How to Make Sweet Iced Tea

Making sweet iced tea that is served in so many restaurants takes a knack.  While it isn’t difficult it does take some special steps in making the iced tea.  Our suggestion would be to start with an iced tea such as Lipton’s or Luzianne.

Making a pitcher of southern sweet iced tea is easy! Keep reading to learn more about making this refreshing beverage. Armed with this recipe, and these tips you will soon be making the best sweet tea ever.

two glasses of sweet iced tea

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What Makes Sweet Iced Tea So Refreshing? 

Sweet tea is the classic Southern summer beverage. But even if you don’t live in the South, there is just something satisfying about sipping an ice-cold glass of fresh sweet tea when the weather gets warm.

Whether hosting friends or just having a family supper, a pitcher of homemade sweet tea is always welcome.

Why This Is the One Recipe for Sweet Iced Tea You Must Try

Making sweet tea is easy, but making great-tasting sweet tea isn’t so simple. But once you learn the basics of this recipe, you’ll be well on your way to mastering this summertime staple. You will soon unlock the secrets to the best tea ever! We can even help you adjust the sweetness for your personal preference.

How Much Sugar in Sweet Tea vs Soda?

Most store-bought sodas these days don’t contain any real sugar at all! Big soda brands prefer cheaper corn syrup as a sweetener, but a few smaller brands still use sugar in their soda recipes.

It isn’t uncommon for these colas to have three or more cups of sugar per gallon. Even if you like your tea really sweet, cola will probably have a lot more sugar per serving.

Sweet Iced Tea Ingredients

Here’s a list of what you need:

  • Water
  • Tea Bags
  • Sugar
ingredients for sweet ice tea on a wood tray.

How to Make Sweet Tea (Southern-Style)

  1. Pour boiling water into a 2-quart pitcher.
  2. Add tea bags and steep the tea for a couple of minutes. Do not steep the tea for too long, or you may experience bitterness from the tannins in the tea.
  3. Remove and discard the tea bags.
  4. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  5. Fill the pitcher with ice.
  6. Add enough cold water to fill the pitcher.
  7. Enjoy your iced tea.

You can adjust the amount of sugar to make your tea sweeter or less sweet.

Recipe Notes

How Much Sugar is in Sweet Tea?

Sweet tea must have sugar, but just how much sugar to put in your sweet tea is a matter of personal preference. A good starting place is one cup of sugar per gallon of water, but feel free to adjust that amount to suit your taste. 

How Many Tea Bags for a Gallon of Iced Tea?

It depends on which brand of tea you use. Luzziane calls for four tea bags per gallon of water, while you only need to use one of Lipton’s Iced Tea bags to make the same amount of tea. 

What Is the Ratio of Tea To Water for Iced Tea?

The best way to measure tea is with a scale. For one gallon of sweet tea, you should use one ounce, or a little more than 28 grams, of loose tea. 

Sweet Tea Flavorings

While there are plenty of folks that would never mess with a traditional sweet tea recipe, if you are looking for ways to update it, try these three easy suggestions:

  • Lemoncello Sweet Tea: Whether you call it an Arnold Palmer or a Half & Half, the combination of lemonade and iced tea is refreshing. Adding a shot of limoncello to six ounces of sweet tea makes a very delicious and very adult version that’s perfect for a sundowner or brunch cocktail. 
  • Just Peachy Sweet Tea: Drain a can of diced peaches, reserving the syrup. Spread the peaches out on a baking tray and put the tray in the freezer until the peaches freeze solid; about two hours. To serve, pour an ounce of peach syrup into each glass and add a sprig of thyme along with some of the frozen peaches. Fill the rest of the glass with sweet tea, stir, and serve.
  • It’s a Good Day Citrus Tea:  A little fresh-squeezed fruit juice adds a great big ray of sunshine to even the cloudiest afternoons. Measure two tablespoons of fresh orange juice and a teaspoon of lemon juice into a glass of sweet tea, stir and garnish with an orange wheel. 

Sweet Tea Serving Suggestions

Serving a guest a glass of sweet tea is basic hospitality in the South, but why not impress them by giving them something to munch on? These three snacks pair perfectly:

  • Dainty Chicken Salad Sandwiches: Cut the crust off two thin slices of raisin bread and toast well. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both pieces of bread. Put a scoop of Fancy Nancy Chicken Salad between the two slices of bread and cut the sandwich into four triangles to serve. 
  • Cold Fried Chicken: Southern picnics are never complete without a piece or two of cold fried chicken. Put aside any misgivings you may have and try it for yourself. You may just find you are cooking more chicken than you need just for the leftovers!
  • Pasta Salad: Like sweet tea, you should always have a bowl of cold pasta salad in the fridge during the hot months for a quick meal. Try this Pasta Salad for an incredibly simple and delicious light meal or hearty snack. 
a glass of sweet iced tea and lemons.

Sweet Tea Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Sweeten Iced Tea?

There is only one choice for authentic Sweet Iced Tea: real sugar! 

Why Do You Put Baking Soda in Sweet Tea? 

