Appetizers and Drinks
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Iced Sweet Tea

I discovered sweet tea about ten years ago, when I went to Charlotte, NC for work. Being a northerner, it was a revelation to me.
*As was the fact that sweet tea (pronounced “Sweetea”) was what you got unless you specifically asked for it “unsweet”. I wasn’t expecting that much sugar; I wasn’t expecting ANY sugar.

Which brings me to another installment in my “favorite sentences in recipes” series.  This one is from Jaime Purviance, in his recipe for iced tea in Weber’s Big Book of Grilling:

If you want a sweet batch, add about 3 tbsp of sugar to the boiling water.  If you’re from the south, pour it on until it feels right.

And! It is the perfect drink to have with barbecue.
*Non-alcoholic category.

But, I didn’t make sweet tea at home more than once a summer. If you’re making a big batch, it’s a fair amount of work. I would boil a gallon of water, add a lot of tea bags, wait for it to steep, wait for it to cool down…it’s a lot of work for something so simple.

Then I saw this recipe on TheKitchn a couple of months ago. Now I drink iced tea almost every day; I make this recipe about twice a week.  Why do I love it? Because you don’t boil all the water! You make a very concentrated, 2 cup base of tea and sugar, and fill the rest of a gallon pitcher with water to make your tea. This gets around all the work; if you don’t have to deal with a gallon of boiling water, suddenly the recipe is effortless.

I’ve adapted the recipe to my northerner tastes (more tea, less sugar), and my limitations in equipment (no gallon pitcher – only 2 quarts). Enjoy!

Recipe: Iced Sweet Tea

Iced Sweet Tea

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Electric Kettle (optional, but makes it easy.  I have this one.)
  • 2 quart pitcher


  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 family size tea bags “for iced tea” (or five regular tea bags)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Water to fill pitcher to 2 quarts (should be about 6.5 cups)

1. Boil the water: Bring the 1.5 cups of water to a boil.
*This is where the electric kettle really helps – it takes less time to boil the water than it does to get the rest of the ingredients together.

2. Steep the tea: Meanwhile, put the tea bags and sugar in your 2 quart pitcher. Pour your boiling water over the tea bags and sugar, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Let steep for at least 1/2 hour, and preferably 2 hours.
*I actually steep in my 2 cup pyrex measuring cup, because it’s already out from measuring the water.

3. Finish the tea: Remove the tea bags, and squeeze any remaining tea out of them. Add water to the pitcher to bring it up to 2 quarts. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Tea and pitcher; just the brewed tea; filled to 2 quarts

4. Serve: Fill a glass with ice, cover with tea, and serve. A lemon slice or wedge is a nice addition.

*Southerner style: go with 1/2 cup sugar instead of 1/4 cup, and only use 1 cup of water instead of 1.5 cups.

*True Northerner style: skip the sugar. (It’s bitter, so it must build character. Right?)

*Luzianne or Red Rose teas are the traditional choices, but I have a slight preference for Lipton. But…Lipton family size tea bags cost twice as much as Luzianne at my local grocery store, so that’s what I’ve been using.

*I also tried the Luzianne family sized green tea bags in this recipe. Meh. I think the green tea is too subtle to go with this much sugar. Or it just doesn’t work with iced tea. Thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

*Yes, I know, it’s a little late in the year for iced tea (it’s 1:33PM, local time, and it’s 49*F outside.) I’m still drinking it!

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Iced tea is the perfect drink with barbecue:
Barbecued chicken pieces

Rotisserie spare ribs, dry rubbed

Inspired by:
Kathryn Hill: How to Make Sweet Tea []
Jamie Purviance: Weber’s Big Book of Grilling

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  1. While one would think that Sweet Tea is a drink only available to those south of the Mason-Dixon line, when I lived in Boston I was amazed to discover that when one asks for iced tea, if you don’t specify sweet or unsweet, you get sweet by default.

    Like you, I think every day of the year is a good day for iced tea. When I do it at home, I use green tea bags and add about 1/4 cup of sugar to 3 quarts of finished tea if I want to sweeten it just slightly. At the level of sweetness that Sweet Tea has, it’d probably fare better as the tea component in Bubble Tea.

    Exploring Food My Way

  2. Tom,

    Thanks – I have a box of family sized green tea bags left over from testing it for this recipe. As I said, I wasn’t happy with my results, so I’ll have to give your version a try.


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