How to Make Southern Style Sweet Tea

5 from 8 votes
Jump to RecipePin

Site Index Drinks Iced tea

This post may contain affiliate links. See my privacy policy for details.

There is nothing more refreshing than a tall glass of cool, refreshing southern style sweet tea. It’s the PERFECT drink for any occasion, affordable, and ridiculously easy to make!

You can use this to make an Arnold Palmer Drink as well, another great mocktail recipe.

2 glasses and a pitcher of Southern Style Sweet Tea garnish with a slice of lemon
Southern Style Sweet Tea

Southern Style Sweet Tea History

Southern style sweet tea is a staple in every southern household and you’ll nearly always find a pitcher in the fridge for cooling off during the summer months. The first tea plantations in the US arrived in South Carolina back in 1795 and the first sweet tea recipe dates back to 1879, so it’s been around for a while.

This popular drink is served at every kind of Southern gathering from potlucks to funerals. Even when dining out in the South, it’s assumed that the waiter will bring an ice-  cold glass of sweet tea to the table whenever tea is ordered. Now, don’t be me and order ICED TEA, because you are going to get straight up cold, iced orange pekoe tea with no sugar – I have learned my lesson from travelling in the States a lot hahah! You have to order it sweet.

close up glass of Southern Style Sweet Tea garnish with a slice of lemon,

How To Make Southern Style Sweet Tea

This is so quick and easy to make you’ll get the hang of it in no time! One thing that’s commonly debated is just how sweet this tea should be, but the great thing about making your own is you can make it just as sweet as you like!

  1. Place the tea bags and baking soda into a measuring glass (4 cup size and make sure it’s heat safe and shatterproof).
  2. Pour in 4 cups of boiling water.
  3. Let it steep for around 15 minutes. If you’re using a weaker brand you’ll need to let it steep a bit longer.
  4. Take out the tea bags and stir in the sugar.
  5. Make sure the sugar is dissolved.
  6. Cool down the measuring cup by adding some ice into the hot liquid. 
  7. When it’s cooled down a bit, pour the liquid into a heat-safe glass pitcher. I use Pyrex jugs but as long as it’s heat safe and can hold 8-10 cups then it’s fine!
  8. Add in the rest of the ice and stir until the tea is at the strength you like.
  9. You don’t want the ice cubes to dilute it any further once it’s just right, so make sure that you take out any extra left in there.
  10. Have a sip to taste the tea after the ice melts and add a bit more water if it’s too strong for you.
  11. You can also add some sliced lemon to the pitcher to soak if you like a lemon flavour.

sweet tea ingredients, tea bags and measuring cup on a white board

Tips and Tricks For Southern Style Sweet Tea

This might be a traditional recipe but you can still customize it to suit your own tastes!

  • The flavour of sweet tea improves the more chilled it gets, so it’s always a good idea to chill your sweet tea completely before drinking it.
  • Don’t store it in the refrigerator for longer than a week or it’ll start to go off.
  • If you don’t like lemon but want to add something extra, try adding a sprig of mint or flavoured syrups.
  • You can also transform this into a tasty alcoholic beverage by adding a shot of bourbon or the liquor of your choice.
  • If you want your sweet tea a bit stronger you can add the tea and sugar together and let the tea steep for 2-3 hours. Be careful though because over-steeping will make very bitter tea (unless that’s what you like).
  • If your friends and family have different levels of sweet toothiness (totally a word!) you can make a simple syrup to go with your sweet tea so that everyone can sweeten their own to their tastes.
  • For a decaf version just use decaf tea bags or decaffeinated regular tea.
  • If your tea looks a bit cloudy just add a little baking soda to make it crystal clear to it looks as refreshing as it tastes!


close up glass of Southern Style Sweet Tea garnish with a slice of lemon,

More Refreshing Drinks Recipes

If you fancy something a little stronger than tea to cool you down this summer, why not try one of these delicious cocktail recipes!

The Hemingway Daiquiri

Pineapple Mango Margarita Recipe

How to Make a Red Wine Sangria

How to Make a Sea Breeze Cocktail

close up glass of Southern Style Sweet Tea garnish with a slice of lemon,

Now that we finally have the nice weather to sit outside, make a pitcher of this and enjoy the sunshine! Of course I might speak too soon, we have been getting rainy and cold days here in Edmonton. Make sure to try this out however, it’s an new favorite for Mike and I!




Sweet and perfect for sipping, my trick to making this delicious Southern sweet tea has you drinking it right away - without any refrigeration time!

Enter your email to get this recipe emailed to you, so you don’t lose it and get new recipes daily!

How to Make Southern Style Sweet Tea

Sweet and perfect for sipping, my trick to making this delicious Southern sweet tea has you drinking it right away - without any refrigeration time!
5 from 8 votes
close up glass of Southern Style Sweet Tea garnish with a slice of lemon,
Prep Time
25 minutes
8 cups
10 cup capacity heat proof glass pitcher
Karlynn Johnston


  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 black tea bags
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 cups of ice cubes
  • 2 cups cool water ( if required to dilute the tea)
  • lemon sliced into wheels if desired


  • Place the tea bags and the baking soda into a 4 cup glass shatterproof and heat safe measuring glass.
  • Pour in the 4 cups of boiling water. You don't have to stir.
  • Depending on the brand of tea, you need to let it steep for 15-18 minutes. If the brand you choose is a weaker black tea, then you have to steep longer.
  • Once the time is up. remove the tea bags, and discard.
  • Stir in the sugar until dissolved.
  • Place some ice into the hot liquid in the measuring cup to cool it down a bit. Once it's not boiling hot anymore pour into an 8-10 cup capacity heat safe glass pitcher. ( I use the Pyrex jugs of course)!Then you are going to add in the remaining ice and stir until the tea reaches the desired strength. Remove any extra ice cubes to prevent it from diluting further.
  • Add in more water if the tea is too strong for you after the ice melts, my tea was strong and I added more water after the ice cubes.
  • If you like lemon flavor, slice up a lemon and add it to the pitcher and let soak.
  • Enjoy right away!

Recipe Notes

  • By using the ice cubes you are cooling down the iced tea faster so you can drink it right away! I hate waiting!
  • The nutritional info will vary depending on how many servings you make, if you add more water etc everything changes. 

Nutrition Information

Calories: 48kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Sodium: 26mg, Sugar: 12g, Calcium: 4mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

Made this recipe?

Share a photo of what you made on Instagram or Facebook and tag me @thekitchenmagpie or hashtag it #thekitchenmagpie.

Please rate this recipe in the comments below to help out your fellow cooks!

Learn to cook like the Kitchen Magpie

A Very Prairie Christmas Bakebook

Cookies, Candies, Cakes & More: Vintage Baking to Celebrate the Festive Season!

Learn More

a copy of Flapper Pie cook book

Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky

A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts

Learn More

The Prairie Table

Suppers, Potlucks & Socials: Crowd-Pleasing Recipes to Bring People Together

Learn More

Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

Learn more about me

Site Index Drinks Iced tea

Reader Interactions

Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!

  1. Diane Gibbons says

    I haven’t made this yet but I as wondering what the baking soda is for?

Leave a Comment or Recipe Tip

Recipe Rating