Does Sweet Tea Go Bad? Learn How To Preserve Them

Yes, if left out in the open and not refrigerated, sweet tea can go bad. This is a result of the sugar or sweetener in it. The sugar breaks down and ferments the tea while aiding the growth of microorganisms like bacteria. 

Sweetened iced tea that has gone bad usually develops a funky smell and mold growth. 

This article explores all you need to know about sweet tea and how you can properly preserve them to prevent them from going bad. 

What is sweet tea?

Also known as sweetened iced tea, sweet tea is a well-known and commonly consumed beverage in countries like Indonesia and the United States.

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With its presence being dominant in the southern part of the United States, sweetened tea is commonly made by brewing black tea and then sweetening it with simple syrup or sugar. 

You can add these sweeteners while the tea is still hot or brewing. You can also add flavorings like honey or lemon to give it a pleasant taste, but artificial sweeteners remain the most used option. 

Sweetened iced tea is mainly served cold and may be topped with crushed ice or ice cubes. 

Other flavors used in enriching the taste of the tea include mint, peach, and raspberry. The acidity of this famous southern beverage is also sometimes reduced by adding some baking soda to it. 

How do you know if sweet tea has gone bad?

A change in the smell of the sweet tea is usually the first sign that it has gone bad. Sweetened iced tea that has gone bad usually has a weird or pungent smell. 

Other signs to look out for in the bad tea include;

  • The growth of mold 
  • Loss of taste or flavor 
  • Lumpiness or a change in its texture
  • A change in the color of the tea. 

Can sweet tea sit out overnight? 

It is best to discard your sweet tea once it has been exposed for up to 8 hours at room temperature. This is because the sweetness of the tea would become a breeding ground for bacteria. 

This makes it potentially dangerous to your health and not worth the risk. Also, tea that has been exposed for too long begins to oxidize a substance known as tea polyphenol. This substance is responsible for the darkening of the tea. 

Tea polyphenol results in the formation of more chemicals like thearubigins, theaflavins, and theabrownins in the tea. 

For example, when green tea sits out for too long it changes tone from a slightly greenish tone to brownish yellow. 

It is much safer to keep it stored in a refrigerator. The consumption of overnight tea will not only flood your body with bacteria, but you won’t also receive nutrients from it.

SEE: What Does Milk Tea Taste Like?

What ingredients are used in making sweet tea?

Ingredients used in making sweetened tea include black tea, and simple syrup or sugar. You can also add raspberry, lemon, mint, peach, vanilla syrup, or honey to add flavor to it. 

Can sweet tea give you heartburn?

Yes, sweet tea can give you heartburn due to its caffeine content. Caffeine tends to relax the lower esophageal sphincter which can lead to the occurrence of heartburn.

So, caffeine-containing foods and beverages like iced tea, coffee, black tea, green tea, milk tea, and soda can cause you heartburn. 

Will sweet tea cause diarrhea? 

Yes, caffeinated drinks like sweet tea can irritate your stomach and cause diarrhea. However, this is most likely going to happen when you take more than two cups daily. 

Despite having amazing health benefits, black tea which is a key ingredient in sweetened tea contains caffeine which can speed up muscle contractions in the digestive tracts. 

These rapid muscle contractions can lead to stomach cramping or diarrhea. Also, some sweeteners like the artificial ones used in making the tea can cause diarrhea. 

Sweeteners like sorbitol which serves as a sugar alternative also play the role of a laxative when taken in excess quantity. 

SEE: Why Milk Makes You Poop

Can sweetened tea cause kidney stones? 

Yes, sweet tea can lead to the formation of painful kidney stones if it has high concentrations of oxalate. 

Oxalate is a compound that naturally occurs in plants, and when they bind with calcium, they form kidney stones.

Studies suggest that sweetened beverages such as Southern tea and soda can cause kidney stones due to the presence of calcium and oxalate. 

Where did sweet tea originate?

The exact date and place where sweet teas originated cannot be specified. However, the oldest known recipe was made by Marion Cabell Tyree in 1879, in Virginia. 

This recipe was found in a cookbook called Housekeeping in Old Virginia. Although it made use of green tea instead of black tea, it was the first recorded drink recipe flavored using lemon and sugar. 

Sweet tea remains a southern tradition and is made by boiling water and adding sugar to it till it dissolves. Black tea is then added to the hot sugar water till it cools before adding flavors and crushed ice (optional).

What does sweet tea taste like?

Sweet tea has a well-blended and natural flavor as it is made by mixing black tea, flavors, and sweeteners. The addition of these flavors and sweeteners neutralizes the bitter taste of the black tea and makes it slightly more pleasant.

SEE: What The Pumpkin Spice Latte Tastes Like

What sweeteners are used for sweet tea?

Besides the use of white sugar, other sweeteners that you can use for your tea include vanilla, honey, fresh fruits, simple syrup, maple syrup, agave nectar, or artificial sweeteners

You can also flavor your tea with lemon slices. However, this is not a common ingredient used in making the tea. Still, the addition of lemon slices will help neutralize the bitter taste the tannins in black tea give off. 

This is why it often contains more sugar than your average iced tea, as they help neutralize the bitterness of the black. 

Some sweet teas can have as much as 22 grams of sugar per serving, which is dangerously higher than the sugar content in soda. 


Why is sweet tea used to treat shock?

Sweet tea is used to treat shock due to its high sugar content. Shock occurs as a result of drastically low blood sugar levels that can leave you weak and result in fainting. 

Can sweet tea cause acid reflux? 

Yes, sweet tea can result in acid reflux due to the presence of theophylline in it. Theophylline is a component found in tea that relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter resulting in esophageal acid reflux. 

Will sweet tea keep you awake? 

No, sweet tea does not contain enough caffeine to affect the quality of your sleep. Although black tea contains caffeine, it is not up to 20% of the amount found in the same serving of coffee.

Can sweet tea be made without caffeine?

No, sweet teas cannot be made without caffeine, as the basic ingredient used in making them include black tea or green tea which naturally contain caffeine.


Yes, sweet teas can in fact go bad. Of course, this is dependent upon many different factors, but over time your tea will definitely go bad—that is, it will likely become fermented.

However, while there are plenty of long-lasting alternatives for iced tea available in bottles and cans around the country, nothing is quite like the good old-fashioned glass of freshly made sweet tea.

Ensure your tea stays fresh by storing the unused black tea in a cool dry place or refrigerate brewed tea that you’re unable to finish immediately.

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