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.

Two large glass bottles filled with Southern sweet tea.

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

☞ Table of Contents

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.

Prep 5 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 40 mins
12 servings
54 kcal
4.84 / 6 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Screen Doors and Sweet Tea cookbook

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  • 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%)

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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



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

    2. 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. I would like to share a recipe for “Blanche’s Mint Iced Tea”; Blanche being my grandmother’s cook circa 1930’s until the 1960’s. Blanche’s kitchen was in Bay City, Texas, and many, if not most, of the cooking was “Old South”, albeit with a Texas influence.

    Fresh mint (about 1 doz. sprigs or more)
    Two lemons, plus more for garnish
    Six teabags or equivalent

    1. Combine the mint, juice of two lemons, and tea bags in a pan. Pour 1 1/2 quarts of boiling water over the top and let stand for about an hour.

    2. Boil 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar that’s been dissolved in the water for 3 minutes. Let cool.

    3. Pour the sugar-water mixture into tall iced tea glasses, fill with ice, and then pour the tea mixture into the glasses through a strainer to capture the mint.

    4.) Stir with long (preferably sterling) iced tea spoons, add lemon slices that are split halfway on the edge of each glass, and enjoy.

    Absolutely spectacular!

    Paris E. Smith
    Alkmaar, The Netherlands

    1. Boiling water is our way as well! I think it’s a bit more robust but one should taste tea with the sweet. I have switched to neighbor’s honey as my sweetener when I have it.
      Blanche lives on!

    2. What a charming story and compelling recipe, Paris! We always appreciate hearing of new—or new to us—recipes, but the weather this past week makes this one particularly welcome. Thank you.

  3. Could Martha tell me where to purchase crooked neck spoons that hang on the side of a tea glass. I would love to have a set of 8 too. Thanks!

      1. Thank you so much for asking Martha for a source. I’ve checked around but haven’t found them yet, so she may be our only hope. I have been making her sweet tea and love it, but it seems to be missing something without the spoon.

        1. You’re very welcome, Patty. I understand exactly what you mean about those spoons, and will let you know as soon as I hear from Martha (or otherwise suss out a source!). Or perhaps someone else has a crooked-neck spoon connection…?

          1. PattyK, I just happened upon long “ice cream spoons” by accident and thought of you…they’re not the same and don’t have the crooked neck, but just in case these sort of suffice until we come up with the right ones…

          2. Renee,
            Thanks so much for thinking of me. They would serve the purpose even if they lack the charm. I was just looking through Martha’s book yesterday and I’m feeling the urge for more sweet tea.

          3. Thanks from me, too, Natalie. Our weather is so hot, a tall glass of iced tea with a crooked neck spoon will hit the spot.

          4. Some say curved handle, others say crooked neck. All the same! These are perfect, Natalie! A triumph! Thank you. PattyK, did you hear? It’s a shame our order won’t be here in time for the long weekend, but I dare say our sweet tea will taste all the sweeter knowing that these spoons do, in fact, still exist. Natalie, you have our most sincere gratitude.

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