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Here’s how to make classic sweet tea! This recipe is easy to make and comes out with best refreshing flavor that’s sweetened just enough.

Sweet tea
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Hey, sweet tea fans! Did you know the best version of this classic drink is made right at home? This homemade sweet tea is full of the most perfect flavor. It’s sweetened just enough, so you taste the bold nutty flavor of the tea against the purity of the sugar. Wow! The moment Alex and I whipped up a batch, we knew we’d be drinking it this way from now on. Move over, storebought sweet tea! This recipe has the best flavor on the planet.

Want straight up iced tea? Go to our best Iced Tea Recipe.

What is sweet tea?

Sweet tea is black tea that’s sweetened with sugar, then chilled before serving. People drink it all over the world, but it’s most popular in the American South and Indonesia. It’s so famous in the Southern US that it’s almost like a religion! (Are you a sweet tea lifer? Let us know in the comments below.)

You can serve sweet tea any time of the year, but it’s especially perfect for summer entertaining. We’re thrilled to finally have a recipe of our own for sweet tea: here’s everything you need to know.

How to make sweet tea

Ingredients for sweet tea

You need just three ingredients to make this sweet tea recipe! It’s quick and easy, with only a few minutes of hands on time. Here’s what you’ll need before you start:

  • Black tea bags: To make a full pitcher, you’ll need 6 bags. Black tea is the best type of tea to use. Remember that it does have caffeine, but only about half the caffeine level that’s in a cup of coffee.
  • Water: You’ll need 8 cups of water.
  • Sugar: There’s ⅓ cup of sugar in this recipe: which is much lower than other sweet tea recipes! Even so, it’s sweetened just enough to highlight the flavor of the tea without overpowering it.
Sweet tea

How to make sweet tea: a tutorial!

The hands-on time for making sweet tea is quick: most of the time involved is waiting. Making the sweetened tea takes about 20 minutes total. Then you’ll need 2 hours for it to chill in the refrigerator. Here are the basic steps of how to make iced tea at home:

  • Steep the tea: Bring 4 cups water to a simmer, add 6 tea bags and turn off the heat. Steep for 5 minutes.
  • Add the sugar: Remove the tea bags. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves.
  • Add cold water and cool: Add 4 cups cool water and bring to room temperature (about 10 minutes).
  • Refrigerate 2 hours: Transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate 2 hours.

Note: You can also make sweet tea using the cold brew method. Go to Cold Brew Tea.

Sweet tea

Variations: alternate sweeteners

You can make sweet tea with whatever sweetener you like! While they’re not standard sweeteners, you can use any of the following in this recipe if you’d like to make it naturally sweet:

  • Honey: Honey sweet tea has a few notes of honey in the base flavor
  • Maple syrup: You can also use maple syrup to sweeten: it adds nuance but does not taste like maple
  • Agave syrup: Another natural sweetener is agave syrup! It adds a gentle subtle sweetness
Sweet tea

How to serve iced tea

The best part about sweet tea is hearing the music of ice cubes hitting against the glass, right? We love serving iced tea for summer entertaining, like patio parties, cookouts, pitch-ins, and pool parties. To make it look its best, we like to add the following to the pitcher or serving glass:

  • Lemon slices or wedges — add a squeeze of juice before drinking, as a variation
  • Fresh mint leaves (optional)

This sweet tea recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Sweet tea

Classic Sweet Tea

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x


Here’s how to make classic sweet tea! This recipe is easy to make and comes out with best refreshing flavor that’s sweetened just enough.


  • 8 cups water, divided
  • 6 black tea bags
  • ⅓ cup sugar


  1. In a saucepan, heat 4 cups water to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the tea bags. Allow to steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the tea bags and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the remaining 4 cups cold water to the pan. Cool until room temperature, about 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer to a pitcher. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before drinking. Store up to 4 days.
  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Tea
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

More tea & summer drinks

There’s lots more tea where this comes from! Try our tea recipes, infused waters and more:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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