Iced Tea vs. Sweet Tea: A Comparison of Flavor and Origins

Iced tea and sweet tea have long been at the forefront of refreshing summer beverages, each with their own devoted following. While the two beverages may seem similar, there are some key differences that set them apart.

Iced Tea

It’s often said that the origin of iced tea can be traced back to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where vendor Richard Blechynden decided to pour his hot tea over ice as an experiment, given the sweltering heat of the day.

However, it’s more like that the beloved beverage existed prior to the event and was simply popularized at the event.

The chilled beverage quickly gained popularity in the United States, becoming a staple in American homes, particularly during the warmer months.

Classic Iced Tea
Classic Iced Tea

Sweet Tea

Sweet tea, on the other hand, has its roots firmly planted in the American South.

The earliest known recipe for sweet tea dates back to 1879, and it has since become an integral part of Southern culture. Sweet tea is traditionally served with a hearty helping of sugar and a generous squeeze of lemon.

Southern Sweet Tea
Southern Sweet Tea

Preparation and Ingredients

Iced Tea: Iced tea can be made from various types of tea, such as black, green, or herbal, and is typically brewed with hot water before being chilled. After brewing, the tea is poured over ice and often garnished with a slice of lemon or sprig of mint. The flavor can be adjusted to individual preferences by adding sweeteners, fruit, or other flavorings.

Sweet Tea: Sweet tea is traditionally made from strong black tea leaves, with sugar added during the brewing process to create a syrupy base. This sweetened tea is then poured over ice and served with a lemon wedge. While sweet tea can also be made from other tea varieties, the key distinguishing factor is the inclusion of sugar during the brewing process, resulting in a sweeter flavor.

Travis Joynson

Travis Joynson

Travis Joynson is the founder and chief editor of the Professional Tea Taster.

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