Iced Tea Recipe
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There’s nothing as refreshing as the perfect glass of Iced Tea. Freshly brewed. Perfectly sweetened – not too much, not too little.
Growing up in the South we do love our iced tea. While we’re surrounded by an endless supply of the sweet stuff at every corner, I prefer to have my own less-sweetened supply for home at my beck and call. So, in search of the perfect concoction I’ve tried many methods over the years and have found what I think works best. Mind you, you’ll find a bunch of (and when I say a bunch, I mean a kazillion) recommendations for making the perfect iced tea. I recently talked to a friend who can only make it in a mason jar in her microwave. This method is tried and true. It creates a strong flavored tea that taste like tea, not sugary water.
First, Luzianne is the brand we usually use when making iced tea. I like to use the family size tea bags as we make a gallon at a time.
Heat about 2 quarts of cold water (it should be cold – I don’t know why – just do it) to just before it begins to boil. If it starts to boil, no worries. Pour the hot water into a pitcher with the tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes of steep time is up, remove the tea bags. Do not squeeze them! My friend, Lynne G., shared that tip. It makes it too bitter.
Sugar, sugar? Stir the sugar into the warm tea water until dissolved. As I mentioned before we don’t care for our tea too sweet, if any at all, so we only add about 1/3 of a cup per gallon when making sweetened iced tea. Only 1/3 cup? I know – the horror! I have friends who do indeed add up to 2 cups per gallon! To each his own. You can easily adjust the sweetness to your preference.
Fill the pitcher up to the gallon mark with ice or cold water, or a combo of both. Stir to incorporate. Cover and refrigerate.
Your homemade iced tea will have a shelf life of about 2 days – if it lasts that long! Just an observation, but it seems to me that the more sugar added, the quicker it goes bad. It may be my imagination. I’ve never run any official test or anything, but we have noticed that when we make unsweetened iced tea it doesn’t go bad as quick.
Tips for the best Iced Tea:
- The type of water does make a difference in taste. Maybe try to use bottled or filtered water if you’re having problems achieving the desired taste. Also, hard water tends to make cloudy tea when it reacts with the tannins.
- Remember to begin with cold water. Again, I don’t know why, but it works.
- Non-reactive teapots or pans are important for heating the water for iced tea. Stainless steel and enameled are the most common and preferred.
- Try a little sugar at a time. You can always add more sugar but it’s a bit difficult to get those sugar crystals out after they’re dissolved. 😉 Another option is to make unsweetened tea then make a simple syrup by combining 1 part sugar to 2 parts boiling water, then refrigerate to have on hand to be able to sweeten each glass to personal preference. Randy and I have really grown accustomed to drinking unsweetened iced tea.
- Grab a tall glass fill it with ice and tea and enjoy!
Iced Tea Recipe
A classic cold southern drink that is easy to make at home.
- 2 quarts cold water
- 5 family size tea bags made for iced tea (i prefer Luzianne)
- sugar (adjust to preference)
- more cold water and/or ice
Heat 2 quarts cold water to a just before boiling. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Let steep for minutes.
Remove tea bags. Pour into gallon sized pitcher. Stir in sugar to dissolve.
Add cold water and/or ice to pitcher to fill to gallon amount. Refrigerate covered.
Originally posted August 5, 2009. Updated July 30, 2015.
Well, thanks for sharin’! This Southern born-n-raised girl makes lousy tea! My family, although “Southern” didn’t worship at the Tea Altar. This is one skill I definitely lack, so, thank you for sharing something so seemingly simple, and giving me hope that, where iced tea is concerned, “Tumarra IS anutha day!” By the way, your photos are great!
It’s true… the more sugar the quicker it goes bad. Someone scientific(SLP)once told me it was because the sugar starts to ferment and that’s what gives it that awful “twang”. We don’t have to worry about that in our house because we do tend to worship at the Tea Alter. Oh my, tryin’ to cut back though!
You are right there are many different ways of making sweet tea and the water can be the key. But as for the sugar making the tea go bad, I was told by an old friend, many years ago, that if you boil your water, PUT IN THE SUGAR, BOIL AGAIN, take off the eye and THEN PUT IN THE TEA BAGS to steep, that the tea will not go bad as quick. Also, once steeped pour in pitcher and add ice cubes instead of water. Supposedly boiling the sugar keeps it from vermenting, the ice cubes stops the steeping process and when ice is melted you’ll have iced tea. It takes a little longer and I have to admit I don’t always make it this way but when I do it seems to work. It’s worth a try.