A pinch of baking soda can help counteract the acidity of tea and make it taste smoother and sweeter with less sugar. If you ever find yourself queasy after drinking sweet tea, the baking soda trick will help stop it. 

How Much Baking Soda Do You Put In a Gallon of Sweet Tea?

Less is more in this case. Just a two-finger pinch is enough for an entire gallon of this sweet iced tea recipe. Add a little too much, and your tea will taste flat or even develop a soapy flavor!  

What Is the Best Tea for Sweet Tea?

Talking about the best tea brand for making homemade sweet tea can get you in a bit of trouble, especially in the South. Everyone has a go-to brand, and for many people, that’s Luzianne Iced Tea. Luzianne is made explicitly for brewing sweet tea, and its flavor and strength are ideal for this recipe. Of course, not everyone likes Luzianne, and another popular brand is Lipton, especially the Lipton variety that is meant for making cold tea. 

What Is the Difference Between Sweet Tea and Sweetened Iced Tea?

Although similar, there is a distinct difference between sweet tea and sweetened iced tea based on the brewing method, the type of sweetener used, and when you add the sweetener to the tea. 

For proper sweet tea, you must always brew the tea using water that is right off the boil and add the sugar to the water while it is still hot. On the other hand, for sweetened iced tea, you can use any brewing method and sweetener you want. A lot of people use the cold-brewing method to help reduce acidity and honey, simple syrup, or even agave syrup as sweeteners.

I hope you give this recipe a try next time you are looking for the perfect southern sweet tea recipe.

a glass of sweet iced tea with lemon.

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two glasses of sweet iced tea

Sweet Iced Tea

Learn how to make the perfect glass of sweet iced tea.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Iced Tea, Sweet Iced Tea, Sweet Tea
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 48kcal


  • 8 cups water
  • 4 small tea bags or 2 family-sized tea bags
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  • Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over high heat.
  • Pour the boiling water into a 2-quart pitcher.
  • Add tea bags.
  • Steep the tea for 1 to 2 minutes only. If the tea bags are left in longer, the tea may become bitter.
  • Remove tea bags.
  • Add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved.
  • Fill the pitcher with ice.
  • Add cold water to fill up the pitcher.
  • Enjoy your iced tea.



You can adjust the amount of sugar to make your tea sweeter or less sweet.


Calories: 48kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 1mg | Sugar: 12g | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 1mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Kelly from MN

    The big thing is adding sugar while tea is hot. It’s the only way it thoroughly dissolves. And you don’t need to even boil your own water. I make my tea in the coffee pot with a couple tea bags. I fill whatever container I want to use 2/3 the way full, toss in the sugar and stir then fill the rest with ice.

  2. Really Needed Some Sweet Tea

    You don’t even know how badly I needed some sweet tea right now. To everyone in the comments who had some helpful hints and tips, and to whoever posted this recipe, thank you so much. This is absolutely amazing. Never even made sweet tea before.

  3. Makell Bird

    A trick to cutting the bitter taste is to add a PINCH of baking soda (no more than a pinch or it will taste funny). I’ve read in a lot of other places it’s best to steep for 4 mins not 2. 1/2 cup of sugar doesn’t seem sweet enough. I agree with most that it takes 1 to 1 and a 1/2 cups to sweeten.

    Another little trick for those that don’t know is to use tea bags for canker sores or tooth aches in your mouth. Black Tea (like lipton) works best. Tea has a natural sedative that heals the pain in your mouth. I’ve done this twice and it works like a charm, better than canker sore medicine that only numbs your mouth for about 10 mins and has a NASTY taste. The raw tea bag is a nasty taste too but it works.

    • ChibiHoshi

      The toothache remedy only works with tea that has tannin with sufficient astringency. Blacks or green teas are good, White and herbals have low tannin.
      And it is best to use a USED tea bag and not a fresh unused one.

  4. a southern girl

    all this over tea! ya’ll are funny, i’m 24 and i love sweet tea, being from the south myself i came here looking to learn to make good tea. my husband had to make it up til now cause i just couldn’t get it right but all of ya’lls advice did me some good, i just made some killer tea! thanks everyone and ya’ll calm down 🙂

    • Shackleford

      Are you really a southerner? I’m from the Pine Belt here in Mississippi and I have not known one southerner, no matter how deep a redneck, type “ya’ll.”

      • Trish Anna

        Well, I grew up in Louisiana, and live in Texas now. I don’t think I’m that “deep a redneck” (though my family a few generations up was) … but I type “y’all” quite often in online conversation, depending on who I am talking to. And in fact, I had quite a discussion with a friend one time whether “y’all” or “ya’ll” was correct — I still maintain that “y’all” would be proper, since it is short for “you all” and the apostrophe stands in for the ou and a after the y, so should be placed there.

        I had to wonder if she was really a southerner if she could reach 24 years of age and not know how to make sweet tea. To be honest, I’m pretty surprised there’s a “recipe” or “instructions” as well, though I know a trick or two that aren’t part of the regular simple steps. I came here out of curiosity to see if any such “tricks” were mentioned, and they weren’t. I make my tea similar to what is talked about here, except I DO steep it for at least 15 minutes (it never gets bitter) and I use less sugar (there are other tricks to making it taste sweeter). And I never make less than a full gallon at a time, unless I don’t want to wait and make some in a quart-sized mason jar while I’m also making the gallon.

