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Southern Sweet Tea: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Southern sweet tea is everything.  Find out where it comes from, how to make it the right way (plus some cool variations) and what to serve with it.

Southern sweet tea is everything. Find out where it comes from, how to make it the right way (plus some cool variations) and what to serve with it.Southern Sweet Tea: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Where does sweet tea come from?  How did it come to be associated with the South?  These articles will answer all your burning questions.

The History of Sweet Tea

The oldest published recipe for sweet iced tea appeared in the cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia in 1879.  It called for green tea.  By the early 1900’s, black tea had replaced green tea, and by the 1920’s, Americans were using specially made tall iced tea glasses.  Sweet tea recipes appeared frequently in Southern cookbooks from that point on.

If you like to read blasphemy, try Why “As Southern As Sweet Tea” Isn’t Very Southern At All.  Uh oh!

What Kind of Tea Bags Should You Use to Make Sweet Tea?

Luzianne or Lipton.  If you use something else, good for you—but you’re not doing it right.  Stick with the classics.

Essential Equipment for Brewing and Drinking Sweet Tea

Of course, you can use any old glasses, but it’s particularly enjoyable to break out something appropriate like Mason jar drinking glasses.  A sealable, dishwasher-safe glass pitcher will keep your tea prep simple and your tea tasting fresh.  And coasters are handy for all the condensation that accumulates on the side of your iced tea glass.

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon

Southern Sweet Tea – in true Southern style

Traditional Southern Sweet Tea Recipes

Straight up, no-nonsense sweet tea.  Nothing strange here, unless you want to count baking soda.  No, really!  Some folks use it to prevent cloudiness.  You’ll find it listed as optional in most recipes.

Sweet Tea Granita

Sweet Tea Granita

Recipes with a Fruity Twist

I’ll admit that the idea of sweet tea with fruit in it seems a little frou-frou, but the more I think about it the better it sounds.  Especially on a very hot day.  Bookmark these for the 4th of July.

Frozen Sweet Tea Vodka Pops

Sweet Tea Vodka Pops

Boozy Recipes

For when you need a little extra something in your tea, like when cousin George corners you at the family reunion to explain how microwaves hypnotize people.  Or when aunt Julia tells you how her potato salad recipe is the best, but she didn’t bother to bring any because she was sure that no one would appreciate it properly.

Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

Sweet Tea Fried Chicken

Dinners Made with Sweet Tea

Not that there will ever be any leftover tea, because we’ll just sit on the porch and drink it until it’s gone—but just in case, here are a few ideas.  I’ve been hearing about sweet tea fried chicken for a while, so I’ve included a regular version and an oven-fried version for you to choose from.

Sweet Tea and Lemon Fudge

Sweet Tea and Lemon Fudge

Desserts Made with Sweet Tea

Hallelujah, there’s fudge!  You have to admire the creativity that goes into making desserts like these.  I am supremely tempted to go wild and make all of them in a single day.  Imagine a slice of Sweet Tea and Lemonade Icebox Pie to round off your summer BBQ.

Sun Tea in a Jar

Sun Tea

All About Sun Tea

I drank so much sun tea as a kid that until this moment, I actually thought there was an iced tea brand called “Sun Tea.”  Apparently, some people think that sun tea is bad.  I think it’s kind of like eating sunny side up eggs, you know?  The Kitchn agrees with me.

Sun tea is not, strictly speaking, automatically sweet—but it’s still a tea tradition that I couldn’t leave out.

Here are some recipes to try.

Where to Buy Sweet Tea If You Can’t Make It Fresh

If, for some strange reason, you can’t settle down long enough to make yourself some, there are acceptable alternatives.  Here’s the lowdown on where you can get the stuff that doesn’t taste “like pipe cleaners soaked in Lemon Pledge.”  Thank you, Mike Nelson, for this poetic description of bad sweet tea in your book.

I know a few folks for whom the supersize Mickey D’s iced tea is the be-all and end-all.  I find that non-chain BBQ restaurants are usually a good bet.  You be the judge.

However, it’s so easy to make that there’s hardly any excuse not to.

Jalapeno Bacon Cornbread

Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Cornbread

Pair Your Tea with Something Tasty

What good is a nice glass of tea without using it to wash down something tasty?  No good at all.  So here are some recipes to pair with your tea.

Are you a Southern sweet tea fan?  How do you like your iced tea?


Terri Beavers

Monday 1st of May 2017

Nothing beats sweet tea, especially on a hot day. When we moved to Georgia ages ago, we learned quickly that sweet tea is a favorite here in the South. I love it so sweet and cold it'll make your teeth hurt.

Cynthia Nicoletti

Sunday 30th of April 2017

I have never tried sweet tea. It sounds really good and I will :)

angela milnes

Sunday 30th of April 2017

Honestly, I haven't try Sweet tea but It looks interesting for me and sounds like a good drink. I can't wait to try this

Ana De- Jesus

Sunday 30th of April 2017

Sweet tea vodka pops? You can count me in, I love sweet tea but I had no idea that it was a very 'Southern tradition ', how neat x

Elizabeth O.

Saturday 29th of April 2017

Tea is always my beverage of choice. I think it's amazing that you gave us a background of sweet tea, that's one of the blends that I enjoy especially during the warmer days of the year.