The Country Cook: Southern Sweet Tea

Friday, January 7, 2011

Southern Sweet Tea

Every gal in the south has her own way of making sweet tea. We're pretty proud about it too actually. Around my house we like our tea strong and sweet. So if you ever have trouble getting your tea just right each and every time, give this a try.
3 family size tea bags (I prefer Luzianne, but use what you got)
2 cups sugar
1 gallon of water 
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda*
Boil only ½ gallon of the water on stove. Once water comes to a roiling boil, pour into one gallon pitcher. Add 3 tea bags and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (you don’t need to stir).  
Set your kitchen timer (I use my microwave) for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, take out tea bags.  Do not squish tea bags before taking them out, just let them drip for a minute. If you do that, you’re likely to get some tea leaves in your drink. Add sugar and stir. Add the other ½ gallon of cold water to the pitcher and stir again. Cool in fridge for several hours.

Cook’s Note:  You can substitute Splenda for the sugar, if you prefer. Also, we like our tea pretty sweet so you can certainly cut down on the sugar if you find it too sweet.

*Baking soda takes any of the bitterness out of your tea. It is great for other uses as well.  
If you are soaking beans overnight and are putting them in a pot to make the next day, add a 
small dash of baking soda to your pot before cooking. It keeps beans tasting their best. 



  1. very nice..being as that I'm originally from florida a few orange slices are great too in sweet Tea..

  2. Wow, I have never heard of adding baking soda! My mom taught me to add a few cloves when you are steeping the tea, I have no idea where she learned to do that! I have learned that well water equals clear sweet tea while city water equals cloudy. Filtering the water makes all the difference! Good luck with your blog, it can be overwhelming but you'll figure it out!

  3. I have always wanted to try some sweet tea! I'll definitely give this recipe a try. Looks like your blog is off to a great start!! :)

  4. Congratulations on your blog. Looks like you are off to a great start. I must say that blogging is a lot of work, but it's also a lot of fun, and you "meet" the most amazing, caring people:)

  5. Thank you so much Becky and little j. I have to say everyone's comments (especially from other bloggers) has been so kind and supportive. I really feel fortunate to be connecting with people through food.

  6. Gosh, I didn't realize you were such a new blogger! You're doing great (and for a non-techy, I'm impressed that you have your name on your photos!). Looking forward to many more years of your posts :)

  7. Wow, you just started your blog? It looks fantastic and so many recipes already. I started mine in December and it still doesn't look so great and I'm always working on it. It IS a TON of work and I'm so busy with my teenagers it's hard to keep up. I haven't written something about why I'm blogging yet, but want to and hopefully will soon. Anyway . . . I love the background! Looking forward to sharing with you.

  8. Looks very the ice tea and the serving cute:)

  9. oh My grandmother used to add baking soda and had the clearest sweet tea around! another trick to non bitter tea is dont scorch the sugar , let the tea cool down some before adding the sugar and it wont be bitter or scorched.

  10. Yum! I love iced tea. I never heard about the baking soda addition. This afternoon I will try it when I make a batch. Your website looks great by the way. You have come a long way.

  11. Your tea looks so good....wish I had some right now! Just a note ~ I have put baking soda in my coffee before to take out the bitter taste!

  12. I just made this sweet tea - delicious!

  13. Renee - thank you so much for coming back and letting me know that you enjoyed it! It is SO nice to hear that recipes I'm posting are being enjoyed - it makes it all worth it :o)

  14. I just have to try this! I LOVE SWEET TEE! so excited :)

  15. I don't remember seeing this post before and I Love sweet tea I have to say that we make it the same way except for the baking soda which I will be using for sure!
    I grew up on this tea It's a staple:)
    Thanks so much!!
    Love you blog:)

  16. I'm from Georgia and now live in NC so sweet tea is included as one of our food groups. I've never tried the baking soda but will give that one a try.

  17. Luzianne tea is sooooooo much better than Lipton! I made the change over about 5 years ago and I still have family members (that are devout Lipton users) comment how good my sweet tea is. I'm going to try the baking soda in my next pot of tea this evening and see if anyone notices. I've never done that before but I'm always open to change!

  18. What if one does not have "family sized" tea bags?
    About how many regular tea bags would I need to use to get the same result?

    My husband LOVES sweet tea, but I have never even thought of making it myself. I am anxious to try this!

