Best Sweet Tea

5 from 2 votes
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This refreshing homemade best iced tea is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day. Perfect when garnished with lemon and mint for a dynamite combination.

tea in a pitcher with sliced lemons, mint, and ice
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a tall glass of tea with a lemon slice and mint next to a pitcher of tea with lemon sliced and mint leaves in it

Easy Sweet Iced Tea

Sweet tea is an old tradition in the south and people like it all kinds of ways. My husband’s aunt is from Virginia, and she use to add equal parts sugar and water for her iced tea. Turned out to be a little sweet for my taste but I do love a refreshing glass of this classic southern staple!

Homemade black iced sweet tea is super simple to make and costs almost nothing to make. I like to use Harney and Sons tea in summer and winter for my daily draft. Whether you like sweetened or unsweetened tea this recipe can easily fit your needs (simply omit the sugar for the perfect iced tea). There are many variations on iced tea but I love to add fresh mint and lemon slices to mine for a nice acidic and peppery hit.

picture of tea in a pitcher with sliced lemons, mint, and ice

How to Make Perfect Sweet Tea

First you will need to assemble the following ingredients:

  • Water – water is the base for this, don’t have to use filtered water, strait from the tap is just fine.
  • Black Tea Bags – I prefer to use Harney and Sons tea, the trick to delicious iced tea is good tea bags so use what you like. I use English Breakfast in this recipe.
  • Sugar – I use granulated sugar to sweeten my tea but you can use honey if you prefer.
  • Lemon Slices and Mint – these garnishes add a sharpness and herbaceous heat that perfectly complements the tea.

When you have assembled the ingredients, use this method:

  • Make sugar water. Heat some of the water and sugar in a pan and stir till the sugar is dissolved.
  • Soak. Remove the sugar water from the heat and add the tea bags, let them seep for 10 minutes before removing.
  • Taste. Add the remaining water and mix. Taste the mixture once it has cooled and add some honey if you want it sweeter.
  • Cool and Garnish. Set the tea in the refrigerator until completely cooled. Serve over ice with lemon and mint.
a tall glass with tea, ice, mint, and slices of lemon in it

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Sweet Tea

Tea Selection: The type of tea you choose will significantly influence the flavor. For a classic Southern sweet tea, black tea bags are usually preferred. Orange pekoe and pekoe cut black are popular choices.

Quality Water: Since tea is mainly water, the quality of your water can affect the taste. Using filtered or spring water can result in a cleaner and more pure tea flavor.

Brew Strength: A good sweet tea has a strong flavor. To get this, use one tea bag for every cup of water. For a gallon of sweet tea, you might use 12-15 regular size tea bags.

Brewing Time: Over-steeping can make the tea taste bitter. Aim for a steeping time of about 3-5 minutes. If you prefer stronger tea, add more tea bags instead of increasing the steeping time.

Sweetener: Traditional sweet tea uses granulated sugar, but you can also use honey, agave nectar, or a sugar substitute like Stevia. Add the sweetener while the tea is hot so it dissolves thoroughly.

Cold Brew Option: For a smoother and less bitter tea, consider cold brewing. This process involves steeping the tea in cold water for an extended period (generally 6-12 hours).

Chilling: After brewing and sweetening your tea, let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge. This prevents it from getting cloudy.

Serving: Always serve sweet tea over a full glass of ice for a refreshing experience. Consider adding a slice of lemon, a sprig of mint, or even a few fresh berries for an added twist.

Making in Advance: If you’re making sweet tea for a gathering, it’s an excellent option for making ahead of time. It can easily last in the fridge for a couple of days without losing its flavor.

Wait to add ice. Don’t add the ice when the tea is still hot. Wait until you are ready to drink otherwise it will water down the mixture without cooling it much.

Don’t forget the garnish. The garnishes are more for just looks in this recipe. You will want the flavor of the garnishes to enhance the tea flavor.

FAQs

What type of tea should I use for sweet tea? The traditional choice for sweet tea is black tea, with orange pekoe and pekoe cut black being popular choices. However, you can also experiment with green tea or flavored black teas for a different taste.

2. When should I add the sugar? Adding sugar while the tea is still hot will help it dissolve completely, ensuring your tea is smooth and not gritty.

3. My tea looks cloudy. What did I do wrong?

4. Can I use artificial sweeteners?

5. Can I make sweet tea without boiling water?

6. How long does sweet tea last in the refrigerator?

7. Can I add flavors to my sweet tea?

8.

How long will the iced tea last?

Iced tea should be kept in the refrigerator and will keep in an airtight container for 4-6 days.

Can I make this decaf?

To make this decaf simply use a decaf black tea like this one.

Is sweet tea better with loose leaf tea or tea bags?

Both can work well, but tea bags are often chosen for convenience. If you prefer loose leaf tea, make sure to strain it well before adding your sweetener.

Can I add flavors to my sweet tea?

Yes, you can add various flavors to your sweet tea. Popular additions include lemon slices, fresh mint, or a splash of fruit juice.

My tea looks cloudy. What did I do wrong?

Cloudiness can happen if the tea is refrigerated before it has cooled to room temperature. To avoid this, let your tea cool on the counter before putting it in the fridge.

Can I use artificial sweeteners?

Yes, you can use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar. However, the flavor may not be quite the same as traditional sweet tea made with sugar.

How long does sweet tea last in the refrigerator?

Sweet tea can typically last in the fridge for up to a week, although it’s best consumed within the first few days for optimal flavor.

Can I make sweet tea without boiling water?

Yes, you can make a cold brew sweet tea by steeping tea bags in cold water for 6 to 12 hours in the refrigerator. Cold brewing can result in a smoother, less bitter tea – but you will need to use a simple syrup to sweeten tea.

tea in a tall glass next to a pitcher of sweet tea

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tea in a tall glass next to a pitcher of sweet tea

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sweet tea in a pitcher with ice and lemon
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Best Iced Tea

Refreshing lightly sweetened iced tea is perfect for a hot summer's day!
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Keyword black tea, cold, cold drinks, English breakfast, harney and sons, iced tea, summer drinks, summer tea, tea
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 8kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of water divided
  • 6 bags black tea
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • Garnish: lemon slices fresh mint

Instructions

  • Bring a saucepan with the sugar and ? cup of water to a simmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar. 
  • Add the tea bags to the saucepan and and let seep for 10 minutes. 
  • Remove the tea bags and taste mixture. 
  • If you want it sweeter try adding a bit of honey. 
  • Add the remaining water to the tea and refrigerate about an hour or until mixture is completely cooled. 
  • Serve over ice with mint and fresh lemon slices.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 8kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Sodium: 13mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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2 Comments

  1. Ivory says:

    I love ice tea, especially during hot summer months. I will be making this. Thanks for sharing

    1. Katherine says:

      Its one of my favorite summer drinks too! Enjoy!