A Comprehensive Guide on Sweet Tea

A cake with fruit on a plate

Keyword: sweet tea

First of all, sweet tea is a cultural drink in the growing regions of South Carolina and Georgia; sweet tea has been used as a reference to describe these places on more than one occasion. This sweetened iced tea drink was invented by the people in the sweet tea state, Georgia, during the 1900s. The United States even has an official day dedicated to sweet tea: June 10th (or 6/10).

The History of Sweet Tea

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Believe it or not, sweet tea can be traced all the way back to ancient times. According to some sources, sweetened iced tea was first discovered by the Chinese around 600 B.C. This sweet tea recipe combined green tea, honey, and ginger to create a drink that would later be known as “sun-tea.”

At some point in history, sweet tea was brought over to the United States and made its way down to Georgia. Sweetened iced tea became popular throughout South Carolina and Georgia because sweetening the iced tea transformed it into a perfect hot weather beverage: sweet, but not too sweet and still allowing people to taste the antioxidants of black tea (which is primarily how Iced Tea got its start).

The First Sweet Tea Recipe

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According to legend, sweet tea’s popularity hit its peak in World War II when sugar became a rare commodity. In order to sweeten the tea, people sweetened it with molasses and lemon instead of sugar or honey.

In the 1940s sweet tea was sweetened with a simple syrup made from boiling water and sugar until the mixture thickened slightly. The sweet tea was then flavored with either lemon juice or mint leaves (or both). By the 1950s sweet tea had already been perfected in South Carolina and Georgia.

Today’s Recipe for Sweet Tea

Today sweet tea comes in many varieties: peach, raspberry, strawberry, mint green tea…just to name a few options. But today there is one general recipe for sweet tea which can be used no matter what variety you’re making: add two teaspoons of loose leaf black tea (or two tea bags) per quart of water. Add 1/3 cup of sugar or sweetener then boil the water and tea mixture for 5 minutes stirring it occasionally to dissolve all the sweetener. Remove from heat and add 2 cups of cold water, sweetened tea ice cubes (to prevent watering down your sweet tea), and, optionally, lemon slices for added flavor.

The Making of Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is very easy to make; if you can boil water, you can make sweet tea! Here’s what you’ll need:

Baking Soda

Pint glass jar (with lid)


Heat 4 cups of filtered or distilled water in a pot over high heat.

Once the water is boiling, add 2 teaspoons of sweet tea leaves (or two sweet tea bags). Stir frequently until sugar has dissolved completely.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent sweet tea from sticking to the pot or burning.

Pour sweet tea into a container; cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight (8 hours) or until cold (I recommend putting sweet tea directly into the fridge as soon as it’s ready since this will help cool sweet tea faster). Adding ice cubes before placing sweetened iced tea in the refrigerator can also help speed up this process further by keeping the sweetener away from your sweet tea; make sure you use sweetened iced-tea ice cubes if you plan on sweetening your sweet tea just before serving it!

Remove sweet tea from the refrigerator, take out sweet tea leaves/bags, and pour sweet tea into a pitcher using a cheesecloth-lined strainer to catch any leaves or particles that may have gotten left behind in the sweet tea. Now wash your glass jar since you will be storing sweetened iced tea in this glass jar for later use. Alternatively, you can store sweetened iced tea in the fridge under these same conditions (covered) for up to 3 days without watering down the flavor of sweet tea at all!

Now that you know how to make sweet tea, what other variations do you think would work? How about sweet tea lemonade?

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