Secret Ingredient Iced Tea


Secret Ingredient Iced Tea

Secret Ingredient Iced Tea
2 Hr
25 Min

Ever wondered why the iced tea served at restaurants always seems to taste crisper and more flavorful than your homemade version? Well, there's a simple secret to how that happens, and we're sharing it in our recipe for Secret Ingredient Iced Tea. 

What You'll Need

  • 10 cups water, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda (See Note)
  • 7 tea bags
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

What to Do

  1. In a large saucepan over high heat, bring 5 cups water to a boil. Stir in baking soda and tea bags; remove from heat, cover, and let steep 15 minutes.
  2. Remove and discard tea bags. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Add remaining water and the lemon slices. Pour into large pitcher and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, or until chilled.
  3. Serve in tall glasses over ice and garnish with mint, if desired.


  • Using baking soda in this recipe is no mistake. It removes any bitterness from the tea, leaving us with a smooth and flavorful drink.
  • Looking for even more great summer thirst quenchers? Check out our collection of Cool Summer Drink Recipes!

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I have been making mine with baking soda for many years, also the tea doesn't get cloudy either.

This is a very interesting concept. I never really thought that the bitterness of the tea comes from the tea leaves themselves. I was under the impression that I just did not add enough sugar. I cannot wait to try this.

I do not want to toot my own horn, but I think I can brew a mean pitcher of sweet iced tea. However, now that I read this recipe, I never thought about that little bitterness at the bottom of the pitcher or after being in the fridge for a while. Great tip. I will try this the next time I mix a pitcher of ice tea.

This worked! Thank you so much! I omitted the sugar and lemon, but adding the baking soda DID make it better! The bitterness is almost gone, leaving all the flavor. Awesome post! D

I use Family size T-bag in 2 qts water.Steep for 1/2 hr.add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 2 qts tap water and chill.Great tasting tea.Will have to try baking soda!!

The use of baking soda is a great idea, and you don't even notice that it is in there. It mellows the tea flavor, and makes it a little less bitter. You can adjust the sweetness to your liking by adding less sugar in it if you prefer. I am trying to cut down on my refined sugar intake and have been drinking a lot of unsweetened cold tea for less calories. Honey might be a good flavor in it instead of the sugar, but I am not sure how much I should use in substituting that.

I does taste better!!!!!!!!

Should be good.

I love ice tea and it's true that it always seems better at a restaurant. But do they really put baking soda in it? I'll have to try this with making my own brewed yes and see if it tweaks it!

Hi BeckySue, how did it turn out when you made this as written?

10 cups is too much tea for me. Can you supply me the method to brew five cups of tea? I tried family size tea bags and it was way too strong. Thanks

I also feel that one and half cups of sugar must be a printing error. I like most things sweet but I don't think I could drink tea with this much sugar in.

1 1/2 cups of sugar in 1/2 gallon of tea ?? That would nearly be syrup. I use 1 cup of sugar in one gallon of tea.

Must have been a misprint......1 cup sugar to 1 gal.= normal ratio.

Can the baking soda be used when making tea in a Tea Maker where you add tea bags to basket and add water similar to coffe maker?

Hello Diana, Although the Test kitchen has not tested it this way, we feel that this will be okay as long as the water is hot enough to dissolve the baking soda.

Can you put baking soda in coffee for the same reason?

The Test Kitchen hasn't tried this with coffee so we're not sure it would work the same way.

For coffee that's bitter, simply add a tiny pinch of salt.

I never use baking soda in my tea and it is never bitter. The trick is to remove your tea pot from the heat as soon as it starts to boil, than add your teabags in about a minute later. If the water is too hot the bags will start the water to boiling again which makes the bitter taste. You want the the teabags to steep not boil.

