Southern Sweet Tea

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Learn how easy it is to make my 2-ingredient Southern sweet tea recipe. It’s the most refreshing drink to enjoy on your porch throughout the year.

southern sweet tea

Nothing, I mean nothing, is more Southern than sweet tea. We drink sweet iced tea at almost every meal (yes, iced tea for breakfast is actually quite good), make it daily year-round, and even put it in our baby’s bottles! Dr. Phil once jokingly mentioned that Southerners started drinking sweet tea at age three, but Mama and I looked at each other in complete confusion as we knew perfectly well all of us had started on it by age one!

Go to any Southerner’s home and the first question they ask after sitting down is, “Ya wan’ some tea?” These days I make my sweet tea recipe with Splenda, but it tastes just as good as real sugar. Southern sweet tea just completes any meal.

So, how do you make my southern sweet tea? It’s easy! All you need is your favorite black tea bags (plus some water for brewing) and sugar (or Splenda). All we’re going to do is brew the tea in a sauce pot or a coffeemaker (more details below), then combine it in a pitcher with cold water and sugar. That’s literally all you need to do before you can enjoy a big glass of icy and refreshing Southern sweet tea.

Okay, enough chatting, let’s make some sweet tea, y’all!

What You’ll Need to Make Southern Sweet Tea:

ingredients for sweet tea
  • Tea bags
  • Granulated sugar (or Splenda)
  • Water
  • Small sauce pot or a coffeemaker

Helpful Kitchen Tools

How to Make My Sweet Tea Recipe:

brew the tea

Brew the tea

There are two popular ways of brewing tea. The one Mama and I use the most right now (this may change when the wind changes direction) is the sauce pot method.

For half a gallon of tea, put five regular-sized tea bags in a pot. Cover with water (you want about three inches of water in your pot).

You don’t have to worry about taking the tea bag labels off, either.

Now, as Mama says “In a pot, bring tea just to a boil and then remove from heat and turn off the eye.”

Cover and steep the tea for 15 minutes.

Your tea is now ready to be mixed.

You can also place your 5 tea bags INSIDE your coffee pot and run a water cycle through the coffeemaker. Once the cycle goes through, your tea is done and ready to be mixed.

If you do this, though, be careful to remember to remove the coffee grounds from your basket. Growing up, Mama would have supper on the table looking all wonderful and we’d take a sip and discover we were having “coffee tea”. Hehe, we always had fun with her when that happened!

brewed tea

Make the Southern sweet tea

No matter which method you choose, in a matter of minutes, you will have brewed, concentrated tea.

Take your pitcher and fill it about halfway with cold water. Then add your sugar (or Splenda).

This is a VERY important step because if you add your sugar to the hot tea, it will scorch the sugar and you’ll have terribly bitter tea.

add sugar to cold water for sweet tea

So, we want to start with cold water, add the sugar…

add the tea to the sugar water mixture

…THEN add the hot tea.

Adding the brewed tea will warm the water enough that the sugar will easily dissolve. 

stir the tea

Give that a good stir, then serve your sweet tea over ice.

serve sweet tea over ice


So, we always drink the tea fresh. It can be kept in the refrigerator but Southern people prefer fresh sweet tea. Personally, I always throw out the leftovers and start fresh the next day — and so does my Mama. But if you do want to extend the life of your iced tea, use the baking soda trick below and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Recipe Notes

  • There are many tea brands on the market. Mama prefers Luzianne but I usually use Tetley or Red Diamond. Just make sure you get a general blend or orange pekoe tea that’s specifically blended for iced tea (all of these brands will have this marked on the package). Orange pekoe is a generic term for a basic, medium-grade black tea.
  • A handy tip: when you squeeze your tea leaves or tea bag, you release extra tannins which will cause a more bitter taste. So just dump ’em without that extra squeeze.
  • Adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste. You might like more or less and that’s totally fine!

Recipe FAQs

How do you serve Southern sweet tea?

You simply serve sweet tea in a glass with ice. Some people like to add a squeeze of fresh lemon, a dash of bottled lemon juice, or a lemon slice garnish. Mama likes to add an orange slice. Give it a go and see what you think!

What is the mixture of sweet tea?

Sweet tea is simply a mixture of brewed black tea with sugar, served cold over ice.

How long should I steep tea for sweetened iced tea?

You want to steep the black tea bags for up to 15 minutes. The longer you steep, the stronger the tea taste.

So, some Southerners add a pinch of baking soda to their sweet tea to remove any bitterness from the black tea leave tannins. However, this is totally optional and not something I’ve ever done. But if you wanna give it a go, add it to the water when you boil your tea.

How does Paula Deen make sweet tea?

Paula Deen makes sweet tea how I make sweet tea! The only difference is hers includes a garnish of fresh lemon slices and fresh mint.

Check out these other refreshing drink recipes:

Hawaiian Iced Tea (Non-Alcoholic Punch)

Old-Fashioned Lemonade

Iced Cherry Apple Cider Vinegar Tea

Iced Mint Tea Recipe

Sugar-Free Peach Lemonade (2 Ingredients Only)

southern sweet tea

Southern Sweet Tea

Learn how easy it is to make my 2-ingredient Southern sweet tea recipe. It's the most refreshing drink to enjoy on your porch throughout the year!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: tea
Servings: 2 quarts
Calories: 73kcal


  • 5 tea bags
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar


  • Place tea bags in a saucepot or coffee maker (down in the coffee pot). If using the coffee pot, run a cycle of water through it to brew the tea. If using a saucepot, fill it about three inches with water and bring it just to a boil, then remove it from the heat.
    5 tea bags
  • Fill a pitcher halfway with cool water and add sugar. Stir. Then add hot tea and stir again. Add more water, if necessary, to make two quarts. Serve over ice.
    3/4 cup granulated sugar


Calories: 73kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @southernplate or tag #southernplate!

Thank you for reading Southern Plate! Have a GREAT Day!

Similar Posts


  1. My Mom made tea basically the same way. She just used 3 family sized tea bags in a saucepot of water. After it came to a boil, she would take it off the heat, cover it, and let it steep for about 10 minutes or so. She’d then put 2 cups sugar in a gallon pitcher, and put in just enough water to dissolve the sugar. She’d then add the tea and water to fill the pitcher. Everyone loves my Mom’s tea. She is always asked to make the tea for her church functions. If by some small chance there is any left after the event, someone always asks for the leftovers!

  2. I am born and raised in Wisconsin but was raised on sweet tea my mom just called iced tea. I didn’t know it until I ordered iced tea in a local restaurant as an adult and almost spit out the first taste! It had no sweetener at all! That’s when my mom told me she learned to cook when she was still a new bride living in Louisiana where my dad was stationed. Turns out much of the food I grew up on was southern style, I just never knew it!

  3. I moved North many years ago due to marriage and ministry. When I first got here, not one restaurant served sweet tea! The servers would just look at me like a calf staring at a new gate when I asked if they had sweet tea. By the way, sweet tea and iced tea are two completely different things here. It just meant they had tea and it was not sweetened. Down south if you order tea, you don’t have to ask for sweet tea. That was assumed. Now I can’t think of the last restaurant I went into that didn’t have sweet tea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe or Post Rating