Tennessee Fruit Tea

Fruit tea combines the best of sweet tea and sweet juice.

tennessee fruit tea

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox


I grew up in the Midwest with only sun tea and "sweet" tea, which was really unsweet tea and an inch of sugar in the bottom. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get my tea sweet enough.

When I moved to the South as an adult, I was introduced to truly sweet tea—steeped and sugary throughout from sugar syrup infused in every sip.

That wasn’t my only new Southern sweet beverage. I soon discovered another Southern menu staple: Fruit Tea.

At Nashville-area restaurants like Legends Steakhouse, Puffy Muffin, The Loveless Cafe, Blue Coast Burrito, and Bar-B-Cutie, Fruit Tea is a beverage that is part sweet tea, part fruit juice—golden and caffeinated, sweet and Southern. I learned not to drink fruit tea after around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, because it is so sweet and so caffeinated.

Fruit Tea, or Fruit Punch or Tea Punch as you may see it called, is especially popular around Nashville and in middle Tennessee. It's not entirely clear where this beverage was created, but restaurants sell it gallon after gallon still today. It's welcome alongside hot chicken and barbecue, as well as finger sandwiches luncheons and chicken salad.

What's In Fruit Tea?

Tennessee Fruit Tea is more than just sweet tea and fruit juice. The proportions are crucial and different at every restaurant.

Restaurant owners were happy to tell me their basic recipe: sweet tea; some kind of citrus juice, usually orange or pineapple, and often both; and sometimes a little something extra like ginger, lemon, or mint. Tetley’s or Lipton Iced Tea is steeped with sugar water first to make the sweet tea before mixing it with enough fruit juice to turn it into a golden concoction.

That sounds like a simple enough recipe, so I tried to replicate it at home. But I couldn’t quite get it right. It was honestly a pain brewing tea and boiling sugar water before adding different juices. My blend was always just a little off.

One server suggested I try sweet tea with margarita mix added in; I did and ended up with yet another version of tea with fruit flavoring, not fruit tea.

I almost gave up on trying to figure out an at-home recipe that made the tea sweet enough and the fruit flavor present, too. But after more fiddling with proportions, I found the perfect blend of sweet tea cut slightly by the sweetness and acidity of an orange-and-pineapple juice blend.

Tennessee Fruit Tea

Caitlin Bensel; Food Stylist: Torie Cox

How To Make Tennessee Fruit Tea

I buy both the sweet tea and juice blend in the refrigerated section at the grocery store, mainly because that means the drink is chilled and ready to enjoy. Shelf-stable versions of the tea and fruit juice can work, too. You'll want to chill them before or after combining.

What You'll Need:

What You'll Do:

  • Step 1: Get out your favorite pitcher. Pour about half the sweet tea into the pitcher.
  • Step 2: Pour about half the orange-pineapple juice into the remaining sweet tea.
  • Step 3: Pour the pitcher-reserved sweet tea into the remaining orange pineapple juice.
  • Step 4: Put the lids back on both containers—tightly! Shake to blend the sweet tea and orange-pineapple juice mixes in each half gallon.


Use a kitchen funnel to pour the tea into the juice and the juice into the tea to cut down on messes.

And there you have it—two-ingredient Fruit Tea, no muss and no fuss.

After you pour yourself a glass, all you need to do is wipe the half gallons down and put them in the fridge. If you want to be fancy when serving, use that pitcher.

The new combination of sweet tea and orange-pineapple juice will be an amber color and the perfect blend of sweet tea and juice.


  • 1 (64 oz.) bottle sweet tea (such as Milo’s or Turkey Hill)

  • 1 (59 oz.) carton pineapple-orange juice


  1. Pour half of the sweet tea (4 cups) and half of the pineapple-orange juice (about 3 2/3 cups) into a pitcher. Stir to combine.

  2. Pour the remaining pineapple-orange juice into the bottle of sweet tea, and shake to combine.

  3. The mixture in the pitcher can either be served immediately or decanted back into the juice carton to store.

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