Southern Sweet Tea From Scratch (better than restaurants)

When I set out to develop this Southern sweet tea recipe, I was super excited to create my own version that will be passed down and around from generation to generation. It’s so special knowing this tea will have a place on our supper table, served to our guests, and on the menu at every gathering we host. It’s more than a recipe; it’s the start of an heirloom I can give to others.

2 glasses of tea, one with a lemon, and a jug of it behind
Source: Plum Branch Home

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Southern Sweet Tea Inspiration

When we first moved to Tennessee from Indiana in 2022, I was surprised at how good the sweet tea was. I ordered it at every restaurant but could never make it as good at home. Fast forward almost 2 years, and I’ve uncovered the secrets. I’ve learned so much about tea-making from old Southern cookbooks at the library. So, of course, I had to create my own version.

What Makes My Recipe Different?

  • very simple steps
  • wholesome ingredients, no corn syrup
  • uses baking soda to prevent bitterness like a good Southern tea does
  • uses pure cane sugar for that Southern sweetness without artificial sugars

Reasons You’ll Love This Sweet Tea

  • Easy to whip up in 10 minutes
  • Stores really well up to 4 days
  • Perfect for guests and hosting
  • Refreshing and delicious
Luzianne tea bags in a hand
Source: Plum Branch Home

Best Tea Brand for Southern Sweet Tea

My personal favorite brand is Luzianne Tea for this recipe. It’s a New Orleans company that uses orange pekoe tea for a smooth, delicious flavor. The type of tea you use will alter the flavor. If you can’t find Luzianne tea in the grocery store, you can order it online.

Ingredients You’ll Need

3 family Luzianne tea bags
1 cup pure cane sugar
8 cups water (divided into 2 parts of 4 cups)
1/8 tsp baking soda

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need

How to Make Southern Sweet Tea

3 tea bags seeping in a pot of water
Source: Plum Branch Home

Add 4 cups of water and all 3 tea bags to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately take off the heat. While the water is heating, occasionally move the tea bags around, up and down, gently. 

pot of tea with bags seeping in it on the counter
Source: Plum Branch Home

After you take the pot off the heat, let the bags seep for 5 minutes (again moving around occasionally, up and down), then remove them. Do not squeeze the bags. 

hand stirring a pot of tea on the countertop
Source: Plum Branch Home

Add cane sugar and baking soda to the pot and stir until dissolved.

water being poured into bottle of tea
Source: Plum Branch Home

Pour the concentrated tea mixture into a serving pitcher and add the remaining 4 cups of cold or room-temperature water.

large bottle of tea on the counter
Source: Plum Branch Home

Stir to combine, and refrigerate until chilled or ready to serve. 

2 glasses of ice with a half gallon of tea behind
Source: Plum Branch Home

When serving, do it over ice and add a lemon or orange slice for garnish (it’s best if enjoyed within the first 48 hours).

Storing Instructions

Store sweet tea in a pitcher or container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It’ll taste best if enjoyed in the first 2–3 days.

Recipe FAQ

What makes southern sweet tea different?

The way the tea is brewed in a concentrate, the higher sugar levels, the baking soda to eliminate bitterness, and the orange pekoe leaves all make Southern sweet tea different. 

Why does southern sweet tea having baking soda?

The baking soda helps take any bitterness out of the tea.

Is southern sweet tea healthy?

It’s important to be mindful of the higher sugar levels like with any sweetened drink.

Why is southern sweet tea so good?

It’s so good because of the way it’s made and the ingredients. The type of tea you use matters; the higher the sugar content, the sweeter it is, and the baking soda helps take away bitterness. Not to mention, it’s first brewed as a concentrate, then extra water is added. 

I don’t have Luzianne tea, what can I use instead?

You can use any black tea you’d like. I know lots of people like to use Lipton to make sweet tea.

Where can I buy Luzianne tea bags if I’m not in the South?

You can look in your local grocery stores, some may carry Luzianne but you can also shop for this tea on Amazon or elsewhere online.

Why does my sweet tea taste bitter?

Your tea could be bitter for a few reasons. You may have left the bags in longer than the 5 minutes, the water could have boiled more than it should have in the pan, or you may have squeezed the tea bags when taking them out.

More Drink Recipes Made From Scratch

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2 glasses of tea, one with a lemon, and a jug of it behind

Southern Sweet Tea From Scratch (better than restaurants)

Molly LaFontaine of Plum Branch Home
When I set out to develop this Southern sweet tea recipe, I was super excited to create my own version that will be passed down and around from generation to generation. It's so special knowing this tea will have a place on our supper table, served to our guests, and on the menu at every gathering we host. It's more than a recipe; it's the start of an heirloom I can give to others.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Chilling 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine Southern
Servings 0.5 gallons

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Luzianne family-sized tea bags (or 12 regular-sized tea bags) (4 regular = 1 family)
  • 1 cup pure cane sugar
  • 8 cups water (divided into 2 parts of 4 cups)
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda

Instructions
 

  • Add 4 cups of water and all 3 tea bags to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately take off the heat. While the water is heating, occasionally move the tea bags around, up and down, gently.
  • After you take the pot off the heat, let the bags seep for 5 minutes (again moving around occasionally, up and down), then remove them. Do not squeeze the bags.
  • Add cane sugar and baking soda to the pot and stir until dissolved.
  • Pour the concentrated tea mixture into a serving pitcher and add the remaining 4 cups of cold or room-temperature water.
  • Stir to combine, and refrigerate until chilled or ready to serve.
  • When serving, do it over ice and add a lemon or orange slice for garnish (it’s best if enjoyed within the first 48 hours).

Notes

**Please note Luzianne family-sized tea bags may be sized differently than other brands’ family-sized tea bags. This difference can change the flavor of this recipe. 
Keyword plum branch home southern sweet tea, southern sweet tea, southern sweet tea recipe

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Recipe Rating




2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This sweet tea is so delicious it’s hard to just drink one glass of it!!!!
    Best home brewed sweet tea I have had 🧡
    Way better then the sweet tea in our restaurants where I live. Also is healthy then the store bought, plus it’s taster!!

    Molly thanks for stating how many regular teabags to use! Since I only have regular teabags, this is very helpful.