Are Iced Tea and Sweet Tea the Same?

Many people take for granted that sweet and iced tea are the same. Mainly because food chains such as McDonald’s or Starbucks use these terms interchangeably. However, this situation grinds the gears of many tea aficionados out there. 

So, to the question at hand. Are iced tea and sweet tea the same? No, they are not. Sweet tea is a brew that can be served cold or hot with a sweetener agent. In contrast, iced tea is solely served cold over ice without any sweetener agent. As you can see, each term describes a different brew. But they almost overlap when both drinks are served cold. 

Are Iced Tea and Sweet Tea the Same?

Make sure to stay with us a little longer to find out the origins of each brew. We will also discuss how to make each brew, as each one is done differently. 

Origins of Iced Tea

The exact origin of iced tea is as difficult to point out as the origins of the first-ever brew. Recipes dating back to the 1820s. Naturally, refrigeration systems were not in place by then. But people reportedly used iced or cold water to cool the brew down. 

Similarly, people in different countries like China, Turkey, South Africa, and the UK used to drink iced tea. So there is no telling which country did it first for sure. Nevertheless, what is certain is that iced tea became increasingly popular after 1904. This year, Richard Blechynden introduced iced tea at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. The rest, as they say, is history. 

How to Make Iced Tea

If you know how to brew regular tea, you know how to make the iced version. It is just adding one extra step. Still, we are going to walk through the process. 

Traditionally, iced tea is made using green or black tea leaves. Nowadays, people can use their favorite herbs or tea bags instead. The process is the same regardless. 

  • Heat the desired quantity of water depending on the tea you are using.
  • Turn the heating off and add the leaves/tea bags to the hot water
  • Steep the tea according to the flavor profile you desire. 
  • Takes the tea leaves/bag from the water
  • Let the brew cool down to ambient temperature. Then place it in the fridge
  • Serve with ice! 

There is an alternate method that uses room-temperature water instead of hot. As a result, you will need to leave the tea bags/leaves longer inside the water. Typically people leave the jar overnight inside the fridge and take the tea out the next day. 

The main difference between a hot and cold brew is the bitter aftertaste. If you like it, then follow the process as described. 

Some people also add some fruits to the mixture. For example, you can add peach slices to a peach-based iced tea. This way, you will have a much stronger flavor profile. Similarly, lemon tea and lemon slices are a great combination during a hot summer day. 

The important thing about this process is that you can’t add any sweetener to it. You will be crossing the frontier between iced and sweet tea if you do! 

Origins of Sweet Tea

Just like before, pointing to an origin for sweet tea is next to impossible. But sweet tea was a popular drink in the southern part of the US around the 1800s. Since then, the popularity of the drink has risen exponentially to the point that around 80% of tea consumption is sweet tea.

Initially, sweet tea was made with loose black tea leaves. But now you can use any herb of your preference. 

How to Make Sweet Tea

Now, to the process of making sweet tea. The steps are the same as before but with one addition. You have to add some sweetener to the mixture. You can do it before or after boiling the water. The main difference will be the amount of sugar/sweetener you can add. 

For example, hot water can dissolve a greater quantity of sweetener. Hence, your sweet tea will be even sweeter. As you can see, it depends on what you want to achieve. 

You can then serve the brew either hot or cold. But more often than not people drink cold sweet tea. That’s why some people often confuse the terms since both iced and sweet tea can be served cold. The key difference is that iced tea, as we discussed, has no sugar in it. Plus, you can either brew it with cold or hot water. 

How to Order an Iced Tea?

Chances are that if you order an iced tea, the waiter will bring you a sweet tea instead. Unless, of course, you go to a tea-specific shop, of course. That’s why we suggest adding the words “no sugar” to your order. 

How Does Iced Tea Taste?

This highly depends on the brewing method. If you go with the classic green leaves and cold water approach, you will end up with light, earthy tea. Naturally, if you add fruits to it, you will taste the juices as well. 

On the other hand, if you use hot water and then brew, the tea will have a bitter aftertaste. Most people think this kills the point of making iced tea as it is supposed to be a refreshing, soft drink. 

Iced Tea and Sweet Tea: Two Similar Yet Different Drinks

Although both drinks are typically served cold, only one uses sweeteners. That’s why many tea aficionados cry internally when people use sweet and iced tea as synonyms. But they are not.

Iced tea does not have sweeteners. Plus, it can be brewed using hot or cold water. Typically, people use cold water, which takes more time, but yields a much softer drink.

In contrast, sweet tea does have sweeteners. On the other hand, people use hot water to extract the tea from the bags/leaves. Most often than not, people drink cold sweet tea. 

So, let us know, did you know that iced tea and sweet tea are two different drinks? Which one is your favorite?

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