Question..What size tea bag? Family size bags seem to make this to strong using 7 bags and tea not strong enough using the smaller bag!!?? My MIL always used a pinch of soda in her brewed tea. When asked "Why?", she said because her Mother did. Her Mom was still living so I asked her. She grew up on an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma, and gave me the sage advice, that's how she was taught. ummm, never found out, "Why?" lol

Baking soda cuts the acidity in tea. Different brands of tea bags will differ in strength and flavor. We would suggest trying a standard size tea bag using a name brand such as Lipton. If it's still not strong enough, try using more standard size bags instead of all family size bags. Thank you!

Baking soda? hmm I'll have to try it but here's a tip for anyone who's got a sunburn..take a tea bag plop it in the cup let it soak for a few minutes toss the bag get a napkin dip it in the tea and dab onto your skin it takes the sting out of the burn and no it's not stickey and you dont walk around smelling like tea lol..took me a few years to figure this out being a redhead, I can think of the sun and I burn...hope this helps...don't put any lotion on afterwards as all it does is hold in the heat and your skin can't breathe..:D

This said LEMONS not lemon drink. To aid sunburn use pure white vinegar applied with a spray bottle.

this might sound silly.....but when making unsweetened iced tea do you just need to leave out the sugar and maybe add lemon slices? I hate artificial sweeteners and would rather have unsweetened. I order this when I go to a restaurant and it is wonderful but I don't know how they make it.

Unsweetened tea contains no sugar and no artificial sweeteners. If you like lemon, you can add some slices. Simply brew the tea and refrigerate it. Enjoy!

I made this with Green Tea bags since it was all I had. It turned out great! Gone in no time flat! So now it's a staple in this household. Who knew? Baking soda?

sounds great will try soonest

how much lemon drink or other drink do add to the tea

I know baking soda does alot of good in recipes, I always use it in pea soup and bean soup as well. It takes out some of the gas in those two soups.

I know salt sprinkled onto the coffee grounds in the basket (just a nice sprinkling covering most of the top, but not a ton) and then shook down into coffee before you put it in the coffeemaker helps remove a lot of the bitterness in a pot of coffee. If you get a bitter cup of coffee out in a resterant, just a pinch (be careful, don't want your coffee to taste saltey), if the coffee really tastes bitter that means it's old, ask them to make as fresh pot. But I don't know about baking soda in coffee. Why don't you try it and get back to us?! Member 5741507 Mar 11, 2012 Would baking soda remove bitterness from coffee as well?

have done this too to my grounds for years!!! works very well..just a light sprinkling..

Met a girl from Georgia, she put baking soda in her tea, we gagged on it, she put half a cup in hers ... this 1/8 teaspoon makes a lot more sense ... will give it a try ... being from oklahoma we like our tea ... the housewine of the south!

the recipe CLEARLY states 1/8 tsp bkg. soda for 10 C water!!....and to use 1/2 gallon pitcher!! READ!!

good idea on the baking soda i always put 1/2 tsp in my homemade tpmato soup or spaghetti sauce

How much baking soda do you put in the pitcher or glass.?


This recipe for ICED TEA is great! Thanks a million & I can't wait to make the CHICKEN NUGGETS which sounds super too!

Would baking soda remove bitterness from coffee as well?

As another girl raised in the south who has been drinking sweet tea all her life, that is syrup tea! I only use 1 cup of sugar to a gallon (16 cups). A cup and a half to 10 cups is much too sweet! That is worst than soda. The baking soda was new to me, I will have to try it. Thanks!

As a G.R.I.T.S. (Girl Raised in the South), we were always taught to use Pure Cane sugar in making our sweet tea because it dissolves faster and easier than sugar made from other sources. Trust me! As the daughter of a "good Southern cook", this is not a's a proven fact!! Kudos for telling everyone about the baking soda!!

I grew up drinking tea with baking soda in it and when I tell a friend about putting baking soda in the tea they think I'm crazy. thank you for telling everyone about the baking soda.

if u add the sugar as u add the tea bags your tea will not get sweeater as it sits a few hrs

Guess I like my tea stronger. I use 5 small black tea bags and 5 small green tea bags for 1/2 gallon. BUT the baking soda is a must for great iced tea. If I am making plain tea, I use 10 black tea bags.

Are the tea bags the 1 cup size?



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