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

Two large glass bottles filled with Southern sweet tea.

Sweet Tea

4.84 / 6 votes
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.
David Leite
Servings12 servings
Calories54 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • 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.)

Adapted From

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea

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Serving: 1 cupCalories: 54 kcalCarbohydrates: 14 gProtein: 1 gFat: 1 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gSodium: 1 mgPotassium: 25 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 13 gVitamin A: 4 IUVitamin C: 10 mgCalcium: 5 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2008 Martha Hall Foose. Photo © 2008 enigmachck. All rights reserved.

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!!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I have long ice tea spoons….( I am a southern girl) but they do not hang on the glasses. I clicked on the link, but it said there were no products found. I sure would like to see what they look like and where to purchase them! I loved the story and recipe.

    1. Lin, the link worked back when we first posted it, but the company must be temporarily out of stock or (heaven forbid) must have discontinued carrying those particular spoons. We’re researching what happened and seeking an alternate source and will be back in touch….

        1. Lin and everyone else interested in those crooked neck spoons, we have swell news! The company still carries them, they simply changed the link. Here you go, click away, whether you prefer 6-inch, 7-inch, or 8-inch spoons….

          1. You are so very welcome, Lin! Can’t wait to hear how you like them…!

          2. Renee, I ordered them July 24th, and received a message today, Aug. 21st, that they are discontinued. These spoons are elusive I do believe!

          3. Oh Lin, I’m so sorry to hear that! Damn, they are elusive! But I appreciate you letting us know. Okay, so back to square one. Anyone know where to find sweet tea spoons?

          4. Not sure if these are exactly the spoons everyone is looking for, and I’m only about a year late on the response, but I just found these online and thought someone may enjoy it. They seem quite reasonably priced, 12 for only $20 in 6, 7 or 8 inches. Hope this helps!

          5. And one of our staffers just suggested this site, too. Good luck, everyone, and let us know if you order them!

  2. Nothing better on a hot summer day than a cold glass of sweet tea. Off to make a batch right now.

  3. Hi Renee,

    I’m checking in concerning the iced tea spoons. I guess you didn’t hear anything from Martha about a source. I have purchased her book and have enjoyed reading it and planning which recipes to try.

    I’m still hoping Martha can help us find the spoons somewhere. Thanks for trying.


    1. PattyK, I just noticed: Natalie W, in the comment thread up above, has posted a link to some spoons (Renee commented there as well). Looks like there will be some very happy tea drinkers soon. And I must say, right now I’d do just about anything for a glass of this. Cheers!

    2. There are not crooked iced tea spoons, but there are curved iced tea spoons, which I think are the same thing.