How to Make the Best Homemade Sweet Tea in Just Minutes

How to Make the Best Homemade Sweet Tea in Just Minutes - Pitcher and glass of tea

Experience the true taste of the South with homemade sweet tea, a classic Southern beverage that’s simple, refreshing, and fully customizable to your sweetness preference. 

Growing up with roots in Georgia and living in Florida for many years, homemade sweet tea was more than just a drink for me; it was a daily essential. The flavors of sweet tea offer a cool thirst quencher on hot days and a cozy sip in the evenings. Whether you like it lightly sweetened or authentically Southern-sweet, this versatile drink caters to all tastes.

Get ready to make your own delicious homemade sweet tea with this simple recipe that will transport you to the South no matter where you are. Plus, I’ve added some variations for you to experiment with below! But first, let’s learn about the history of sweet tea.

How to Make the Best Homemade Sweet Tea in Just Minutes - Tea bags in a tea box

The History Behind Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is often associated with Southern hospitality and tradition in the United States. However, its history extends beyond the South and even the borders of the United States.


  • Tea was introduced to America by the Dutch in the late 1640s when New Amsterdam (now New York) was a Dutch settlement. This introduction predates British control and illustrates the multicultural influences on American tea consumption practices.


  • A common origin story for iced tea (and, by extension, sweet tea) is its invention at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair by Richard Blechynden. However, this story is misleading. While the fair did play a role in popularizing iced tea, historical records suggest that iced tea, and likely sweetened versions, existed before this event. The fair’s significance lies more in the popularization and commercialization of iced tea rather than its invention.


  • The specific tradition of iced sweetened tea in the United States has its roots in the early 19th century. The oldest known recipe for sweetened iced tea was published in 1879 in a cookbook called “Housekeeping in Old Virginia” by Marion Cabell Tyree. This recipe used green tea, steeped and sweetened while hot before being cooled over ice.


  • Sweet tea began as an item of luxury due to the expensive nature of its ingredients: tea, ice, and sugar. All three ingredients were expensive and only sometimes available to the general population.


  • Summerville, SC, claims the title of “The Birthplace of Sweet Tea,” with historical ties to tea plant imports in the 1700s. These early introductions of tea plants into the area contribute to the region’s claim, highlighting the long-standing relationship between the South and tea cultivation.
How to Make the Best Homemade Sweet Tea in Just Minutes - Recipe Card

Homemade Sweet Tea Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of  boiling water
  • 6-8 tea bags (black tea is traditional)
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups of granulated sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 4 cups of cold water

Homemade Sweet Tea Instructions:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and add the tea bags. Allow them to steep for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. After steeping, remove the tea bags from the water. Avoid squeezing the tea bags; this can make the tea bitter.
  4. While the tea is still warm, add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Adjust the amount of sugar according to your taste. For less sweet tea, start with ¾ cup and add more if needed.
  5. Add the remaining 4 cups of cold water to the tea. 
  6. Transfer the tea to a pitcher and refrigerate until it’s completely chilled. This usually takes about 2-3 hours; leaving it overnight is best.


  • My Preference: I heat half the water and then add the remaining cold water after adding the sugar. Many recipes call for heating 2 cups of water and later adding 6 cups of cold water.
  • Tea Selection: Experiment with different types of tea to find your favorite. Classic black teas are traditionally used but feel free to try green tea, herbal teas, or a blend. My favorite is Luzianne, which can be found here.
  • Adjust Sweetness: The sweetness of homemade sweet tea can vary significantly. Adjust the sugar to your preference, and you can always add more if needed.
  • Baking Soda: Some say baking soda helps remove bitterness and cloudiness from the homemade sweet tea. I have not encountered bitterness or cloudiness in my tea or tried this method.
50 Summer Bucket List Ideas For The Best Summer Yet - sweet tea in mason jar

Flavor Variations

Homemade sweet tea is a tasty and versatile beverage, perfect for customization. Here are several variations to elevate the traditional sweet tea recipe, making each sip an exciting experience:

Mint Sweet Tea

Add a handful of fresh mint leaves to the tea while it’s steeping. Remove them when you take out the tea bags.

Peach Sweet Tea

Mix fresh or frozen peaches into the chilled tea, or steep the tea with peach slices for a subtly infused flavor.

Lemon Ginger Sweet Tea

Add lemon and a few fresh ginger slices to the tea while it steeps. You can also use natural lemon juice for a stronger lemon flavor.

Raspberry Sweet Tea

Muddle fresh raspberries and mix them into the tea, or create a raspberry syrup by simmering raspberries with sugar and water, then straining.

Bourbon Sweet Tea

Add a shot of bourbon to your glass of sweet tea. Adjust the amount based on your preference.

Honey Lavender Sweet Tea

Create a honey lavender syrup by simmering water, honey, and dried lavender flowers. Strain and add to your tea.

Spiced Sweet Tea

Add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and star anise to the tea while steeping it for a spiced version.

Vanilla Almond Sweet Tea

Stir in a splash of vanilla extract and almond extract to your finished tea. Adjust to taste.

The Arnold Palmer

Mix equal parts homemade sweet tea and homemade lemonade.

Chai Sweet Tea

Steep your tea with a bag of chai tea or with chai spices for a unique twist.

Each variation adds a unique twist to traditional sweet tea, allowing you to customize your beverage to suit any occasion or personal preference. Experiment with these ideas or create your own signature homemade sweet tea blend. The variations are endless.

How to Make the Best Homemade Sweet Tea in Just Minutes - Tea Farm

Final Thoughts

I hope this blog post has given you some new insight into the world of sweet tea. The refreshing and comforting qualities of homemade sweet tea have made it a staple in many households, including mine. 

Try bringing a taste of the South into your home with this simple yet delicious recipe. Get creative and make it your own by trying different flavors and variations! 

Share this recipe with your friends and family, and spread the joy from experiencing true Southern hospitality in a glass. Cheers to good company and even better homemade sweet tea!

How to Make the Best Homemade Sweet Tea in Just Minutes - Pin of pitcher and glass of sweet tea

History of tea in America. (n.d.). Chado Tea.

Iced Tea History – Sweet Tea History. (2015, May 14). What's Cooking America.

Summerville SC and the origins of sweet tea in the US. (2018, September 13). Thurmond, Kirchner & Timbes, P.A.

Sweet tea facts for kids. (n.d.). Kids encyclopedia facts.

Tea appears in the New World. (2020, June 8). Boston Tea Party Ships.

Tyree, M. C. (2013, March 31). The Project Gutenberg eBook of housekeeping in old Virginia, by Marion Cabell Tyree. Project Gutenberg.

Who invented sweet tea? (2022, June 16). Southern Breeze Sweet Tea.

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