What’s the secret to the best sweet tea? If you answered, “having a Southern mama who shares her recipe,” you’re right, but that’s not the secret we’re delving into today. It’s undeniable that our Southern families make the best sweet tea, and in the process, they’ve figured out a way to make the classic drink even better. They’ve been kind enough to share their recipes with us over the years, and we’ve learned a few things. Most importantly, we’ve learned that there is one Southern tea-making secret that is quickly becoming, well, not so secret.
Many of the steps for how to make sweet tea are universal; they will look the same no matter where you are, like boiling the water and adding the tea bags and sugar to taste. However, Southerners know that one addition can keep your tea looking clear and tasting smooth—and that addition is baking soda.
Surprised? Stay with us. The secret to the clearest, smoothest glass of sweet tea is just a pinch of baking soda. And when we say “a pinch,” we mean it. Our best-ever recipe calls for just 1/8 teaspoon of the stuff. Adding a little baking soda to your tea will clear away any cloudiness left from the mixing process, and it’s also thought to cut down on any lingering bitter tastes from the steeping tea bags, leaving your tea clarified and smooth and providing your get-together with one fantastic pitcher of tea. (Also check out our favorite sweet tea-inspired recipes for a few twists on the classic.)
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How do you make your tea? Do you always include baking soda, or will you try it the next time you’re mixing up a gallon of the South’s favorite beverage? We think it’s a must-include addition, and our favorite glasses of sweet tea have always been made with that time-tested, ultra-Southern recipe. What’s your recipe for the best sweet tea ever?