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Real Food Healthy Sweet Tea

Real Food Healthy Sweet Tea that uses honey instead of buckets of refined sugar. One simple ingredient produces a strong tea taste without the bitterness.Healthy Sweet Tea in a mason jar glass with mintHealthy Sweet Tea is here my friends! It’s healthified. And bonafied (O’Brother Where Art Thou anyone…?), and gasp made by a Yankee?

I have learned that one thing that all southern boys love is sweet tea.  And southern boys demand it SWEET. My wonderful brother-in-law Scott, is from Huntington, West Virginia. Scott has been vocal that sweet tea in the Seattle area is neither sweet enough, or “tea-y” enough.

I set out to prove that not only can a crunchy granola Yankee chick make sweet tea, she can make it healthier and still taste great! I consulted the internet. Two cups of sugar per pitcher was pretty standard.  Uh, no thanks.

I asked a good friend from Louisiana who has always raved about her Mississippi granny’s sweet tea. Apparently, southern grannies don’t write down recipes, nor do they care to share them!  The only tip I received from my friend was “you want it sweet enough for your lips to stick together” and “you have to add the sugar while the water is boiling”. I chose to only follow the second piece of advice….

Healthy Sweet Tea in a mason jar mug with a half-full pitcher behind it

What Can I Use to Sweeten My Tea?

  • The traditional recipes call for sugar. Lots and lots of sugar!
  • You could use stevia or other sugar-free alternatives.
  • We prefer to use honey and add it while the water is still hot enough to allow the honey to incorporate. You should not try to add honey to cold iced tea.

How to Make Healthy Sweet Tea – Step by Step

  1. Boil 4 cups of water. Add honey and baking soda. The baking soda is the key ingredient to cut the bitterness of the strong tea.
  2. Add tea bags, cover the pan, remove from heat, and let steep for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove tea bags, add 4 cups of cold water and place in the fridge.
    1. If you would like to serve immediately, replace with 2 cups of cold water and 2 cups of ice.

Our preferred way of enjoying this healthy sweet tea is 3/4 tea, and 1/4 lemonade – ‘Palmer style! Regardless of the tea and honey you use, you’re looking at about $1 per pitcher.  Compare that to a 12 oz bottle of tea at the store, and you’re saving a bundle.

I won’t even compare it to “real” sweet tea in terms of sugar consumption. But, let’s just say this version won’t give you the crazy energy rush that would allow you to tie a rope around your waist and tow your car home.

The best part of this tea is, it is brother-in-law approved. He loved it you guys. Ya’ll? Everybody? Whatever, he drank it and loved it.

Healthy sweet tea for the win!

One year ago: The Best Long-Lasting DIY Garden Trellis
Three years ago: Homemade Dairy-Free Strawberry Ice Cream
Four years ago: Homemade Strawberry Vanilla Jam
Five years ago: The Queen of King Quilts
x years ago: x

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4.5 from 4 votes
Real Food Healthy Sweet Tea
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
25 mins

A healthier version of sweet tea that uses honey instead of buckets of refined sugar. One simple secret ingredient gives you a strong tea taste, without the bitterness.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 5 people
Calories: 57 kcal
Author: Sarah
  • 1 family style black or green tea bag Don't have family style bags? Use 7 small tea bags
  • 1/3 cup raw honey
  • 4 cups water, boiling
  • 4 cups water, cold or ice cubes
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
Stovetop Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, boil 4 cups of water. While bringing the water up to a rolling boil, add 1/3 cup of honey and 1/8 tsp of baking soda. Stir well.
  2. Once the water has reached its boiling point, add the tea bags. Remove pan from heat, and cover. Let steep 15 minutes.
  3. Remove tea bags from the pot without squeezing them, and pour contents into a glass pitcher. Add 4 cups of cold water and place in fridge until properly "iced". If you'd like to serve immediately, fill the pitcher with 4 cups of ice cubes.
  4. Steeping the tea bags for 15 minutes will give you the desired strong flavor. The baking soda cuts out the bitterness from letting it steep for so long.

Sun Tea Instructions
  1. Place tea, honey, 8 cups of room temperature water, and baking soda in a sun tea jar or large glass pitcher and place in the sun. Stir occasionally if possible to distribute the honey. Length of time to “cook” will depend on how hot the temperature is in the sun.
  2. Serve over ice if you’d like to serve immediately. Transfer to the refrigerator and cool.
Nutrition Facts
Real Food Healthy Sweet Tea
Amount Per Serving
Calories 57
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Healthy sweet tea that uses honey instead of buckets of refined sugar. One simple ingredient produces a strong tea taste without the bitterness. #sustainablecooks #drinks #beverages #sweettea #icedtea #icetea

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16 comments on “Real Food Healthy Sweet Tea”

  1. Baking soda…I never would have thought of that. I just happen to have an over baked batch of sun tea going…it DOES work to cut the bitter. Cool!

  2. Im just curious do you have any home made hippy lemonade recipes! this Bitch loves Palmers style

  3. Thank you so much for posting this that! Being that I am from the south and a true southern gal I LOVE sweet tea and probably drink a pitcher every other day by myself. I just found your blog this weekend and look forward to trying this and many other of your recipes.

  4. I thought the point of raw honey was not to heat it. Are we killing the benefits? Hope not, cause it sounds delish!

    • It kills the health benefits if you hate it too rapidly. My advice would be to make the tea without the honey and then once it’s done boiling, let it steep. Once it’s cooled down to a semi drinkable temperature maybe just a little hotter than drinkable, add your honey and then mix with cold water. That way you’re not killing the benefits of the honey, and you’re still getting the same great taste and sweetness etc.

  5. I thought the point of raw honey was not to heat it. Are we killing the benefits? Hope not, cause it sounds delish!

  6. Why not just steep the tea for a shorter amount of time and avoid the bitterness altogether? 15 minutes is a very long time and I have never steeped it longer than 5. Just curious, I’ve been making sweet tea all my life and came across your blog looking for a less sugary method. Kudos and thanks in advance.

  7. I squeeze a small amount of organic agave syrup in ours. We prefer our tea just a little sweet. I will try the baking powder for sure. I’m guilty of adding a tiny sprinkle of salt to coffee or the grounds to “reduce” the bitter taste.

  8. I read elsewhere about the baking soda too 🙂 I love sweet tea, especially in the summer! Thanks for posting and reminding how easy it is to make!! I know my kids should love to help with this!

  9. I was in the drive-thru line at Wendy’s and happened to see them mixing up the sweet tea there (in WV) and they were pouring a five pound bag of sugar into a five gallon bucket of tea. No wonder it tastes like syrup to me!

  10. I worked at Arby’s a bit over a decade ago in South Carolina and they use 10oz of sugar per gallon (1x 32 oz cup filled up to the top for a 3gal container was normal, then a 21oz cup and a 32oz cup filled for a 5gal container).

    I’ve done honey before and while good, I could definitely tell the difference (almost every Mexican restaurant in the south has super sweet tea and I use that as a comparison when I make tea). I just switched to raw blue agave in my coffee 12 months ago and will try that in my tea next time I brew.

    Thanks for the baking soda idea! Have not heard or thought of that!