How to Make Perfect Sweet Tea

Sweet tea on a hot summer day is a staple in the South. I like flavoring sugar water to add to the tea with wild mountain mint from my garden. I make plain sugar water for my hummingbirds at the same time. (photos by Bob Farley)

I am a Southern born and Southern bred girl, so for every summer holiday, barbecue and sweet tea are on the menu. There is nothing better than spending time outside with family, tending the grill, weeding the garden a bit while the food is cooking, and sipping on some sweet iced tea to keep cool in the summer heat.

Here in the Reynolds-Farley household, we like sweet tea, but not too sweet. We probably use half as much sugar as most Southerners do, and instead of stirring straight sugar into the tea while it is hot and on the stove and then diluting the tea with water, we make flavored sugar water to add to the tea by steeping mints from the garden and sometimes seasonal fruits. We make the tea, the sugar water, and our hummingbird nectar all at the same time. We simply make two batches of hummingbird sugar water (1/2 cup sugar to 2 cups water) — one for the feeders, the other for tea. We flavor the tea batch, and leave the other one plain for the hummingbirds.

Our nephew, who we like to call MP, sips iced tea while grilling some hotdogs and sausages.

Sugar water:

Make the same way as the hummingbird nectar except add mint or fruit, and to that, add hot water, steep, and strain.

Sugar water variations for tea:

Muddle mint (and here, we like to use wild mountain mint the best). Also, try sliced ginger, pomegranate seeds, maypop (passionvine fruit) seeds, apple slices, peach, mango, papaya, or citrus slices.

Brew the perfect 2-quart pitcher of sweet tea in just 5 steps:

1) Bring to a vigorous boil, six cups of water. Turn the burner off.

2) Place two family size tea bags in the water and steep for five minutes.

3) Remove tea bags.

4) Stir in the two cups of flavored sugar water, and allow to cool.

5) Pour into a pitcher and enjoy.

Below, find another idea for tea lovers, whether yourself or a friend.

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  4. Robin Lunsford says:

    Long process there, I'm from Tennessee & we make tea easier. WE put (1) One gallon of tea in a glass jug , with a lid on it , add (1) One cup sugar, or Splenda, (5) tea bags, and set in a sunny area for at least (1) One hour. Enjoy!


About Michelle Reynolds 


I’m a slipcover maker who refuses to fill the trash with the cutaway bits of designer fabrics, so I strive to make use of every scrap. I live with my ...

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