Sweet Southern Ice Tea

Beverage recipes
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Smokin Mike
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Sweet Southern Ice Tea

Post by Smokin Mike »

I'm not saying that the folks up north don't know how to make sweetened ice tea but in their version they hand you a glass of tea and a couple of sugar packets. By the time lunch is over and you've constantly stirred the tea with the added sugar, you may have about half the sugar crystals dissolved and you're watching the remaining crystals swirl around in the bottom of the glass. We do things a little differently in the South and by that I mean we sweeten our tea during the brewing process. Of course, for those sugar intolerant, we can put aside enough unsweetened brew for their consumption.

This recipe will make 1/2 gallon of pure honest to goodness sweet tea, not some lightly colored sugar water that you find in many of the fast food restaurants. Here's what you will need to get started;

  • 3 Family size tea bags
  • 2 Quarts spring or purified water
  • 1/2 to 1 cup raw cane sugar
  • 1 quart Pyrex measuring cup
  • 2 quart pot with lid
  • 2 Quart carafe or pitcher
  • 1 stirring spoon
First, let's talk about the ingredients. Use a good quality black tea or tea blend made for ice tea. Several popular tea brands are Luzianne, Newman's Own, Lipton, etc. If you want to go out of your comfort zone then Earl Gray or another exotic black tea would work. As far as water is concerned, for God's sake don't use tap water. Find a quality spring or purified water that doesn't have any unnecessary chemicals in it that will throw off the taste. The sugar??? If you want to use the refined white stuff then fine, I won't tell anyone, but a nice organic raw cane sugar sure does the trick.

As far as the hardware, your measuring cup will need to be tolerant of being put in the freezer for an hour or so. More about that later.

  1. Ignore the directions on the tea box. We're not making sissy tea here. :mrgreen:
  2. 4 cup size tea bags are the equivalent of 1 family size tea bag.
  3. Only make enough tea that can be consumed within several days, three to four max.
  4. Don't dunk the tea bags in rapidly boiling water.
  5. Don't squeeze the tea bags when removing them from the pot.
So why can't we make 10 gallons of tea and hold it for a month or two? There's a certain air born bacteria that likes to setup shop in a pitcher of sweet tea and once it gets cozy the tea will quickly take on a funky sour taste. If you're a tea drinker and have been on this planet more than 12 years then you know what I'm talking about. It's best to make only enough tea that can be consumed fairly quickly.

Why can't I toss my tea bags in rapidly boiling water? The internet says that if you do this the tea will become bitter. We wouldn't want to disappoint the internet now would we? Let the boiling water calm down a few seconds before dunking the tea bags. If you're a thrill seeker then totally ignore this suggestion. For the same reason, squeezing the tea bags will turn the tea bitter or that's what they say. In all honesty, I can't tell the difference but for the sake of compliance I stopped squeezing the bags. Your mileage may vary.

One other thing I've heard is that if you put a pinch of baking soda in your brew then the tea will not get cloudy. All I have to say to that is my tea doesn't get cloudy and quite frankly I have no idea how to make cloudy tea, but hey, if that's your thing then go for it.

Ok, so let's get on with it;

We are basically going to make a concentrate and some chill water to dilute the concentrate after the brew.

Measure 32 oz (1 quart) of water and pour into the pot;

Measure another 32 oz and place the water in the freezer

Turn up the heat on the pot and wait for the water to boil. You can put a lid on the pot to decrease the amount of time for boil. Turn off the heat, wait for the water to settle down, then dunk the tea bags in the water making sure they get adequately saturated. Spread the tea bags away from each other, hang the tags over the pot edge then cover for 1 hour. This process is called steeping. No need to do anything further. Just walk away until an hour is over.

After an hour, remove the tea bags.

Now comes the moment of truth... time to add the sugar. How much sugar you ask? Well that's very subjective and depends on your personal preference and tastes. Here's some guidelines;
  • 1/4 cup per finished quart for a lightly sweetened tea
  • 1/3 cup per finished quart for a moderately sweetened tea
  • 1/2 cup per finished quart for a heavily sweetened tea which produces a sugar coma :shock:
I prefer a moderately sweetened tea so I add 2/3rds cups sugar to my concentrate for our 2 quart batch. Stir as you dispense the sugar. You can take the back of the spoon and glide it along the bottom of the pot and if it feels gritty then you know the sugar hasn't completely dissolved. Keep stirring until the grittiness goes away. The whole point of the 1 hour steep time is that it allows plenty of time for the tea bags to release their tea goodness and the water is still at a temperature, about 125° (luke warm) and still able to quickly dissolve sugar crystals.

Once the concentrate has been sweetened it is time to blend it with the chill water. Remove the water from the freezer and pour it into a carafe or pitcher then add the concentrate. Stir to make sure it is well blended. You will now have a batch of sweet tea that is approximately at room temperature.
ChillWater toCaraf.jpg

Nothing to do now except squeeze a wedge of lemon into a frosty glass, fill with ice, then slowly pour the tea over the ice. Refrigerate the remaining tea.

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