southern Sweet Tea

~ Watch the water carefully: you DO NOT want to let it come to a boil, because it will turn the tea bitter.

~ Once bubbles start appearing along the outer circle of the pan, remove from heat and let steep 5-7 minutes. (see the tiny bubbles?)

Southern Sweet Tea

~ In gallon pitcher, place 1 cup of sugar, or more/less to taste.

~ Place a strainer over the top of pitcher and pour in hot tea concentrate, letting strainer catch the loose leaves.

Southern Sweet Tea

Southern Sweet Tea

~ Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.

Southern Sweet Tea

~ IMPORTANT STEP: fill the remainder with cold water from fridge.  Tap water isn’t cold enough.  This step helps prevent the tea from clouding.

~ Pour over ice, garnish with lemon or orange slices and drank.

Pinkies up!

Can you taste it?  This is the taste of summer time/fall time/winter time/spring time.

Southern Sweet Tea

That’s it!

Now go and impress your Southern friends with your knowledge of a classic tradition.

If you bring your six-shooters to show off too, well, we may have to make you an honorary Belle.

Enjoy, y’all!



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  1. I’ve never made sweet tea but I love it as a special treat. I’ll check out your recipe, Patti, and surprise my family this summer!

  2. I never thought to do it w the leaves like that. I normally just go to Sonic or Mcdonalds for my tea 😉 And as I have gotten older, I have had to cut the sugar in half… So true about the tap water!

    • SONIC! Man, how us Southern gals love our Sonic. When you make it yourself, you can control the amount of sugar. Bill Miller’s tea is sooo way off the sweetness chart that I can barely drink it (barely. ha! I will drink it!).

  3. YUM, I love Sweet Tea!

  4. We made a lot of sun tea as kids (well, technically my mom made it). I think it makes the tea taste different, but it might be similiar to your second method, which i will have to try.

  5. I married a man who DOESN’T like Sweet Tea. Egad! We are even from Arkansas where you need a treat to even go outside and deal with the State Bird sized mosquitoes! Every once in a while I’ll make a Gallon or two but I always end up drinking it all.. and all that sugar! I use the same method but I use 3 of the Luzianne.

  6. I’ve never made tea using loose leafs! Gotta try this! Hugs and blessings, Cindy

  7. Being from the North *GASP* I’ve never quite gotten on the sweet tea (or tea for the matter) bandwagon. Hubs on the other hand, LOVES it! I’ll have to give this method a try next time I need to butter him up for something 😉

  8. I’ve been meaning to try to make sweet tea! Thanks for the tutorial! Perfect timing!

  9. I have never seen anyone make iced tea from loose tea before. Hot tea, sure, but never iced tea. I’m going to have to give this a try immediately!

  10. Thanks for coming by the Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop. Love your post and appreciate you taking the time to share.

  11. I’ve lived in Alabama my entire life and this is exactly the way I have always made sweet tea (the bag method). My mom taught me using 2 CUPS of sugar! My sister still makes it that way, but I dropped it down to just a cup for my family quite a few years ago – we love it that way. We also enjoy letting the tea steep for a very long time – when we have time – I mean hours, on very low heat. It really brings out a rich flavor that way.
    Thanks for sharing. I always take it for granted that everyone knows how to make sweet tea! 🙂

    • 2 cups! That’ll wake you up! I love hearing how others have made their sweet tea. It’s so ingrained in our Southern culture and it seems like most families have their own special method. I’ve never considered going low and long. Gotta try that.

    • I have also lived in Alabama all my life, and we also use 2 cups of sugar!! 1 cup in a gallon would not be sweet for us, has to be 2 cups!! Then it’s really sweet!!!lol I guess it’s just what you get used to!!

  12. Looks great. I love sweet tea… I would love for you to share this a my T.G.I.F. Linky Party @ Have a great weekend!

  13. I love this recipe and will be making it for Fourth of July. I would love if you would share a post on my meet up Monday Blog Party. I am doing Fourth of July cupcakes on Tuesday and I know your post will be an awesome addition! Here is where you can add your post on Monday!


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