Southern iced tea, with the perfect amount of sweetness, to cool you down on a hot summer day. A refreshing pick me up! Instructions included for both sweetened or unsweetened iced black tea.
🧄 Ingredient notes
While you can serve almost every tea iced, the iced tea we're talking about here is Southern iced tea, made from black tea.
- black tea bags (I like Lipton)
- sugar (optional, for sweet tea)
Sweet or Unsweet?
Iced tea is a staple drink in many Southern homes. Next to water, sweet tea is what people drink.
When we have company over, we always have a pitcher of iced tea on hand. If it's a large enough group, I will prepare two pitchers - one of sweetened iced tea and one of unsweetened iced tea - to accommodate everyone's preferences.
If it's true sweet tea you're after, then you can double, triple or even quadruple the sugar in this recipe until it's reached the dessert-level sugar high of a beverage known as "sweet tea".
Please know that if you travel anywhere in the south, particularly in the country, and ask for sweet tea, this is what you will get.
If that's not what you want, you can always ask for unsweetened tea and add sugar until it's sweet enough for you.
Or, you can ask for "half and half", which is half sweet tea and half unsweet tea.
When traveling, I know we've left the South when iced tea isn't on every menu as a drink option!
What kind of tea bag should I use?
You can use any standard black tea bag that you can get where you live. Each has it's own distinct flavor.
Speaking of tea bags, the two main choices here in southern states of the USA are Lipton and Luzianne. I prefer Lipton.
I've tried them both, but my favorite is Lipton.
To make 8 cups of tea, you'll use 6 standard-size Lipton tea bags or 2 family-size Lipton tea bags.
To make more or less tea, just adjust the number of tea bags and sugar in the recipe below according to the amount you want to make.
Can I make Southern iced tea with loose leaf tea?
Traditional Southern iced tea is made with black tea bags. Some people like their tea on the weak side.
I prefer my tea strong, so I steep it longer to make sure it's nice and strong and will still hold on to that wonderful tea flavor even after the ice has melted.
Those characteristics come at a premium price, though.
To make a pitcher of strong black iced tea using organic, loose-leaf black tea, you would need to use ¼ - ⅓ cup of tea leaves and that's a pretty penny.
Especially since we drink so much iced tea.
If you would like to use loose leaf black tea for this recipe, I would suggest using an Irish breakfast, Nilgiri or Assam black tea that were cut into smaller pieces when the tea was processed and dried.
Processing the tea leaves by cutting them makes the resulting tea stronger. When the hot water hits the leaves, more flavor is extracted during the steeping process.
This is why tea bags (which contain tiny tea "dust") make such a strong cuppa tea.
To make Southern iced tea with loose leaf tea:
- For English Breakfast, Assam or Nilgiri dried tea leaves: Steep ¼ cup in the boiling water, then proceed with recipe.
- For a cut loose leaf tea, like Irish breakfast, Campbell's Irish tea or something similar: Steep 2 tablespoons of tea in the boiling water, then proceed with recipe.
- Be sure to strain the loose leaf tea or use a large tea steeper.
Use boiling water
Far from the delicate water temperature needs of an organic oolong, this hearty black tea requires boiling water.
Not hot water. Not lukewarm water. Boiling water.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this Texas iced black tea recipe, but want to expand your horizons, then check out my other tea posts!
How to Make Perfect Iced Tea
- Electric kettle optional
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a kettle or medium sauce pan.
- Add teabags to a heat-proof ceramic pitcher or large glass 8 cup measuring bowl/cup. (If you don't have either, you can steep the tea in a stockpot or sauce pan on the stove.)
- Pour boiling water into pitcher. Make sure tea bags are in the water, so they can steep. Dunk them a couple times, then drape strings over the side of the pitcher, if possible.
- Allow the tea to steep for 20 minutes on the counter.
- Remove tea bags with a long wooden spoon, squeeze tea out of them and then throw away the tea bags. Stir in sugar with wooden spoon, if using. Add remaining 4 cups of water to tea and stir.
- Fill glasses with ice. Pour tea over ice and enjoy!