Southern Sweet Tea

Southern sweet tea is something you’re going to want to make by the gallon. Here’s how to make it with cold brew tea bags of any sort, whether Lipton or any other brand.

Southern sweet tea. Also known as “the house wine of the South.” Nothing slakes thirst, quells worries, and comes together with quite as much ease. Rest assured, it’s divine any way you serve it, whether on the front porch or resting somewhere blessed by air condition.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Sweet Tea

Two large glass bottles filled with Southern sweet tea.
Southern sweet tea is something you’re going to want to make by the gallon. Here’s how to make it with cold brew tea bags of any sort, whether Lipton or any other brand.
Martha Hall Foose

Prep 5 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 40 mins
12 servings
54 kcal
4.80 / 5 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Screen Doors and Sweet Tea cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • 4 pitcher-size cold-brew tea bags or 6 tablespoons orange pekoe tea leaves in a diffuser
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Ice cubes
  • 2 lemons sliced
  • Mint sprig (optional)


  • Place the tea bags in a large pitcher. Pour in 3 quarts (12 cups) of cold water and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of cold water and the sugar to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and turns into what’s known as a sugar syrup.
  • Remove and discard the tea bags from the pitcher. Add the sugar syrup to the tea and stir. Serve the tea over ice, with lemon and mint, if desired. If you're serving the sweet tea with lemon slices, pass them on the side so that the juice can be squeezed into the tea and the lemon discarded. (If the pith is left to wallow in the glass, its bitterness will infuse the tea.)
Print RecipeBuy the Screen Doors and Sweet Tea cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 54kcal (3%)Carbohydrates: 14g (5%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 1g (2%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 25mg (1%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 13g (14%)Vitamin A: 4IUVitamin C: 10mg (12%)Calcium: 5mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I made two batches of this sweet tea recipe for a large summer dinner, and both easily qualify as a Testers Choice. The first I made with the orange pekoe tea. I steeped for precisely the 30 minutes specified and used precisely the 3/4 cup sugar and 3 quarts (or 12 cups) of water for the sugar syrup. I generously infused the fresh mint from our garden into the finished sweet tea before serving and provided lemons on the side. Delicious and refreshing! I felt I could have used less tea or more water, since the resulting tea was strong. I like that, but not everyone does. Greater dilution would be wise for anyone concerned about their evening caffeine intake—this was very strong black tea!

Since we had so much mint in the garden, I made the second batch solely with mint, and no black tea, creating a Sweet Mint Tea reminiscent of the tea that’s ceremoniously poured at all the couscous restaurants in Paris, for example, and at some Middle Eastern restaurants here in the States as well. To get a flavorful Sweet Mint Tea with fresh leaves, I used 3 cups of fresh mint leaves, which would roughly translate to 1 cup of dried (or slightly more than three times the amount of mint as black tea) for full mint flavor. Nonetheless, I used the same amount of steeping time, and quantities of sugar and water as with the orange pekoe batch. Again, delicious and refreshing!!

Originally published July 02, 2020


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 5 stars
    When I read or hear the words “southern sweet tea” I usually cringe and my teeth hurt. What that translates to is tea sugar syrup with some heavy tannins from over steeped tea bags. So this was a pleasant surprise. It’s very easy to make and delicate in flavor due to the cold brew method giving us good tea flavor and no tannic harshness (I used the large family size ice tea bags from Luzianne) and has the right amount of sweetness that is not cloying and just right for an actual refreshing ice tea.

  2. I found the “Hanging Iced Tea Spoons” at They are about $10.00 for six. Hope these are the ones you are looking for..:)

    they are less than $10.00 for six..

  3. I like Arnold Palmer ice tea!! In restaurants, I ask for “unsweetened” ice tea and lemonade and let the lemonade sweeten the tea for me. Can I assume to use this recipe without the sugar to make a good unsweetened ice tea??

    1. Mark, we haven’t tried this recipe without the sugar so I can’t say for certain but it certainly seems as if it should work as an unsweetened tea recipe. Kindly let us know what you think!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish