California Girl’s Iced Sweet Tea

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Tea is a regular pantry staple at our house. We aren’t big tea drinkers, but it’s a beverage that is extremely affordable, especially when you browse the clearance racks. For some reason, teas are always being marked down, despite the fact that they have several months, even years before their “best by” dates.

When we were in debt, scrimping and saving, I cut out all extra beverages. No sodas, no juices, no extras. We made do with milk, water, and cheap(er) coffee. And of course, iced tea.

I was always able to keep boxes of tea on hand to make iced tea for hubs when he came home from work. During hot Kansas City summers, he drank it by the gallon. Nowadays we live in a more moderate climate, but we still enjoy iced tea.

Here’s how I make it. I’m sure your way is better, especially if you live in the South, but this works for us. We don’t want artificial sweeteners, but we do want a little sweet. You can certainly add more sugar if you like your tea sweeter.

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California Girl's Iced Sweet Tea
Prep Time
10 mins
Total Time
10 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: ice tea, iced tea, sweet tea
Servings: 8
Calories: 24 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 8 regular sized tea bags decaf or regular
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • ice cubes and cold water
  1. In a large glass measuring cup, place the tea bags and pour the hot water over them.
  2. Allow the tea to steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags, squeezing them gently to release any extra liquid.
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  5. Pour the hot tea into a 1/2 gallon pitcher.
  6. Add enough ice and cold water to make 1/2 gallon.
  7. Stir to blend.
  8. Serve the tea over ice.
Recipe Notes

Nutritional values are approximate and based on 1 cup.

Nutrition Facts
California Girl's Iced Sweet Tea
Amount Per Serving
Calories 24
% Daily Value*
Sodium 1mg0%
Carbohydrates 6g2%
Sugar 6g7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

What’s a favorite cheap beverage at YOUR house?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Holly says

    Wow, I only use 7 tea bags for a gallon of iced tea. And I use a full cup of sugar for that gallon. We always have sweet tea on hand though, year round. It’s my absolute favorite drink.

  2. Sweet tea reigns supreme! 🙂 We went through one gallon yesterday in this heat.

  3. Cheryl says

    Well, I’d say your recipe is about right, you just need to add about another 1/3 cup of sugar to it, AND once it cools, cut up a big ole ga. peach into it. It’s even better is the peach is ripe and juicy. ummm-um, now that’s good and it’ll cure what ails ya! LOL! Yes, I’m from Ga.

  4. ashly says

    I add a splash of lemon juice to mine!

  5. Jenny says

    This is another one of those things where everybody has their own right way. Like tuna or egg salad : )

    We do three large tea bags in four cups of water, steep for 8 minutes. Add 3/4c sugar then fill the rest with water to make a gallon of sweet tea. I never drank it until we lived in Mississippi for a couple years. Now its almost essential!

  6. I love iced tea too and can drink a pitcher by myself. I found on another blog (I wish I could remember where so I could give her credit) a recipe for iced tea with a pinch of baking soda. The recipe is also posted at The baking soda is suppose to cut down on the bitter taste. I tried it this morning and it was pretty good.

  7. Suzanne says

    Of course “my” way is better! lol Everyone has their own way. Here’s mine!

    I boil four regular sized tea bags (orange pekoe and black tea) and let them steep for about two hours. Then I pour the tea, along with about a cup to a cup and a quarter or sugar, into a gallon pitcher, fill with water, mix well, chill, and serve over ice. Texans here. BIG sweet tea drinkers.

    And our unsweet tea (my husband is a recently diagnosed diabetic) I make it the same way only without the sugar!

  8. Holly K says

    We love iced tea in our house as well! Since moving to Maryland and back to California- sweet tea has become a sweet indulgence in our home. I like to add a couple of fruity tea bags (like georgia peach, raspberry, or a white tea) to the 4 or 5 black tea bags and we get a naturally sweetened tea without the extra sugar! sooooooo yummy! Thank you for your awesome recipes. I love getting your emails : )

  9. Carla says

    “I’m sure your way is better…” WHAT! You actually said that!?! Good for you! I think I’m gonna try it your way. Who knows? But that I might like it better!?!

    • Jessica says

      LOL! I know that sweet tea is like the holy grail to some, so I certainly don’t want to step on any toes. Hubs doesn’t like it very sweet, so this is how we have it. Sweet, but not too much.

  10. awesome, but being a Georgia girl, I have to chime in. 😉

    I use 3 family size bags of Luzianne (Lipton is like blasphemy, y’all!) for 2 quarts water and 1 cup sugar. add lemon or raspberry to taste for something special. Heaven in a glass. Happy summer, y’all!

  11. Sweet tea (about 1/4 – 1/2 cup more sugar for mine) is the beverage of choice around here. My affection for sweet tea told my co-workers about my pregnancy before I was ready? “Is Catherine pregnant?” “Why?” “She didn’t buy tea at the cafeteria and she ALWAYS buys tea.”

  12. Here is my yankee version of sweet tea that uses honey and baking soda:

  13. jill says

    iced tea lifer here also. I use 8 teabags, filtered water boiled, pour into glass carafe and steep. The tea is usually six of the black tea variety, and two of something else, such as green tea. I vary that depending on what properties I’m needing. Sometimes all 8 bags are black. I fill the gallon and now use 1/2 to 3/4 cups of sucanat. Working on cutting that down gradually. I can drink it without sugar, but the others like it a full cup so we compromise.
    The whole thing is, even if we all like our own the best, I like them all. Even if I have to buy an Arizona at the corner mart it’s still way better than a coke. I’m always on the lookout for new brands and kinds just for the fun of it. Tejava is good, but very not sweet at all.

  14. Vikki says

    Growing up in the south where there is always a pitcher of tea in the fridge, it always amazes me when I read about people who doing. Sweet or unsweet tea is just as much apart of my life as breathing and sweating ( told you this is the south Texas to be exact). I grew up with sweet tea sweetened with sugar. I went a spell with unsweetened but I am a sweet kinda girl so it didn’t last long. Now a days it’s splenda sweetened and not sugar but I like strong, sweet with tons and tons of ice.
    I boil my water, add 3 family or 8 reg tea bags to the pan, remove immediately from the burner. I add 1 1/2 cups splenda to my gallon, fill 1/4 full of fresh filtered water and then fill with ice to the half way mark. The ice chills the tea and keeps the tea leaves from actually burning which will cause it to be bitter and cools it down faster so it doesn’t melt all the ice in your glass. After the tea has brewed from 5 to 8 minutes, the longer the brew the stronger the tea, but anything past 8-10 mins and it will start to burn. Not a burn you can smell but a bitterness you can definitely taste.
    For a nice change of pace, I’ll add a cap of vanilla from time to time, the juice of a lemon or even a splash or two of fruit juice. Right now it’s cranberry/pomegranate juice.
    I enjoy your blogs immensely and appreciate the time and energy you put into them. I had one for a while and I understand how much work really goes into producing something worthwhile. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Have a great weekend,

  15. P Reis says

    Here’s a thought ladies, and I know it will have purists shaking their heads: use honey instead of sugar. It’s not processed, so much better for the bod! I just stumbled across this post and decided to brew up some tea for my hubby and I and that’s what I used, honey. Cheers!

  16. Donna says

    Two years ago I visited a small cafe in Salida CO on vacation. They had this amazing spiced iced tea….I had to ask how to make it. They use regular black tea when brewing but also add one bag of Bengal Spice tea from Celestial Seasonings. I’ve been making it that way ever since. Delicious sweet or unsweetened. We call it our Colorado Iced Tea….and it brings back terrific memories of a wonderful family vacation (and a good local cafe find!!!)

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