Homemade Sweet Tea Recipe

Enjoy a tall glass of homemade sweet tea for a refreshing break from the summer heat!

I have to admit that this California native has never been to the south. And while I’ve had a bit of sweetener in my tea on occasion, I’ve never had that real, authentic sweet tea that seems to be a staple in that part of the country.

Clean Eating Sweet Tea

Apparently, the difference between southern tea and west coast tea is all about WHEN you add the sugar as well as how much sugar you use. With true sweet tea, you add a lot of sugar (up to 2 cups sugar per gallon of tea by some accounts!!) while the tea is hot and brewing. With west coast tea, you typically add just a little sugar after cooling.

Now I’m not here to argue the method for making sweet tea. I’m sure there are many. But I thought it was high time I gave this drink a try, clean eating style! I will say that even with clean and natural sugars, this tea is kind of a sugar bomb. So plan your day accordingly. But it’s nice to know that if you really want to enjoy something like this, you don’t have to absolutely destroy your eating plan either.

Now according to some of my readers, in order for this to truly be authentic, it absolutely MUST be served on a front porch. It wasn’t made clear to me whether or not I needed a rocking chair, but since I don’t have one, I had to make do with sitting on the stairs of my front porch. I think I got roughly the same effect.

Tea Varieties

  • Lipton
  • Luzianne
  • Tetley
  • Orange Pekoe (This can be hard to find. If you want to use it, you may have to order from amazon.)

P.S. – I have to admit that this recipe was FAR to sweet for my west coast taste buds. I had to add water. So if you find this is too sweet for you as well, simply add more water and leave the tea bags in a little longer as needed.

And as I said, there are many ways to make sweet tea. So if this doesn’t seem right to you, please be kind to this California girl. But I sure would love to know how you make it! Leave me a comment and share!

P.S.S. – I was told that the baking soda gives the tea a “smoother” flavor. I suppose it could depend on the tea used, but I added it. Feel free to leave it out if you prefer. You can’t taste it.

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Homemade Sweet Tea Recipe

Clean Eating Sweet Tea

Homemade Sweet Tea

A delicious summer favorite ya’ll!
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Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American, Southern
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 7 cups
Calories: 57kcal



  • Bring 3 cups of water to boil, remove from heat and stir in the Sucanat.
  • Bring 4 cups of water to boil, remove from heat, quickly stir in the sugar water and add your tea bags.
  • Stir in baking soda.
  • Let sit for 10-15 minutes, or until the tea reaches your desired strength.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature before putting the tea over ice or in the fridge.


Please note that the nutrition data given here is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 57kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Sodium: 61mg | Sugar: 14g | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 0.1mg

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  1. I enjoyed this article. I grew up having sweet tea in the house and here in my house I go through 1 1/2 to 2 gallons a day because that is all my boys want to drink. My oldest son moved to CA and he complained, “I can find chocolate covered bacon here, but no sweet tea in sight.” -lol It is funny to see how what we think is normal is different in other parts of the country. We have a lot of military in the area and meet people from all over and they have never had some of the foods I grew up on like chicken and dumplings, grits, collards, NC BBQ.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Renee – I know! Even in our own country, traditional foods vary greatly!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi! I am enjoying learning how to keep my foods as clean as possible! For a nice sweet tea, I suggest boiling a small pot of water and add a handful of STEVIA LEAVES (right from the plant). Boil it until the water turns a dark green. Then take out the leaves and let the water cool down. Next, add your tea bags and bring to a boil again. When finished, poor the tea into a pitcher and add water. I think this is as clean and healthy as one can get and the taste is amazing!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Stephanie – Wow! Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Lipton also has a seasonal tea..called southern sweet tea..it’s very good but has sucralose as a sweetener..

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Hayley – That’s too bad. I wish they wouldn’t do that. They also put soy lecithin in their tea. Ick.

  4. just curious what does the baking soda do? Thank you for providing this as i have been trying to find a better option for our family. now that i am trying to use healthier choices and clean choices i am trying to see if i can wean us off of Crystal light Green peach tea. Do you have a suggestion of how i can incorporate the peach flavor?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Patricia – I would just buy an herbal peach tea. There are a lot of natural fruit teas out there. If you can’t find them locally, give amazon a try. They seem to have everything!