      • Stephanie

        I type yall all the time as well. It comes naturally since that is how I talk. I loved the point of how does one make it to 24 and not know how to make sweet tea in the south. Very strange imo. I steep for 15 minutes because I do not like weak tea and it turns out perfect every time.

  5. Raised on Nothing but TEA!!

    My Family only drinks Sweet Tea were from the South.We go threw 2 gallons a day.Here’s how we do it in in our family Ole style Tea. For 1 gal. of tea. You will need. I gal jug. 2 1/2 cps.sugar,10-14 reg.size tea bags what ever brand you like.bring water to boil turn off stove drop in tea bags stir after 1 min. let set 1-2 more min. then take out tea bags are you get bitter tea. add your sugar while the tea is still warm it make it real sweet.pour into container of your liking .If the container isn’t full fill to top with water.You can have one gal. plan sweet tea or 1 with lemon make sure you add real juice not the fake stuff.Use common thinking people its not that hard..

    • mrsolu

      2 1/2 cups of tea in a gallon of tea???? OMG!!! That is EXTREMELY sweet tea!!! I use 1 cup of sugar for one gallon of tea and about 7 tea bags……………NOT 10-14!!! Wow!!! Never knew it was done that way in the south.

      • Anonymous

        What I was amazed at more than anything about this post was the response that it created. I mean every point I made in my version, someone had an issue with. I don’t I wrote a radically poor way of making tea, but rather, this is such a personal topic, that it people feel the need to respond.

      • Shackleford

        That’s the fun thing about the internet. People either use it for reference, bash people, or try to prove each other wrong. Just because people make their sweet tea different makes you wrong. However, you do have to have a pretty bad sweet tooth to put 2 1/2 cups sugar in a gallon of ice tea. =P And by your recipe, 1/2 cup isn’t sweet tea. See, that’s MY opinion, but not bashing yours. You like it the way you do.

      • stephaniemanley

        I never realized it, that sweet tea was so personal. But, yes, folks love to bash each other online. It’s so easy to do, I know that 99% of these people wouldn’t say such things to someone in person. Being anonymous enables people to behave in ways they wouldn’t every day.

    • Westside779

      Wow, your tea must be really sweet with all that sugar. I use 2 family size tea bags per two gallons of tea. I steep the tea for 5 minutes before adding it to the other water and sugar.

      • Westside779

        I forgot to mention, I only use 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the tea, and I miswrote, it is to one gallon of tea, not 2.

    • Westside779

      Wow, your tea must be really sweet with all that sugar. I use 2 family size tea bags per two gallons of tea. I steep the tea for 5 minutes before adding it to the other water and sugar.

  6. Joe M.

    Miss Aletha’s Iced Tea
    (Thanks, Mom, I miss you!)

    2 cups water
    4 family size tea bags
    1-1/2 cups sugar or 3/4 cup Splenda blend

    Put water in appropriate size pot and put in tea bags
    Heat until just boiling
    Remove from heat and remove tea bags, squeeze out gently with tongs
    Add sugar to hot tea and stir until dissolved
    Put concentrated tea in 1-gallon pitcher and add cold water until full and stir to mix
    Enjoy over ice and refrigerate until cold

  7. Someone from Alabama

    OMG, I can’t believe someone needs a recipe to make tea. I’m from Alabama and tea down here is like breathing air, its a part of life. Just boil your water with however many bags you want with as much sugar you want in whatever kind of pitcher you want. I will add its best to let water boil add tea (I use 3 family size for a gallon)because bags will bust. I let it get to room temperature. I put 1 1/2 cup sugar in a plastic pitcher add the tea then fill with water to top. Simple.

    • CC

      5 stars
      OH MY I so heartedly agree with you, I do have to admit when I read your note I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. But then again I do have a friend who follows a recipe to make boiled water. 🙂 CHEERS, CC PS You don’t have to be from Alabama to make Sweet Tea, I live in California and you and I use the same ‘recipe’.

      • Stephanie

        There are folks out there with skills better than us, and far worse than us. You would be surprised at what I get requests for. Thankfully it hasn’t been toast yet.

  8. Cindy Bailey

    Never ever ever cover a pitcher of hot steaming tea.Let it come to room temperature before covering and refrigerating.If you cover a pitcher of tea while still steaming it will taste like pond water later!!

    • Gracie

      That’s nonsense! I cool tea in the frig all the time and it’s fine. Also, to those who don’t understand why someone from the South doesn’t know how to make sweet tea: Many of us grew up with parents who weren’t born in the South and had no idea how to make the basics. My mother used to cook vegetables that still had a snap to them, and all my friends thought she was crazy. She also made terrible iced tea – too strong and bitter – and I had to watch my friends’ mothers make it. It’s not just intuitive, there really is an art to it.

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