Southern Iced Tea

For a time I thought sharing recipes that most households already have in their normal rotation was kind of silly. But I then realized that I started this blog to share recipes in hopes that it would help someone get supper on the table without a lot of fuss. What may be simple for some, may not be for others. So I think it is a fine time to share how to make the perfect Southern Iced Tea. 

Making the perfect southern iced tea can be quite simple. However, if you were to ask all your family and friends how they make it, I bet you would get a different answer from each of them. Not only that, but each one would boast that theirs is the best iced tea around.  Like most southern households, we grew up with iced tea being our main beverage and readily available at every meal. So naturally, there is always a pitcher of tea in our refrigerator ready to quench your thirst any time of day and any time of year. 

Sweet tea could be easily called the house wine of the South. Almost every home has iced tea whenever you stop by for a visit.  At church suppers, family meals, reunions, or any kind of get together you can be sure there will be some form of tea served.  

An important element to making the perfect southern iced tea begin with the tea bags and allowing for a bit of steep time. Any southerner will argue that there is a certain brand that makes the best iced tea. I am not so much a brand snob when it comes to tea but I do agree certain brands are better than others for iced tea.  What makes a good tea for one person may be completely different for someone else.  Experiment until you find the right tea brand that suites you. 

Did you know that South Carolina was the first place in the United States where tea was grown and the only place where it was ever produced commercially? The oldest sweet tea recipe in print can be traced to a community cookbook published in 1879 titled “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” by Marion Cabell Tyree.  

One common complaint when it comes to making iced tea is the bitterness. Bitterness in tea is caused by overcooking and burning the tea leaves. Tea should never be boiled in the pan, you want the water to warm just before a simmer and then let the tea steep in the warm water.  To counter the bitterness, add a pinch of baking soda, about 1/8 of a teaspoon into the hot, steeped tea after you remove the bags. It will not affect the taste of your tea, and will provide insurance against the bitterness. 

Want to fancy up your glass, serve your southern iced tea with lemon wedges and sprigs of mint. One sip and I bet you will instantly transport to a time with your Grandma on the front porch swing laughing and having the time of your life. One thing is for certain, making the perfect southern iced tea comes down to your own preference. Many generations in my family have passed down the love of iced tea. We may not technically make the perfect southern iced tea by steeping versus boiling and such, but we do make it to the liking of our family. If you put your heart and love into something, it is felt by all those that enjoy it and that to me is perfection. 


Southern Sweet Tea

2 Family Size Tea Bags
1 cup of sugar (we prefer our tea a little less sweet) 
1 gallon of water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (to help with bitterness)

In a small saucepan fill with water and add the tea bags. Bring the water to just under a boil and turn off. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to steep. In a gallon pitcher, add 1/2 gallon of cold water and sugar. Remove the tea bags and add the baking soda and stir. Pour into the pitcher and continue to add water to fill the pitcher and stir. Chill in the fridge. 

Shared at these great parties:
Meal Plan Monday


  1. As a midwest girl, I am always looking at Southern Tea recipes trying to learn the tricks. Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. I am so glad it was a help. Sweet tea is something that is always in my fridge and its what I grew up on. Without it, I am lost! Have an awesome day!

  2. House wine of the South, love it and agree! Learned the baking soda trick a couple of years ago, sure makes a difference.

  3. House wine of the South, love it and agree! Learned the baking soda trick a couple of years ago, sure makes a difference.

    1. Thanks Lynn, yes that tip does make a difference! Cheers!!

  4. While going to prepare a tea, you need to own a teaspoon and a strainer that will help you to brew the loose tea. Immortalitea

  5. What is a family size tea we only have the small size..thank you

    1. It is about the equivalent of 3 small tea bags. Hope that helps.

  6. Just found your site...looking forward to trying the baking soda tip. I have been checking several blogs for menu suggestions...It would be soooo helpful.


I love hearing from you. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving me a comment!

Subscribe to my weekly newsletters for free recipes, tips, and printables.

* indicates required