  5. Maryann T says:

    Well, I’ll probably get yelled at for this ’cause most Southerners don’t do it this way, but my Papa taught me to put in 7 regular ‘Lipton’ tea bags in a smaller pot (we have one specifically for tea, haha) and set the stove to high until it just starts to boil. Most people cringe because they think I boil my tea bags but I pull them off as soon as I see them bubble and its perfectly steeped for my family. Sugar has always been between 1 and 2 cups per gallon, though I swear my uncle used 3, it all depends on who you are serving! I add hot tap water to my sugar while my tea is getting hot and stir it up. Once the tea is ready I pour it right in the hot sugar water and add water to my tea bags in the pot to pour into the pitcher (usually about 2 times) and top off with more hot water. Drink it hot or pour over a full cup of ice and you’re good to go!

    I will have to see if I can find sucanat somewhere around here so I can try it. We don’t have any health food stores nearby that I know of. And thank you for your blog, I really do appreciate it since I’m trying to start on clean eating and it’s a little rough now, but my mom has agreed to join me, so we’ll see how it goes! At least I know we can still have sweet tea ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Maryann T – Thanks for sharing that! If you can’t find the sucanat at a local store, try amazon.com. They always carry it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy!

  6. The baking soda, in addition to cutting the bitterness, also keeps the tea from “going bad” so quickly! I am from the South and started adding the baking soda about a month ago, to rave reviews! !!!!!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Ashleigh – Awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Bridgette says:

    I am suprised this would be considered clean,
    considering what chemicals and processed things are in tea bags, whether its sweetened or unsweet.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Bridgette – You can use whatever tea you like. Typically, loose leaf tea is clean, which is why I mentioned the orange pekoe tea. But it’s totally up to you.

  8. Katy | Alphabet Soup says:

    I haven’t read all the comments, but if you steep your tea too long, you run the risk of it becoming bitter. A pinch of baking soda will help with the bitterness and lowers acidity. (You can throw a pinch of baking soda in your tomato-based sauces to do the same thing!) There are pretty much as many methods and ratios to making sweet tea as there are Southerners, lol.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Katy – Haha! Ya, I can imagine!

  9. I was born and raised in the heart of the South. We have always used baking soda in our tea. My mom and my grandma’s all did it that way. I was always told it made it smoother and darker. However since moving to Iowa, I no longer make it that sweet (I now use about 1/4 cup of sugar) but I still use the soda.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sandie – Awesome! Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. What a really good funny article!!! I am a Southern Belle by way of SC & GA living in N. VA. Your article hit it right on the head with everything you said. Sweet tea was always a staple growing up & still is to this day. I have had to adjust my taste buds for the further north you go, you have to ask if sweet tea is served.

    I had forgotten about the baking soda until you mentioned it. It really does make a difference in the taste. Too funny!!

    I so enjoyed reading your article & the comments!

    Thank you!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sheina – My pleasure! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I am from Maryland. Born and raised on Maryland Sweet. My grandmother used to add fresh mint.
    In an attempt to get away from the sweetness I make a new kind of tea. I use 4 green tea bags (Organic) 2 Moroccan Mint tea bags. I boil the water, add the tea and put a lid on the pot for around 15-20 minutes. After removing the teabags I then add a few tablespoons honey, 1/4 cup real freshly lemon juice and between a 1/2 and a cup of sugar.
    It is the best and freshest tasting tea.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Cynthia – Sounds wonderful!

  12. Hey there!!

    I want to try this so bad! Thank you!!

    I am from California, but have family in the south and love sweet tea, but not quite as sweet as southern sweet tea. I put 1/4cup of sugar in a jug and run HOT water to dissolve the sugar, then I use 4 family size tea bags and let it seep for an hour or two. (After reading this post I guess I like STRONG tea. haha.)

    But anyway, I am very particular about my tea. If it brews too long it tastes “rotten” to me. Would the baking soda help with that? Say, if I accidentally left it brewing overnight instead of a few hours… I noticed someone said it keeps it from rotting, I wondering if their definition of rotting is the same as mine. haha

    Also, I was wondering if there are any other clean eating sweeteners we could add, besides sucanat?? Maybe Agave nectar?? I am new to this “clean-eating” thing and am not too “hip” on the natural/unprocessed sweeteners yet.


    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Brianna – Agave isn’t clean. You could try honey or coconut sugar. Some clean eaters use xylitol as well. Hope that helps!

  13. See??? I didn’t know that!! Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Brianna – My pleasure! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. I’m from Louisiana and I’ve been putting baking soda in my sweet tea for years to cut down on bitterness. I agree though that 1 cup to 2 cups per gallon is more the ratio. This is a rare treat for me anymore. Maybe once a year but can’t wait to try this healthier version. Thanks so much!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sheri – I hope you enjoy it!

  15. I like cold brewed teas so how would i adapt this??

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Leslie – That’s hard to say. You need something warm to dissolve the sweetener.