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How to Make Southern Sweet Tea

Frugal Family Recipes (featured column)
by Michelle Jones

Southern Sweet Tea Recipe

Having lived throughout the south my entire life, there's one thing I can tell you for sure. Life is a whole lot sweeter with a cold glass of SWEET ICED TEA!  If you're following a low-carb or sugar-free diet, Splenda works fine. We also make our unsweet tea the same way, just without sugar in the pot!

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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 a metal tea 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 (You can use any kind of tea you like, or even a combination of flavors, such as green tea, although I highly recommend regular Luzianne or Lipton Iced Tea Brew. The teas made especially for Iced Tea are a little better; however they are not necessary to make great sweet tea! For health reasons we always use decaf, but the regular is not only a little stronger, it's cheaper too.)

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

1 c. of sugar (or 3/4 c. Splenda for sugar-free tea, it's delicious!)

1 gallon pitcher, or a big pickle jar will do


To make the tea syrup, add sugar and water to pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

It doesn't really matter how much water you boil, since it's all going to go into the gallon of tea you are making, just make sure it gets really hot and bubbly. The main thing is to remember the sugar... sometimes you will forget and have to add it in after the water is already boiling, that's okay too. Just keep it going until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Note: If you're making sugar-free tea with Splenda, you will not add the Splenda until later, so all you have to do is boil a pot of water to get started.)

Once the syrup or plain water is ready, add the tea bags as I listed above (we use 4-5 family size Luzinanne Decaf). As soon as you get the tea bags in, the water may act like it's about to boil over. I usually just 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 a good bit. The tea will be a decent strength in 20 minutes, but even better in an hour or two. When you're ready to make your sweet tea, pour the pot of tea into your gallon pitcher. (If you're making sugar-free tea now is when you add the Splenda; while the tea is still warm.) Then fill the remainder of the pitcher with cold water and stir, making sure to gently squeeze the tea bags to add as much tea as possible.

Well that's it, your Southern Sweet Tea is ready! Just pour into a glass (pretty canning jars are a southern favorite) filled with ice and serve. Or you can even heat it back up and drink it hot. Some people will keep their sweet tea in the fridge for several days, but unlike unsweetened tea, it's really only good for about 2 days. After that, it's time to make a fresh batch.

And yes, it's wonderful with a slice of lemon! :o)

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Copyright © 2004 by Michelle Jones. All rights reserved.

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