Amy, the photography IS wonderful. You are very talented and it shows.
Thanks mom. I got it all from you and your great lineage of smart, creative women.
Making iced tea has always been a little confusing to me. It seems:
we boil the water to make it hot then put ice in it to make it cold, then put sugar into it to make it sweet and then put lemon in it to make it sour.
I add a pinch (very small pinch) of baking soda and also – never, ever, squeeze the tea bags– squeezing the bags makes the tea bitter.
We are one of those “two cups of sugar per gallon” families. I LOVE my sweet tea! My MIL drinks unsweetened (ugh) so when she drinks it at my house she says it’s like having dessert. And Lynne’s right–don’t squeeze those tea bags! I’ve always heard a pinch of salt will keep it from being bitter but mine doesn’t need it so I don’t know about that.
Ask Cindy, this tea is usually enjoyed by many and I have had requests for the recipe.
Mint, Lemonade Tea for a gallon:
– Boil water
– Pour over 4 family decaf tea bags (Luzianne) and 4-6 – 5″ long sprigs of washed fresh mint (spearmint type is best)
– Let it steep (I can be quite forgetful about it at this point and it is forgiving)
– Pull out tea bags and mint
– Add 6-8 scoops of pink (it is prettier) lemonade and feel free to add sugar after that if you like it sweeter
– stir it until blended and add ice to make it a gallon.
My family also loves tea. We go through a gallon a day. Waitresses cringe when I order my toddler tea. Although he doesn’t like anything sweet! We have to order unsweet tea here in Orlando. Its crazy, except for only 1 locally owned place ive been too, not a restaurant here makes southern tea. It is some weird brown sugar syrup concoction. I like your method, ill have to try it, I like very strong, and barely sweet, so ill just leave the bags in there all day.
I have always used Tetley and use one and half cups sugar to a gallon of tea and never squeeze the tea bags(it does make it bitter). A funny story about my sweet tea. Last week at the Big League World Series, there were teams from Pennsylvania, Indiana, Florida and all over the world. We were selling snow cones and some of the players from the North wanted to know if we sold sweet tea. Well the next day, we were selling our sweet tea, we just couldn’t make enough. One little guy, with his dad came by to get some more sweet tea and he said this was the best sweet tea he had ever had (this was his 7th cup). So, we always wanted to know where people were from, so I said, “Where are you from?”
His reply—Simpsonville. So we Southerners do like our sweet tea, but those Northerners like it too.
Do you have a drive-thru?
Now Melissa is right about everyone always askin’ her for the recipe when they drink tea at her house. My family calls it “Lisser’s Tea” and we love it. It is a wonderful take on mint tea with a little lemon and a nice refreshing change. Try it… you’ll be glad she gave you the recipe!
This makes me so very happy! Great post. For the record, I was taught the two cups of sugar method.
I first learnt about the Southern Iced Tea when I read the in the novel Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin. While, I grew up in house where tea was drunk in lieu of water (we never added sugar in our tea though, we drank it the way it was), I never knew there was so much knowledge involved in making America’s Southern Iced Tea. I had never had Southern Iced Tea ever in my life and would like to try one day. The food culture in the American South is fascinating to me.
Ice tea + summer = best combo ever! I have to make this!
I agree, Tori! It’s hard to beat on these hot summer days.
This looks so good!
Glad you updated this. I usually use an Iced Tea “maker” that actually makes about 3 qts. I usually use 3 Fam-size bags + 1 reg bag of Chai tea to get a little special flavor. I also sweeten with Splenda but it does tend to get bitter after a couple days. I’m going to try your method. Thanks!
Does anyone use any of the sugar substitutes? I drink at least two McDona;d’s sweet teas (32 oz) daily. Want to get off the sugar and this receipe sounds great, but I would love to use a substitute. Any ideas, folks?
Take a look at all the buildup inside a used water heater and you will know why cold water is reccomended. Also, hot water will leach minerals from metal water pipes, and who-knows-what from plastic water pipes. Something to keep in mind the next time you decide to save a minute or two by using hot water when the recipe or directions call for boiling water. I hope this helped.
My husband always make my ice tea. He uses the water from our own well crystal clear cold water. And I do the unsweet tea too. His tea is always better than mine so he watches my pitcher and when I get low he is ready with a fresh one.