In the movie “Steel Magnolias,” Dolly Parton’s character proclaimed that sweet tea was, “the house wine of the south.” We’re here to affirm that yes, Dolly was onto something. Summer just doesn’t feel complete to me without jar upon jar of cold-brewed, loose leaf tea clinking into one another on my refrigerator shelf. But while most of us just think of a simple black bagged tea when we think of sweet tea, the options are endless. Today, we’re going to dive into which really is the best tea for sweet tea, easy brewing tips, and unique flavor combos that take this southern house wine to the next level!
While we here at Plum Deluxe are fans of the cold brew method for the perfect iced tea, there’s no doubt that hot brewing is the more traditional method of the south’s signature beverage. Hot brewing — boiling your water, adding tea and sugar, stirring to dissolve, and then letting your brew cool in the fridge — beats out cold brewing in this method for one reason only: granulated sugar dissolves best in hot liquid. And granulated sugar is ubiquitous in sweet tea recipes!
If you prefer to stick to hot-brewing your iced tea, we love this simple recipe to make a quart of sweet tea.
Simple Sweet Tea
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons of black tea
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat.
Steep the tea for 5 minutes. Let your leaves unfurl in the water, then leave submerged. After 5 minutes, strain out the tea and discard.
Add the sugar to the tea. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Pour the tea base into a glass pitcher.
Top off the pitcher with cool water.
Refrigerate until very cold. Chill for at least 4 hours or, ideally, overnight.
Serve over ice.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to give cold-brewing sweet tea a whirl, your options are even simpler. You can go the sun tea route, or simply let your leaves cold steep and add in your extras after brewing. We recommend you make a simple syrup, or use a liquid sweetener such as agave, a runny honey, or maple syrup to mix into your blended cold brew. Follow these foolproof directions for cold brewing tea and add your liquid sweetener of choice after straining out the leaves from the cold-brewed tea.
Looking to kick your sweet tea up a notch? While most traditional sweet teas are made with basic black tea, that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with flavor combinations with what’s right in your tea cabinet.
If you’re looking for a spin on a traditional sweet tea, even the most discerning Southerner won’t be able to say no to a grapefruit orange black tea topped with a touch of lemonade for an Arnold-Palmer style beverage. Creative traditionalists might try something bold like our Passion Blend peach bourbon oolong with a splash of peach juice and a touch of maple syrup shaken over ice. And, of course, who could say no to an orange cinnamon black tea sweetened with a hint of runny honey.
But of course, black tea isn’t the only best tea for sweet tea — lightly sweetened herbals and green teas make a great pairing for sipping on a hot summer day as well. Fruity, herbaceous greens like Easy to Be Green and Inner Calm, or a floral, fresh green rooibos also make an incredible base for sweet teas. All three would lend themselves beautifully to pairing with a simple syrup or gentle dollop of honey after brewing. Their light, breezy flavors do well to be served Arnold-Palmer style with lemonade, to boot.
However you choose to brew, a glass of your favorite tea-drinkers’ “house wine” is the perfect way to toast to these long summer nights. Happy sipping!