  19. Hi Bree It really depends on the brand of tea you are using. Different types of teas come in different strength levels. If you are using regular-sized Luzianne tea bags, I would say use about 5 regular-sized bags. But keep in mind, not all brands are made alike. Some are a bit weaker in taste than others. I'm not usually real brand-loyal with most products but with tea - you want a good full-flavor. So if you can't find Luzianne, I would suggest Lipton tea bags that are made for iced tea (not the cool brew bags) but the ones specially made for iced tea. Hope that helps! :)

  20. 'Just wanted to check back in and let you know I made the sweet tea today!
    I used 5 regular Lipton hot tea bags and 1 cup of sugar (I only have a 2-quart container).
    HUGE hit! Mommy group loved it, and so does my husband.
    Many, many thanks. I have a feeling I will be making it again and again.

  21. I use this same recipe to make Sweet Tea. I am not from the south, but we lived in Georgia for a few years where my kids learned to love sweet tea. They were always begging me to make it so I found this same recipe on

    One day I had a friend over (a life-long Georgian) made fun of me because I had to follow a recipe to make sweet tea and then said it was the best tea she'd ever had!

  22. Howdy!! :)
    I'm a Southern girl who LOVES Sweet Tea..... can you tell me why the Baking Soda???

  23. I've made this a few times now, in fact I'm making some right now :) I grew up in Michigan and was not aware of sweet tea, but fell in love with it when I went on vacation to the South. Thank you for posting the recipe so that I can make it myself :)

  24. Anonymous- baking soda helps to take out any bitterness in the tea. :)
    Jeanette - I am just so happy to hear that. You know, I hesitated to share this as a recipe because I thought everyone is so picky about how they make their tea and no one wants another tea recipe. But then I had a couple of friends ask me how I make mine, I realized that some folks might want to know but don't always think to ask. So that's why I shared. I am so happy it turned out good for you! ~Brandie

  25. If you use de-caf Luzziane, you won't need the baking soda :)

  26. Love the recipes....all of them! Keep up the good work!

  27. My husband and I are sweet tea drinkers, I make mine with 2 Lipton family size tea bags, I am trying it with baking soda. Thank you for the tip.

  28. Okay now I'm going to throw my two cents in that was passed on from my great granny.

    Do as instructed above however while you wait for the tea bags to finish. Take another pan and for every cup of sugar you want in your tea pour into a cooking pan matching each cup of sugar with a cup a water. Turn the eye on med-hi and heat sugar water stirring until it's until sugar is dissolved completely. Take off eye and set aside, then return to the tea bags. Put the warm tea water in the pitcher, then add the warm water stirring as you pour it in. Instead of filling the pitcher with water the rest of the way use icecubes and in the heat the ice cubes will slowly melt and keep your tea ice cold then fill up your glass and pour over ice. With a wed of lemon you guess can squeeze in it if they want to or they can take it out.

    To speed up the process keep a half gallon of sugar water in the frigerator so it will be ready to use when ever you want it. Drop a wed of lemon on Keep your sugar water in the refrigerator and instead of putting sugar in and stirring, pour in your sugar water and sweetened to taste.

    Now to make Fruit flavored iced tea which is my recipe. Leave off the lemon wedge in the top of the glass or cut and decorating the rim. Instead add two cups of Mango Peach V8 Splash juice to a gallon of sweet tea and stir! Slice full round orange,split half way and decorate your glasses with a slice of orance and a sprig of mint leaf on top. Happy summer ya'll!

  29. I'm not from the south, so I have no idea how big a 'family-size' tea bag is. How many regular sized tea bags would I use for the 3 family-size tea bags (i.e. one bag per cup of hot tea)?

    One other thing: I have often added a sprig of fresh mint when brewing ice tea for a mild minty fresh flavor. You don't need much. For a gallon, perhaps 2 or 3. The mint wilts, but it doesn't disintegrate, so you can pick it right out.

  30. Would this work with sun tea? Rather than boiling the water, letting it sit in the sun all day, then adding the baking soda? Think I will give it a try next summer, but for now (December) & I will give this a try
    D. Ruthart

  31. While very unusual, I am a Canadian who has loved southern sweet tea from a young age. After making this recipe with 3/4 cup sugar, it is fantastic - just sweet enough - and it brings back memories of some of my favourite US vacations. Thanks so much!!

    1. That is wonderful! Funny how things that are so simple bring back so many wonderful memories. So glad it turned out well for you.


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