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Sweet Tea-The House Wine of the South When life hands you lemons… squeeze them into some sweet iced tea and thank God you were born a southern girl!

Southerners love iced tea and drink it by the gallon!  We even like it in a Mason jar.  It was Dolly Parton in the movie, Steel Magnolias, that called Southern sweet tea, “the house wine of the South”.  There was never a truer statement. Talk about the South and sooner or later sweet tea comes to mind. Southerners love this sweet liquid and Southern girls are taught to make it by their Southern mamas.  In the South, sweet tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it before you can walk. Sweet tea makes Southerners think of home, tradition, picnics and hot afternoons “sippin” sweet tea while “swayin” in the swing on the front porch.  Southern girls know you can’t be considered a serious Southern belle unless you know how to make sweet tea.

There are lots of ways to make sweet tea but it has to have sugar.  In many cases, the more sugar the better and I prefer to use Luzianne tea.

4 family sized tea bags
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
3 quarts water
Bring the water to a boil. Remove from stove and add sugar so it will dissolve in the hot water. Add tea bags and let steep about 30 minutes.  Pour in enough water and ice to make a gallon of tea.
(I like a couple sprigs of mint in my iced tea, too)
Some people add a pinch of baking soda. This is supposed to keep the tea from becoming cloudy.   Enjoy!
I think John Egerton said it best when he said:   “Iced tea is too pure and natural a creation not to have been invented as soon as tea, ice, and hot weather crossed paths”.

105 Responses

  1. Southerners do love their Luzianne! That is one refreshing looking drink.

    • Yep…Luzianne is the best….

    • I had some tea once that was they called Magnolia Tea. It was awesome.I know they used lipton tea, lemon and seven fruit juices,but they wouldn’t share. Have you ever heard of this tea, if so will you share.I just found your site and I love it.

      • I have not heard of this tea and wondered if any one had given you the recipe…. would like to try it if some one sent it to you…thanks..

      • I had some tea that was similar- I’m wondering if it is the same. It was served at The Cracker Barrel Restaurants in the South a few years ago. They never repeated it. It was amazing. It was only on the summer menu. If anyone has that recipe, I would love it.


    • This southern girl uses Lipton tea (6 family size ) 2 cups sugar, heat 4 cups of water to hot not boiling (this will keep it from clouding) when water is hot add tea bags and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes put sugar in pitcher and add tea and stir till sugar is meltled add cold water to used tea bags ring out tea bags and add to pitcher and stir, then finish filling gal size pitcher with cold water and stir. Now thats southern sweet tea..

    • Love that Luzianne and wish we could buy it in Canada, eh?

    • Does anyone have a good recipe for tea for diabetics?

      • I use Sweet n Low in my Luzianne sun brewed ice tea.
        I brew it in a gallon pickle jar with four family sized tea bags. I press the tea bags to get the liquid out and put it in the frig to cool. I then take it out and add 7-8 little bags of Sweet n Low. I always get compliments on my tea even from non diabetic people.

    • I make 2 gallons a day…I have a gallon with me at all times. even at work…From the South but live in Ohio…lol

  2. Whoa…all that sugar? Wow…that’s some sweet tea.

    • You really only need 1 1/2 cups of sugar….its plenty sweet enough.
      You also can brew it in a automatic coffee maker and pour it in a gallon jug and add the sugar. (Much easier than boiling the water on the stove.) Fill the jug with water after the sugar melts.

      • I know I’m late, but this is EXACTLY what I do. I use three family size tea bags (Lipton) that I run through my coffee maker. Then, I pour the hot tea from the carafe over 1 1/2 cups of sugar in my gallon pitcher. I stir until the sugar is dissolved, fill the pitcher up the rest of the way with ice, stir again, and bam. Delicious sweet tea. 🙂

  3. I love sweet tea, too, Judy. Especially when it’s so hot—as it has been lately here in the NC mountains.

  4. In my part of the south (Louisiana) we don’t even have to say sweet tea, we just say tea because all tea is sweet unless you specify that you want unsweetened tea, and WHY would anyone want that!!! hahaha

  5. I’m from Canada and want to know what “family size tea bags” are. Are they bigger than usual as per cup size?
    Dwayne Schuett

    • Hi Dwayne! Yes, a family sized tea bag makes two quarts of tea where the smaller ones only make a cup. Thanks for stopping by and for your question. Have a good week!

