Is Sweet Tea the Same as Iced Tea? Here Are the Differences!

Tea Facts /

I hear this question quite a lot, is sweet tea the same as Iced tea. So thought I’d get straight in and provide a difinitive answer to this question, starting with a short response, then we’ll get into some details…

Is Sweet Tea the same as iced tea? Both Iced Tea and Sweet tea are non-alcoholic beverages that differ because their origins stem from different states, different cultures, and how they are made. Sweet tea and Iced tea are not the same, nor are they mutually exclusive. Sweet tea can be iced and iced tea can be sweet.

There are plenty of sweet teas that are served hot and plenty of iced tea that is not sweet too.

So while that might answer the question quickly, it then throws up other questions! So let’s get into more details…

Origin of sweet and iced tea

Sweet tea is believed to have originated in the United States and is as the name suggests, sugar or any other sweeteners (sweet) added to tea.

Generally, sweet tea tends to be more popular among the southern states of the US and can easily be consumed through all the seasons of the year. 

Iced tea, on the other hand, was thought to be an experimental version of tea, invented by an American merchant named Richard Belchyndenan.

It’s believed that Richard Belchyndenan invented iced tea at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where his hot teas weren’t selling well because of the intense heat of the summer

As a way of seizing the opportunity to sell a cold beverage, he added ice cubes to his steeped tea.

Iced tea is believed to be more popular among the northern states in the US and is consumed more heavily in summer.

is sweet tea the same as iced tea
is sweet tea the same as iced tea?

How sweet tea and iced tea are made

There are also some differences in how these two are brewed, including many variations, for example, there are versions of Iced tea throughout many different countries and cultures.

How Sweet tea is brewed and served differs

Classic sweet tea is made using black tea, boiled in water for a very long time, then, sugar or any other sweeteners are added – although sugar is the classic version.

The sugar, or the sweetening agent, can also be added into the unboiled water without any tea leaves, but it’s often added to the hot water …so the tea can contain more dissolved sugar or sweetener.

This method of brewing is what gives sweet tea its robust flavor. 

Sweet tea can be served either hot or cold. In fact, in some countries, once the sweet tea has cooled down after boiling, it’s then mixed with cold water.

This tends to make it a more concentrated sweet tea – with less water because it’ll dilute more when cold water is added.

Some also believe that historically, sweet tea is made using green tea, and because of the supply issues during WWII the Americans switched it to black tea.

The black tea version became the classic version of the now-famous sweet tea.

Here’s a youtube video on how to make Sweet tea, compare that with the video below on how to make Iced tea and you’ll see that Sweet tea, though similar, is not the same as Iced tea.

How Ices tea is brewed and served differs

Iced tea doesn’t come with a set version of tea variety to use. Iced tea can be made using any tea varieties such as black, white, green, oolong, or even a herbal (tisane) variety.

Also, Iced tea is always served cold or with ices cubes – lots of ice cubes – and is never served hot, only the cold option.

A classic iced tea has no sugar or any other sweeteners, but you could add sugar, sweetener, or other sweeter flavorings if you want them.

For brewing an iced tea, it could be brewed using boiling water, then chilled and served with ice cubes.

You can brew iced tea using a cold brew process too –which is smooth and naturally sweet.

For cold brewing, you use cold/room temperature water and steep it for a very long time.

You can also cold brew directly with ice, where you can place tea bags or tea leaves of your choice on ice cubes and let it melt and steep for the desired flavor.

One most important thing that is distinct about iced tea is you can get experimental with additives, such as lemon, which is then called “lemon iced tea” – of course, or any other tea varieties, or even herbs which will give an extra zest to your iced tea.

Here’s a Youtube video on how Iced tea is made…

Why do some call Sweet tea, Iced tea? 

The main reason why many confuse sweet tea with iced tea is that very often sweet tea is served cold.

In fact, in the southern states of the U.S, you might struggle to find a home that doesn’t have sweet tea in their refrigerator!

To finish up…

I hope this has provided a good overview, and answered the question is Sweet tea the same as Iced tea. Good luck with making either … or both!