Food · Good to Know

The Perfect Sweet Iced Tea

Being born and raised in the South there might as well be an IV of sweet iced tea hooked up to me 24/7. It was a ubiquitous drink that dominated my childhood and one I happily let dominate my adulthood. If the South ever had to vote on a mascot it would most likely be a tall glass of iced tea. After moving off to college in the great frozen north (Alaska) I continued to make sweet tea much to the amazement of my friends who had never tasted this nectar of the gods. I was shocked when they would come over for dinner and specifically request sweet tea. First, what do you mean not everyone drinks this every day?! Second, making sweet tea isn’t rocket science guys… why don’t you make your own? But apparently what was ingrained in me (probably before birth) was not so common place to others.

Now before we really get started here, if you are from the South or a tea-dominate country this article probably isn’t for you. (Though your welcome to keep reading anyways) You have your own way of tea making that has also been ingrained in you and I would never think to upset that delicate balance. However, if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about or you can’t stand the fake sweet tea that is bottled or served from a soda fountain then read on!


  • Tea Making apparatus. Personally I use an iced tea maker, but in a pinch I’ve used a coffee maker, or in a real pinch I’ve brewed hot tea in a mug and then poured over ice.
  • Tea! Will discuss more below but I use the regular tea bag sized Lipton. (not the fancy iced tea one or family size)
  • Sugar. Traditionally the average white table sugar is used but if you want to get fancy or use another sweetener by all means.

First, let’s talk tea. For my entire life to make sweet tea everyone on both sides of my family and my husband’s family have used traditional Lipton tea bags. Now if your a tea snob you might be cringing right now, but I have news for you. I too am actually a tea snob (I get a monthly mailer of loose leaf tea shipped from London… among other proofs of snobbery) so hear me out. Lipton is actually blended for taste. By that I mean a lot of nice teas are blended because they are fine leaves and the flavor changes from year to year depending on harvest, weather, leaf size, processing, etc. Lipton however sources their tea and then concentrates on mixing it specifically so that it creates their signature taste that everyone has grown up with since the dawn of time. The bags also have the advantage of being cheap and therefore tea can be made in mass quantities, as well as easy to get a hold of. Every store (in the US at least) has Lipton! For instance right now I can get 312 tea bags of Lipton on Amazon for $8.90. If you decide to experiment with a higher quality tea you will probably need a little less. For instance, the other day I had run out of Lipton (horrors!) and used a higher quality bag tea that I had. Instead of my normal 6 bags I only used 5. Play around until you find a taste and strength that you like.

As for the tea maker: I use an iced tea maker which came with a giant pitcher and it works for us. Again, you can use these directions in a regular coffee maker but you run the risk of having it slightly coffee tasting depending on how clean your maker is.

So, how sweet is sweet? Well for these directions and amounts the scale is from about 1/4 cup of regular granulated sugar up to 1 cup. If you like it super sweet, a la McDonald’s sweet tea, then put in 1 cup. If you just want a hint of sweetness put in 1/4 cup. I usually do somewhere between 1/2 – 3/4 cup depending on what kind of mood I’m in.

Directions (for an iced tea maker):

  • Ignore the directions that came with your iced tea maker
  • Fill the pitcher to the bottom water line and pour into tea  maker
  • Place 6 regular sized Lipton tea bags in the tea holder and set the brew strength to ‘Strong’
  • Pour sugar into pitcher. (I do either 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup depending on how the day is going)
  • Turn tea maker on and let it brew
  • After it brews you will have a layer of sugar on the bottom covered by hot tea. Stir the sugar until it completely dissolves. A lot of people go wrong with this, if you add the sugar after you’ve made the tea or it’s cold then the sugar won’t dissolve! You must stir it in while the tea is piping hot.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, fill the pitcher with cold water up to the bottom edge of the lid.
  • Refrigerate or serve immediately over ice

* These are basically the same steps for a coffee maker only you brew it like you would coffee (with the the sugar in the pot) and then pour into a pitcher and dilute with more water.

Gettin’ Fancy:

  • Feel free to treat your tea pitcher like you would a pitcher of water. By this I mean add some lemon slices, mint sprigs, or peach slices to spruce things up a bit.
  • Green tea also makes a nice sweet and iced addition to your summer repertoire. Follow the same directions just use green tea bags instead of black tea!
  • An herbal hibiscus blend is also a nice change of pace. Hibiscus tea is said to contain Vitamin C and is thought to help lower blood pressure. Hibiscus tea is definitely more flavorful so I would try a lower amount of tea bags for this recipe and go up from there.
  • Only go in for loose leaf tea? Try 1 tsp for every tea bag that would normally be used.




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