      • I am from Chicago area but with southern ties. I have been using a receipe from on line but would love to make “real” Southern Sweet Tea and use your receipe. I am trying to convert the family size to a regular tea bag but it sounds like alot of tea bags. Can you suggest how many regular size bags you would use?
        Thank you.

      • Hi Lisa, I would use 3 small tea bags for each large family sized tea bag.

      • To Lisa….
        I was raised with Parents from the south (Louisiana) and we grew up on Sweet Tea!! We make it like taught here only, we use 4 regular sized tea bags and it comes out perfect every time!! Not too strong, not too weak!! It’s a matter of preference how strong you want it! :0)

    • 10 normal tea bags will do

      • I use 8 small tea bags, but I brew it on the stove in a small pot. I let it sit for about 10 min. then pour over 1 1/2 cups of sugar. then add cold water. Mint is so hard to keep, So I use Mint extract. I have a dropper that I got from the drug store. Put 3 to 4 drops…stir and pour over ice…

  6. We drink sweet tea by the gallon in my house! I bought another brand’s gallon-sized tea bags on sale and I can’t wait till they are gone so I can get more Luzianne.

  7. Just found your blog from Confessions Of A Cookbook Queen. Great blog and great recipes, I love,love,love southern food so I will be visiting your sight often. Im from maine but I think I should of grown up in the south. I will be making this sweet tea this weekend, I love sweet tea yummmmmmmmm.

  8. I have to keep 2 gallons in my frige ay all times and this is just for my husband and me our kids are grown and gone but if they come by I know we’ll be making more before they leave and I use 2 cups of sugar in a gallon so I don’t think thats to much lol.

  9. Is that fruit in the glass? What is it? I’ve been wondering… Doesn’t look like ice, or is it? 0.o lolz Thx!

    • That’s ice in the glass.

      • Hi, my name is Mary i live close to Baton Rouge L.a. i grew up on sweet iced tea and i like it rather
        than diet coke. i have to use splenda because of my husband being diebetic but it is still good to me. and i just copyed down the egg salad receipe. and im going to try more of them. the only problem i have is i dont have dijon mustard is there something else i could use. thanks for the great receipes.

      • Hi Mary, I hope this helps you. An easy substitute for dijon mustard can quickly be whipped up with common kitchen ingredients. Combine 1 Tbsp dry mustard powder, 1 tsp water
        1 tsp white wine vinegar or 1/2 tsp of white wine with 1/2 tsp of white vinegar, 1 Tbsp of mayonnaise and a pinch of sugar. This will give you two tablespoons worth of a dijon mustard substitute.

        On the Other: A Sweeter Alternative
        For those looking for a spread or sauce without dijon’s heat, tang or grainy texture, a honey mustard sauce may provide a suitable alternative. Combine 1 cup Miracle Whip,
        4 Tbsp mustard (not mustard powder), and 2 Tbsp honey.

        Read more: What is a substitute for dijon mustard? | Answerbag http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/1965957#ixzz1wl7I01t0

  10. I grew up drinking my mother’s sweet iced tea. She was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Her tea was the best. The ingredients are simple, but I sure can not make it like she did. I love iced tea with lemon in it, which is how she made it.

    • The difference in the taste of water has a lot to do with the taste of your tea. My grandmother had a well and her tea was the best but an aunt in miss. Had a salty taste to her tea. Maybe you would want to try bottled water. Just saying.

