The Southern Trick for the Very Best Iced Tea

You already have it in your pantry.

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

As someone raised in the South, I could always count on a cold pitcher of sweet tea sitting in our fridge, waiting to be drunk. We could be low on food and drinks, desperately needing a trip to the grocery store, but there was always tea. As soon as the pitcher ran out, my mom would bring a pot of water to a boil and pull out the Luzianne family-sized tea bags.

While I don’t make much sweet tea at home, I can always count on my mom to have it cold and ready for pouring when I visit. I’ve watched her make it so many times over the years that if I close my eyes, I can see every step.

And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with my mom’s sweet tea, I’ve learned a very simple trick to making even better iced tea. It’s an old-school Southern tip that uses an ingredient you already have in your pantry: baking soda.

Why You Should Add Baking Soda to Your Iced Tea

Adding baking soda to your sweet tea might seem like a weird suggestion—some Southerners will find it downright sacrilege. I find that it makes a superior glass of iced tea. Plus, you’re adding a very small amount—literally a pinch—to a whole pitcher of tea, so it quickly dissolves without adding any flavor or texture.

The baking soda does a couple of things: first, it makes a clearer cup of tea. With a relatively long steep time, Southern iced tea can get a bit cloudy. A pinch of baking soda helps to clear up the mixture, making it more attractive. We drink first with our eyes, right?

Second, it helps mellow the bitterness just slightly and makes for a smoother iced tea. It’s a subtle difference, but I tend to be able to tell if baking soda has been added or not, and I prefer the baking soda version.

<p>Simply Recipes / Getty Images </p>

Simply Recipes / Getty Images

How To Upgrade Your Iced Tea

When making a full pitcher of iced tea, I follow the classic recipe every Southerner knows by heart, with the addition of a pinch of baking soda (similar to the one on Southern Living):

  • 4 cups water

  • 4 family-sized (or 12 regular) tea bags

  • Sugar, to taste (1 cup for true sweet tea)

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

  • 4 cups ice cubes

  • Lemon, optional

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 7 minutes.

Remove the tea bags and add sugar, to taste, and baking soda. Stir to dissolve.

Add some ice to cool the mixture down, then combine with the rest of the ice in a pitcher. Serve over ice with lemon, if desired. Store leftover tea in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

Read the original article on Simply Recipes.