I have been making sweet tea since I was tall enough to reach the stove. So has my sister. We've never had any complaints. My oldest daughters can also make sweet tea that tastes just like mine, and mine tastes just like my sister's. It's every Southern mother's duty to pass this skill on down to her children.
Sweet tea is a staple in these parts. It's also pretty cheap per serving, which makes it a great drink during this recession. Some folks like sweet tea. Some folks don't. A few folks make what is akin to toasted water, with a sneeze of sugar in it, and call it "Sweet Tea". I figure those folks are mostly the reason that other folks think they don't like sweet tea. I will say this, If you make bad sweet tea, word spreads real quick and, whether you're an average citizen or a restaurant, folks quit coming for dinner.
To start, I use family size bags, two per half-gallon of water. A half-gallon of sweet tea is just enough to start a fight around here, so I generally make a whole gallon, which takes four bags. My absolute favorite is Luzianne, next would be Tetley, and after that is Lipton. Lipton is a good tea, it just doesn't seem to have the body and depth of flavor that the first two have.
I fill a small sauce pot with water and bring that to a boil. Once it starts boiling, I remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Make sure to dunk them a couple of times to ensure that they stay under the water. Let this set for about 20 minutes. Put your sugar in the tea pitcher that you will be using. We're real fancy around here and use one of them plastic gallon sized ones from the dollar store. A lot of folks get confused about how much sugar to add. A good rule of thumb is to add the same amount of sugar to your tea that you like in your Kool-Aid, or lemonade, or any drink that you add sugar to. For most folks, this is 2/3 to 1 C, per half gallon. We use 1 Cup. For artificial sweetener, just check the box as most of them tell you the equivalent amount to use.
Now, wrap the strings from your tea bags around the handle of your pot and hold them there, as you pour the hot tea in with the sugar, being careful not to let the bags flop out. Now stop and use a long spoon to stir the tea and sugar. This ensures that you get your sugar dissolved, before adding the cold water. Now, with the tea bags still in the pot, fill it with cold water and then pour it into the pitcher. Repeat this step until the pitcher is full. Make sure to stir well. Put in the refrigerator to chill. Most times, by the time I finish, folks are standing around with glasses full of ice, waiting to pour that warm tea over it.