      • I use the water out of the “soft water” spigot so that it has a bit of salt in the tea. I want to have this on my tombstone “Best Sweet Tea Maker in _____ County! 🙂

  11. Hello,

    I am new here- a friend has been sending me links to your recipes and they look so yummy, I’m going to try some of them. We live near Charleston, SC. I am somewhat of a tea-connisuer (or tea-snob) it has to be the best. Luzianne seems best for iced tea, Lipton for hot. I have had quite an education with food. Grew up in an Italian family watching them cook; my mother and paternal grandmother were superb American cooks, I joined a Christian Ministry when I was 22-27 and learned how to cook in quantity and improvise, then learned Souther cooking because my husband is from SC (I am from CA), plus my mother-in-law is from Maine, so she cooks New England style! I love to try new recipes.

    I don’t know if anyone will like this, but where I lived in California, the Mexican restaurants put lime in their tea instead of lemon. Lemon was always too strong for me- but lime in sweet tea is delicious- a more delicate flavor.

    Thanks for all your work in compiling these yummy recipes!


    • Hi Karen, Welcome to this site. Happy to have you here and thank you for the info about the lime in sweet tea. I will certainly have to try it your way. I hope you enjoy the recipes and will stop by often. Have a great week.

  12. Luzianne

  13. A few years ago I was in the North Carolina and if I wanted tea (which, as many Aussies do, I have for breakfast) I had to specify “hot tea” or it would come sweet and iced! So… not for breakfast, but I did learn to love it. I have particularly good memories of a long lunch that featured fried chicken, collard greens and a bottomless mason jar of the most beautiful iced tea. Every summer I say I’m going to make some, and never do. You’ve inspired me!

    • “Poke” 4 family tea bags in a gallon jug, add 1/12 sugar, fill with water and set it in your wonderful Aussie sun and by the evening meal you will be ready for tall glasses of ice to pour your sweet tea over.

  14. in two q pan boil 7 tea bags, then pour into a gallon jug with 1 1/3 cups sugar mix and add water. best tea ever !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. So happy to have found your blog, love it!

  16. Now this looks like my mom’s glass of iced – lots and lots of ice!

  17. Just found your site, I LOVE IT!! Thank you for sharing! I do have a question. I don’t drink my tea sweet (Southern gal, Oklahoma) but don’t mind a “little” sweet. But I would love a raspberry, peach, or some kind of little “kick” to it! Any suggestions?

    • Hi Lynda, Welcome to the site and hope you will visit often. I am so sorry I don’t have any recipes for flavored teas. You might try allrecipes.com. They have tons of recipes and you might find something there. Southerners are strange when it comes to their tea. We just drink it sweet and that is about the only way we drink it. It is nice meeting you!

    • I’m new to this site so I’m sure you have found a way to flavor your tea by now. I, too, sometimes like a flavored tea and I found a box of individual packages of flavors to put in water bottles. The box I got has some packages of raspberry and some packages of lemonade which works great to flavor tea. However, not everybody in my family likes flavored tea so instead of putting it in the pitcher I put it in individual glasses of those who want it. You can put as much or as little as you like and save the rest in the package for when you want flavored again. I have lived in NC all my life and my mother said I was weaned on sweet tea. I don’t doubt it.

  18. I have lived in Crossville TN, a few yrs bk we lived in FL and they make SUN TEA ICED..they take the big tea bags about the same amount as yours and put them in a gallon jar with water and then sst it out in the sun until it gets strong as you like it..then some add sugar/sweetner Or just drink it like it is! Yes, you do put it over ice. I would make it like I did in TN ( not sun tea) and all my friends loved mine better. I have tried sun tea BUT I LOVE MY SOUTHERN TEA “BEST”..A lot of the places to eat out in Fl has the “SWEET” tea. I just found this site I LOVE IT

    • I make the same in Canada but use 1/2 cup sugar and Realemon and use Earl Grey tea bags. This is about as close as I come to my mom’s (she used Liptons or any other tea she bought) who made it every summer but with boiling water and then cooled it off in the fridge before serving. Ice tea is my weakness. This is the one area I have not been able to cut back or cut out that evil white stuff called sugar.

