Posted on March 26, 2016

A Definitive Ranking of the Best Sweet Teas (For A Real Southern Soul)


Addictions are a part of human nature. Unfortunately, some addictions are harder to kick than others. If you find yourself with extreme blood sugar levels, hyped on caffeine, moderately dehydrated and you’re starting to speak with more of a country twang than ever before, you may have the worst kind of addiction of them all: sweet tea. If you are from anywhere in the South, you know how offensive it is when tell your waiter you’d like iced tea as your beverage of choice and they bring you the worst thing any southerner could ever imagine: unsweet tea.

Sweet teas are like people, they come in all different shapes and sizes (okay, maybe not shapes and sizes, but definitely sweetness and strength), and each has their pros and cons. It’s important we choose our sweet teas like we choose our friends: wisely. We’ve ranked the best sweet teas for the Southern soul to save you time and conflict when you’re on the go and you don’t have the patience to wait for a sun-brewed tea from Grandma’s back porch.

As Beyonce would say: Okay, (sweet teas), now let’s get in formation, cause (you) slay. 

#8: Starbucks

This one is no surprise. coming in at the bottom because most people will sit through a Starbucks drive-thru for their Venti Iced Skinny Vanilla Latte, but not for a measly sweet tea that you can literally get anywhere. The tea at Starbucks is very strong, most likely because they use the same tea that they use for hot tea, which is going to be significantly more potent. Also, they use a sugar simple syrup to sweeten their tea, which has a completely different taste than your usual tea sweeteners. Overall, you taste more tea flavor instead of the perfect mixture of tea and sugar.

Official rating: Good Lord, what’s in this?

#7: Arizona 

Canned tea is a completely different taste than brewed tea. However, all Arizona teas tend to be a bit more tart than normal brewed tea. This is one of those factors that you either love or you absolutely despise. We’re kind of on the fence about this one. Arizona tea is like lemonade, you can only drink it with certain foods. It’s almost like that orange juice/toothpaste combination, ~ew~. Who wants to have to change their food to fit their drink anyway?

Official rating: Gimme some sugar, sugar!

#6: McAlister’s Deli

McAlister’s is supposedly known for the “best tea on earth,” but they earned the sixth spot on our list. Nine times out of ten at McAlister’s, your tea will be warm. This is such a turn off when you’re madly in love with sweet tea. You didn’t order an iced tea to get a liter-sized cup of sweet tea with two cubes of ice. McAlister’s, you’d be higher on the scale if you learned how to proportion your ice to your tea.

Official rating: That Texas heat ain’t gonna handle itself, y’all.

#5: Chick-Fil-A

Although they are predominately known for their super fresh lemonade, CFA has a crowd-pleasing sweet tea under their belts. Unfortunately, they have the opposite problem that McAlister’s has. CFA puts WAY too much ice in their tea. If you get a medium sweet tea, you’re going to have a cup full of ice and a splash of tea. Hey Chick-Fil-A, can we get some tea with our ice? 

Official rating: If we wanted that much ice, we’d move to Antarctica.

#4: McDonald’s

Mickey D’s has some pretty damn good sweet tea. However, the time of day that you go and get that large sweet tea for about a dollar has the biggest effect on the quality. It’s no secret that the later you go to McDonald’s the worse the food gets, and the same is for their tea. I guess they don’t believe in making more tea when its been sitting there for hours. And if you know anything about tea, you know that you have to drink it almost immediately. Also, make sure you specify you’d like extra ice.

Official rating: A dollar will not make us holler for that sweet tea, Honey Boo Boo.

#3: Chicken Express

We know what you’re thinking: “OMG really? Chicken E has the best tea ever!!!” Yeah, if you like drinking pure sugar syrup with some ice. Let’s face it, every cup of Chicken E sweet tea is another step closer to extreme diabetes. We’ll give it to them though: if you get a half & half tea, it’s just about the perfect combination. And they are actually really good with their ice proportions (which clearly is a super important factor).

Official rating: That’ll do, darlin’, that’ll do.

#2: Raising Cane’s

Cane’s is one of those places where the line for the sweet tea is longer than the line for the chicken itself. It is simply amazing. It’s not too sweet, not too bitter—the perfect combination. The only issue we have with Canes is the type of ice that they use. You know the little pellets of ice that used to be known exclusively as “Sonic ice”? Yeah, those ones. There will be many instances when you go to get a sip of your tea and a little ice pellet shoots up the straw and into your throat inevitably causing you to choke and die. (A little over-exaggerated, but it could be that serious.) This is only a small problem though, because the tea itself is so worth it.

Official rating: And on the 8th day, God created sweet tea.

And finally, the one who takes home all the gold and the glory:

#1: Whataburger

If you don’t live in the South and you have not experience the heaven-sent gift of anything and everything Whata, we sincerely apologize. You truly have not lived, and that’s just so unfortunate. Whataburger carries the majesty of all teas. It is the ultimate trifecta of sweetness, tea flavor and ice. It’s truly the best and we are definitely not biased with this one. (Okay maybe we are a little.) Next time you’re in the South, don’t even bother wasting your time or money on anything other than Whataburger. It will change your life, satisfaction guaranteed.

Official rating: God bless your momma, your daddy, your doggy, your cowboy boots, your pickup truck and God bless Texas.

*Honorable (or dishonorable, because we have standards here) Mention: Coming in at #58,000 is Sonic. Their tea is not even worth an entire paragraph to talk about it.*

Like we said, choose your teas wisely. It could make or break your entire life if you drink one that the Sweet Tea Gods would not approve of.

Photo by: Sarah Schreiner 

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