Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and spring is in the air. It’s time to start opening up the porch for guests, and there’s no lovelier way to beat the heat than a nice, refreshing glass of sweet tea.
If you want to serve your guests something from the heart, try making your own sweet tea. It’s easy, fun, and a wonderful way to connect with your loved ones. Follow these four steps to make the yummiest sweet tea you’ve ever had!
Sips by is a personalized tea discovery subscription. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Members receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscription service.
What’s the History of Sweet Tea?
Tea first made its way to America in 1795 when Frenchman Andre Michaux introduced it to spark the tastes of his wealthy patrons. Tea quickly gained popularity and spread through the colonies. Soon, there was a plethora of tea-related recipes to enjoy.
In 1979, Marion Cabell Tyree published a recipe for sweetened green tea that quickly became a hit. The recipe used lemon and sugar to add flavor to the green tea, becoming is the very first iteration of sweet tea.
Head of the Boston Cooking School Mrs. D. A. Lincoln adapted the recipe to use black tea in 1884. Shortly after, the price of black tea fell, and it became the household tea of choice. Sweetened black tea gained popularity at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and rapidly spread around the country as well.
During the 1920s, iced sweet tea became popular as people looked for drinks to replace their boozy beverages. Shortly thereafter, the drink became the common Southern staple that we recognize today. Not much has changed in the last hundred years — sweet tea is still a popular and beloved beverage from sea to shining sea.
How Can I Make Sweet Tea?
We said sweet tea was easy to make, and we meant it. Follow along with our tried-and-true four-step process, and soon you’ll have a unique recipe to pass down for generations to come.
Step One: Pick Your Tea
Sweet tea is traditionally made with plain black tea, and it tastes delicious. However, we now have dozens of black tea options you can use to craft your own signature sweet tea recipe. We have black tea flavored with mango, bergamot, peach, chai, cinnamon, and so much more.
With so many options, it’ll be hard to pick just one. You may have to try a few before you find a tea that provides the exact taste you love.
If you need a place to start, one of our favorites is Biron Teas Peach Blossom Black Tea. This blend combines traditional black tea with peach pieces for a refreshing, summery taste.
Step Two: Pick Your Sweetener
You can’t have sweet tea without the sweets! The traditional sweet tea recipe uses refined sugar as a sweetener, but nowadays we have sweetener options galore.
For a low sugar twist, you can sweeten with stevia or a stevia-based sweetener. You can also choose from all-natural sweeteners like raw sugar, honey, agave, and maple syrup. Each one can infuse your tea with a different taste, and there are so many ways to make it unique.
Step Three: Steep Your Tea
Once you’ve chosen your ingredients, it’s time to put them all together. Set your water to boil, and slowly stir in your sweetener until it’s dissolved. Once the water is boiling, add your tea bags and remove from heat.
Follow the steeping instructions on your specific tea. Most black teas require three to five minutes of steep time, but yours may vary.
If you’ve chosen a loose leaf tea, you’ll need sachets to steep your tea. Luckily, we sell single-use tea filters that are also biodegradable.
Step Four: Chill
Once your tea is properly steeped, remove the tea bags to avoid bitterness, and put your tea in the refrigerator. The tea should chill within a few hours, leaving you with a delicious and refreshing sweet drink.
We recommend making enough tea to fill a small pitcher so that you can enjoy your tea for a few days or serve a few friends.
Is Sweet Tea Good for You?
The short answer is yes, it can be. Black tea contains antioxidants, which help support your body against free radical damage. These antioxidants track down free radicals and neutralize them, leaving you at less risk of damage.
Specifically, black tea is high in a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to reduce the risk of long-term illness and support your body’s natural systems. Black tea has several other benefits as well, including its promotion of metabolic health and healthy blood pressure levels.
However, many bottled sweet teas contain massive amounts of processed sugar. Any healthy antioxidants in bottled teas often dissolve, leaving behind a delicious drink with few health benefits.
Whether or not you drink sweet tea for its health potential, it’s still a delicious way to cool off in the summer.
Does Sweet Tea Expire?
According to the CDC, you should only store tea in your fridge for up to eight hours. This is the best course of action if you’d like to avoid any potential illnesses or side effects. However, the flavor should stay mostly intact for three to four days after brewing.
In terms of tea’s famous health benefits, don’t expect to get much out of your tea after the first day. Any antioxidants in your tea of choice should dissipate slowly after brewing and should be gone after one or two days.
A Few Sweet Tips
Once you have found your signature sweet tea combo, you may want to try other brewing techniques. Many sweet tea fans enjoy cold brewing, a technique where you steep tea in cold water for a few hours. Some say this makes the tea more flavorful and increases its flavor life.
You can also try the sun brewing method, where you steep tea in the sun for five to six hours. This method is certainly very cottagecore and is very popular in some circles, but it hinges on having an afternoon of full, hot sun.
Finally, you can help your sweetener dissolve faster and more thoroughly by creating simple syrup to sweeten your tea. Simple syrup is easy to make and store in your fridge, and it gives you more control over how sweet your tea is from day to day.
Check out our post on how to make simple syrup for a step-by-step guide!
Wrap it All Up
Sweet tea has been around for over a hundred years, and it has an incredibly rich history. The southern staple is not only delicious, but it’s also a deeply ingrained part of our culture.
To make your own sweet tea, all you need is tea, sweetener, and water. It’s quick, easy, and fun, and homemade sweet tea is a great way to flex on guests. You can alter the recipe to truly make it your own and even experiment with different flavor additives.
Iced Tea Favorites
Refresh with the best iced teas as rated by Sips by's 750,000 tea-loving Members in our Iced Tea Favorites Shop. Find your new favorite summer flavor from fruity or hibiscus iced teas to mint or lemon iced teas and more! Plus, you can shop a curated selection of delightful iced tea accessories to cold brew tea in style. Make your summer delicious and refreshing with the best iced teas and accessories.
Interested in trying these teas and others? Subscribers receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscriptions.
About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.