      • Hi Vivian — I know what you mean about not being able to give up sugar in your tea. I can go without sugar all day, but when it comes to my nighttime tea, I haven’t found a decent substitute. There are 2 that are an improvement over the artificial sweeteners, though. One is called, “Nectresse” made from monk fruit. It’s in the store next to Splenda, in an orange wrapper. The other is called, “Stevia Cane” which is half cane sugar and half Stevia. One of those may taste better to you. I have gone to the natural sugar made by, “Florida Crystals”, it comes in a big bag and also in packets in the same store aisle. For the person overseas who is looking for sweeteners and different teas such as Luzianne, all of those things are available on Amazon.com. Good luck.

  19. Lived in both North and South Carolina for 19 year’s, raised my 2 children there, one still live’s in GooseCreek, SC.was taught to make sweet tea and I have Luzianne family size Tea bags in my pantry, and I know live in my home state of Vermont !! Love the South, love the food.

  20. Moved to CA about 25 years ago – guess you can take the girl out of the south – but can’t take the south out of the girl! I still make “sweet tea” – is there any other kind!? I actually use Lipton – and ALWAYS real sugar!!! You can find a pitcher in my fridge at any given time! 🙂

  21. First time on your site. I’m a Virginia girl. But have lived most of my adult life in the north. Wis, NY and now Rhode Island. I have been doing my part to teach the Northerners how to drink tea. Every church event and potluck it is just assumed I’m bringing the Sweet Tea. Luzianne is the best but I can never find it up north, I buy several boxes when I come home to visit. Last month my husband went online and bought me a CASE of Luzianne. He sure knows how to keep me happy.
    Looking forward to all the info from your site. Happy Sweet Tea Day.

  22. we love this tea, at our house we add a can of frozen lemonade to it.

  23. The Good Lord gave Southern Folks sweet tea for breakfast. We quickly learned you can drink it anytime of day. But when you get old like me and the doctor is on your case about sugar – Jesus brought the Splenda

    • so how do you make it sweet tea without the sugar…I am diabetic

      • The Lord gave Southern Folks sweet tea for breakfast. We learned you could drink it anytime of day. We you get old as I am and the doctor is on your case about sugar – Jesus brought the Splenda!

  24. I love me some sweet tea! I drink it constantly. Not good for me I know, but I still haven’t had a cavity yet 😉 I visited Hilton Head recently and was shocked when a local claiming to be “southern” seafood restaurant only had unsweetened iced tea. I would expect that from restaurants further north, but never in the low country!

  25. Mobile, AL here. Can’t get much further South than this. Our Bible has one line different from the ‘main stream’ world: “On the seventh day, He rested with a glass of Sweet Tea and the scent of Honeysuckle .” I do have a question…you put your sugar in the water before the tea bags? I have always steeped the tea, removed the bags, then added the sugar…just wondering. Thanks much, found so many variations on recipes. Can’t wait to try many of them, beginning tonight.

    • Hi, Yes, I do, but I don’t think it would make a difference except that the hot water dissolves the sugar immediately and I think it is better this way. Thanks for being here and have a great weekend.

  26. I lived in MT and SD for a number of years. thank goodness I am back in TX. People up there have never heard of sweet tea , grits, or hush puppies. There is a huge difference in sweet tea and unsweetened ice tea with sugar added. it is just not the same. I never realized this until I moved North. I just found out about a drink called an Arnold Palmer — half and half sweet tea and lemonade. it sounds like it might be a nice addition to summer gatherings. Has anyone tried it?

    • Someone asked about Arnold Palmer canned tea. I don’t like it, but there are only a few bottled teas that taste home- made, to me. The best is TeJava, sold in some stores, but hard to find. I get it at World Market or Cost Plus. Tazo bottled is good, especially the peach. Snapple peach is good. There’s a low- sugar mildly sweet tea called Inko’s that is good ,if you are on a diet. American Classic bottled tea from Charleston tea plantation is good, just don’t get the diet of any of the aforementioned teas, they are awful.
      These are all hard to find, because most stores go with the big brands like Arizona bottled tea. It’s hard to get a store to stock something different.

