Southern Sweet Tea

Sweet tea is the considered the signature cold drink of the south. In 2003 as an April Fool’s joke, the Georgia State Legislature made serving unsweetened tea at restaurants throughout Georgia a criminal offense.

If you are not familiar with southern sweet tea, it is more than just sweetened iced tea. Sweet tea has a long history in the south dating back before the prohibition days. In fact, tea punch was served as an alcoholic beverage and because of its strong flavor, LOTS of sugar was added to sweeten it up.

The recipe for sweet tea punch was first printed in The Kentucky Housewife by Mrs. Lettice Bryan (1839). The recipe read like this:

Make a pint and a half of very strong tea in the usual manner; strain it, and pour it boiling on one pound and a quarter of loaf sugar. Add half a pint of rich sweet cream, and then stir in gradually a bottle of claret or of champaign (sic). You may heat it to the boiling point, and serve it so, or you may send it round entirely cold, in glass cups. 

If you remove the cream and alcohol you are left with sweet tea. This became the preferred non alcoholic version of the tea punch in dry counties and was served during prohibition.

Southern Sweet Tea

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Course: Beverage
Author: Amelia Jernigan


  • Sauce Pan
  • Quart Pitcher


  • 8 regular or 4 large black tea bags. I use Luzianne brand
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar to your sweetness preference
  • 2 large lemons optional
  • 4 cup water, plus additional to balance
  • 3 cup ice


  • In a small saucepan combine the sugar and 4 cups of water over high heat. Bring to a boil.
  • Add tea bags. Immediately turn off heat. Let sit and steep for at least 2 hours.
  • Wring out tea bags and discard.
  • In a gallon pitcher add steeped tea.
  • Add 3 cups ice. Fill to gallon line with water.
  • Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.
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