The BEST Sweet Tea Recipe
THE HISTORY OF SWEETENED TEA
Sweet Tea is commonly known as brewed tea that has been sweetened with sugar, then served ice cold in a refreshing manner.
Sweetened tea began as an item of southern luxury due to the expensive nature of its basic ingredients: tea, ice, and sugar. Ice was the most valued of the ingredients since it had to be shipped from afar at a time when getting your hands on cool drinking water was already a stretch. The South being as hot as it is, iced sweet tea slowly but surely became the refreshing drink of choice.
The appeal is pretty clear: ice cold tea with heaps of sugar to cut that tea tartness. Most Southerners would like you to believe that there is a real science to making this beverage but I think that’s just a bunch of hoopla that has been brainwashing folks for years.
The reality is that it’s quite simple to make a good ole fashioned Homemade Sweet Tea Recipe. I almost didn’t have a real recipe to share in this post. In fact, the recipe below is more of a guideline than a set recipe to follow to the tee.
DOES SWEET TEA HAVE CAFFEINE IN IT?
Yes. On average, an 8 ounce serving of this drink will contain anywhere from 20-50 mg of caffeine. Caffeine content will depend on how strongly you brew your tea. The more teabags you use, or the longer you allow them to steep, the stronger the tea will be. Don’t sweat it too much though, the added ice will dilute the strength a bit.
HOW TO MAKE SWEET TEA
When it comes to creating a Southern sweet tea recipe, you can pretty much follow your gut (and taste buds) through the process to create a rendition that will satisfy your thirst whenever necessary.
So really you only need like 3 (or 4) things to create this homemade drink:
- Tea bags
- If you want to get fancy, lemon.
That’s it. Why folks make this such a big deal is beyond me. And some ice, don’t forget how good iced tea can be.
We personally throw tea bags directly into boiling hot water and allow them to brew, releasing the essence of the tea. Once the color of the tea reaches a deep auburn, we remove the teabags and allow it to come to room temperature.
Then, I tuck the tea into the fridge where it’ll get nice and cold. Y’all I count the seconds until I can pour myself a tall glass over ice!
HOW MUCH SUGAR IS IN SWEET TEA?
In regards to sugar content, it’s kind of subjective. I know folks who love their tea to taste as sweet as candy and then others that like it a bit on the bitter side. The sweetness will depend solely on your personal preference.
An average sweet tea recipe will contain approximately 25 grams of sugar per 16 ounce serving.
Tip: The safest way to approach this is by adding half of the sugar, allowing it to dissolve completely and then tasting and deciding how much more to add.
IS SWEETENED TEA GOOD FOR YOU?
Southern sweet tea has one major benefit: It’s made with real, home-brewed black tea. Black tea is a great source of fluoride, which keeps your teeth strong, and a variety of antioxidants that protect your cells from damage.
However, this tea recipe does offer a heavy dose of sugar as well which, if not consumed in moderation, can counter those same benefits.
I’d recommend either fitting a sweetened tea into your diet as an occasional treat, reducing the amount of sugar, or using a healthy sugar substitute of your choice.
LEMON OR MINT?
That’s more of a new aged thing to some. My big mama certainly would think so but I love adding them to my pitcher because of the additional flavor infused in the tea and how lovely it looks swirly around in my mason jar.
For entertaining you can add them to your pitcher or even add other fruits to make the colors pop! My Peach Sweet Tea is a great recipe to try!
WHAT TEA BRAND SHOULD I USE FOR MY HOMEMADE SWEET TEA RECIPE?
When it is all said and done, making a Southern Sweet Tea Recipe is no sweat, believe me, and it is a very personal thing. Make it your own and enjoy a big glass for me, okay?
Southern Sweet Tea Recipe
- 5 cups water
- 5-6 tea bags depending on how strong you want your tea
- 2/3- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar depending on how sweet you want it
- Optional: lemon and mint
- Add water to a medium sized pot and boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, turn off heat and add tea bags. Steep for 10-25 minutes (depending on strength you prefer).
- Stir in sugar in increments until it completely dissolves into the hot tea.
- Remove tea bags from pot then pour tea into a large pitcher.
- Add enough water to fill the pitcher then add lemon wedges and mint (if you would like for garnish and flavor).
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add ice to glasses and serve.