  27. I love tea- sweet. I don’t like it when ice cubes water it down. I’ve read that some people freeze an ice cube
    tray of tea and use tea-cubes in their tea and so it never waters the tea down when they melt.

  28. I make mine with either 3 family size or 9 regulat Luzianne tea bags. I make it in a electric Ice Tea maker. But I don’t put the ice in the bottom just water.. After it finishes steeping I press the bags to make sure I get all the tea. I always use 2 cups of sugar. This makes a full gallon of strong sweet tea. Kathy I like the idea of the tea Ice cubes. Sometimes I pust mine in the freezer and have ice tea slushy. Mmmm.
    One more thing people have been using 2 cups of sugar to make Kool-Aide for as long as kool-aide has been around. Why do people think 2 cups in strong tea is terrible. Just sayin.

    • I am with you….I don’t want tea that I can read the newspaper through my glass….and I use only Luzianne! …and I love fresh lemon in mine….

  29. Hi, first time I’m having a look at your web site. Your recipes look delicious, I am definately going to try them. I’m from Australia, and we don’t have Luzianne tea here, nor do we have family sized tea bags, but I’ll look and see if there is somewhere where I can import them ‘Down Under’. Would love to try this tea when we have our hot dry summers here. Thank-you for sharing your recipes. I’ll be visiting this web site many times.

  30. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have found your blog! I grew up in the Big Blue Nation and I’m a KY Southern girl through and through! Unfortunately my family isn’t born and bread southern and now that I’m living in the PNW I miss all my favorite southern foods but don’t know how to make them! I can do some stuff but have never been good with sweet tea and am dying for a good Hot Brown! I’m finally getting a really good Jam Cake recipe too and won’t be embarrassed to give them to these Yankees as gifts this Christmas!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  31. love my sweet tea. has been the drink of choice for a very, very long time. now it i could just get DH to drink it instead of Coca-Cola. He’s an Iowa boy. 🙂

  32. Love sweet tea, my husband makes it every other day or two. We use Lipton tea, love it, and use three large bags for the gallon. Perfect!! Nothing like a nice glass of ice tea.

  33. We throw the bags in pot of cold water, let it come to a boil and then turn it off and let it steep a few minutes. 1 1/2 cups sugar.

  34. Thank you for your recipe. I have always made my ice tea this way but could never get the sugar ratio correct. I guess I was too conservative! Now this “Northern” gal can make “real” sweet tea! Thanks!

  35. Made the sweet tea! Yum! Love it!! I can tell this will go fast

  36. We loved 8 o’clock tea bags, but they quit making them. Now have to look up here in WI to see if we can find Luzianne tea here. Also heard from another southerner Red Diamond was good, also not available here.

    • @ Porky,

      I am from California (Southern transplant) and there are brands that I can’t find here in South Carolina, but I have found almost everything in the grocery section at Amazon.com.

  37. I use three family tea bags, cover with water and cook in microwave for 8 minutes..pour into pitcher with a lil water and 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar..fill the rest of way with ice to cool it down quick..if need..add more water to fill up the pitcher..and use glass or hard plastic pitcher..soft plastic kinds that u can get at dollar store, tea don’t seem to stay fresh..

  38. I put my water and 4 family size Luzianne tea bags in a 4 cup microwavable glass measuring bowl. I microwave 7 minutes til they boil. Let them steep, then I mix 1 and 3/4 cups sugar (or Splenda). Perfect every time.

  39. I am a California girl with two southern Memaws! I order Luzianne tea from family on the south it’s all I serve here on our California Dairy Farm!

  40. For an adult glass of tea…Make your favorite glass of tea, add a shot of any good rum, tropical is even better. Fill glass with ice! We call it Southern Satisfaction!

