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Editor's Recipes: Southern Sweet Tea - How to Make It Great! - Budget Copy Cat Recipes

Southern Sweet Tea
Copyright by Michelle Jones

Having lived throughout the south for my entire life, there's one thing I can tell you for sure... life is just a whole lot sweeter with a glass of iced Sweet Tea!  And making Sweet Tea at home is not only easy, it's a lot less expensive than buying it at restaurants!

Now, it depends on how sweet you like it, but this is the way many southerners make their tea (and the way my grandmother used to make it--although she used an old fashioned metal ball to hold the tea leaves and we use regular tea bags that are thankfully more common now.)


8-10 regular size tea bags, or 4-5 family size (use any kind of tea you like, although I highly recommend Luzianne® or Lipton Iced Tea Brew®, I buy extra when they go on sale because we use decaf and it's more expensive than regular--experiment with different flavored teas too, it's fun!)

Small or medium pot of water, with a lid that fits well

1 cup of sugar, or more to taste (to make sugar-free sweet tea, substitute 3/4 cup Splenda® instead of 1 cup of regular sugar)

1 gallon-sized pitcher (or a big pickle jar)


Add the sugar to pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. (If using Splenda® or other artificial sweetener, add later; just bring water to a boil by itself.)

It doesn't matter how much water you boil; just make sure it gets really hot and bubbly. If you remembered to put the sugar in already, you're doing great. Now get your tea bags ready so that when the water comes to a boil you can toss them in.

As soon as you add the tea bags to the boiling water, the water may act like it's about to boil over. I usually add the tea bags in with one hand, and then take the pot off the stove with the other. That way the hot bubbles have a chance to stir the tea up a bit, getting them off to a good brewing start.

Cover the pot and let the tea steep for as long as possible. It will be good in 20 minutes, but even better in a few hours. Then pour the tea syrup (that’s what it's called when made with sugar this way) into your gallon-sized pitcher and fill with water. (If you're using Splenda instead of sugar, this is when you'll stir that in; while the tea is still warm.) Now gently squeeze the tea bags to get as much tea as possible into the water. We don’t waste a drop!

Well that’s it, your Southern Sweet Tea is ready to serve!

Pour tea into a glass (pretty canning jars are a southern favorite), filled with ice, and serve with a slice of lemon if desired.

Additional Notes...

Sweet tea will keep in the fridge for about 2 days, after that it’s time to make a fresh batch, if there’s any left! HA

Sweet tea made with Splenda will stay fresh much longer, and I can get away with just using 3/4 cup.

My kids love to help me make the tea so they can add more (regular) sugar but 1 cup really is enough for a gallon. 1 and 1/3 cup is what they call perfect! :o)

Always make sure your pitcher is washed and clean, including the lid. A quick rinse is not enough!

Also, do NOT leave your tea syrup sitting on the stove overnight, that is a big no no. It's a breeding ground for bacteria. If you start to make your tea and forget to put it in the fridge you'll need to toss it down the drain in the morning and make a new batch, don't even think about using it.

Great SWEET TEA must be FRESH!!!


Source: "Frugal Family Recipes" by Michelle Jones, available at

Photos copyright by Michelle Jones and Blue Ridge Publishing, Inc.

(We make this several times a week, and it's as delicious as it looks! :o)