  41. I have a recipe for the type of fruit tea served at the Magnolia Tea Room in Texas. I am happy to share it with anyone who wants it. Just email me @justchoosejoy@gmail.com. I am a Yankee with Southern roots; my Dad is from Tennessee and both my brothers married Southern girls- one is from Alabama and the other from Oklahoma, so I learned how to make authentic Southern Sweet Tea. 🙂 Oh…BTW, Luzianne tea in family size bags is available at Amazon.com.

  42. There is someone here who has the recipe for a tea served at The Magnolia Tea Room, but I can’t find your address to email you. I’d like to try it. Also, there is a tea online I found on Amazon.com, it’s called, “Stacked tea cups mint honey tea”. It’s delicious- the mint isn’t overpowering. I recommend it!

  43. I found the email for the Magnolia Tea Room tea. Thanks!

  44. I make this tea all the time but I add one can of frozen lemonade concentrate to the recipe. It’s delish!

  45. My husband’s grandmother made the best iced tea I have ever tasted in my life. Every time. It always tasted smooth, no tea bitterness at all. Unfortunately, I do not know how to duplicate it, as she had a special way of doing it. It was old-fashioned– she used loose tea leaves and a steeper, mixing various things back and forth. I was quite young when I met her (13 yrs. old), and didn’t have the sense at the time to pay attention and record exactly what it was that she was doing. Somehow at the end of the process for a Sunday family meal, the tea wound up in a used, plastic gallon milk container that was emptied lickety-split by all at the table! I’ve asked relatives, but no one I’ve asked knows just how to duplicate what she did. I will probably keep an eye out for a similar way of making iced tea for the rest of my life…..

    • Jo, do you remember the color of the package of tea? Was it yellow (
      Lipton). Or red (Luzianne)? Blue? They made loose leaf back in the day. Did she add mint? Lemon?

      • Hi Karen, Thanks for writing. No, unfortunately, I have no idea what the color of the packaging was. If I had to guess between the two, I’d say it was probably Lipton as this was in Illlinois in the early 1980’s and I don’t know that Luzianne was available there then, but I know Lipton was. She didn’t add mint or lemon. She would make her tea in 2 gallon batches at a time. I also don’t know how much her background might have played into her methodology as she was American Indian, not what one would think of as a typical “lady of the South”.
        As an aside, my mother-in-law (her daughter-in-law), WAS from the deep South and not Indian, and she also made pretty good iced tea, but sometimes in a way I don’t see much of. She would somehow acquire “concentrated liquid tea” in little plastic bottles (perhaps some kind of commercial, non-home-based available way of making tea?) and create her tea from that. She said that she had to be careful to store the bottles where kids couldn’t get them b/c to drink them “straight” would be “poisonous”. Perhaps it would just make them ill, and that equated to poison in her mind, I don’t know. I never tested it, lol!

      • Hi Jo, that’s sad not to know a good recipe! After my grandmother passed away- I had to ask a couple of family members how to make some of her dishes. I’m always on the lookout for new tea recipes. I’m kind of a purist; I usually don’t use mint or lemon, but once in awhile get a hankering for those, too. We once went to a Bed and Breakfast in Georgia that served wonderful mint tea. She brought the water to a boil, and added sugar and when the sugar dissolved, she added mint leaves and let it steep for awhile. Then, I believe she brewed plain tea like Luzianne to taste, and combined them somehow. I also like tea with fruit, but sometimes the fruit teas taste too fruity, or too perfumy.

  46. Hi again, Karen, I will have to try that mint tea, myself. I often add sliced lemon to my iced tea, but have never tried making tea with mint– Thanks! 🙂

    • Dear Jo, Southern Lady, et al,

      I have something to confess. I think I may have committed treason. I went to the store, and being on a budget, I bought some TETLEY Ice Tea Brew bags instead of Luzianne. I made it, and it was surprisingly good. Also, trying to lose a few pounds, I tried it with less and less sugar, and now I am enjoying it without sugar. I hang my head in shame.

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