Best Sweet Tea in the Columbia :: In Honor of National Iced Tea Month


These days there’s a “holiday” for everything. But considering I’m a Southerner who continues to live in the South, National Iced Tea Month is one that I’m happy to celebrate.

If you order tea in Columbia, the standard is going to be sweetened (usually with sugar) and plenty of ice. Lemons are added on occasion, and for something a little different, you can order an “Arnold Palmer ,” which is a half and half mixture of tea and lemonade.

Making tea at home is super simple and inexpensive, and home tea brewers have complete control over how sweet the tea is. To make a half gallon, put 4-5 tea bags into a pot on the stove and bring to a boil. When it begins to boil, take the tea off the heat, and pour into a pitcher. Add up to a cup of sugar to your warm brew, and fill your pitcher up with cold water to make a half gallon. Black tea is the most common tea used in iced tea, but you can use green tea and even herbal. Tazo’s passion tea variety is one of my favorites.

However, if you’re like me, sometimes a craving for a sweet tea hits and you have to drink a glass right then. To satisfy that urge, here’s a list of restaurants around town that have awesome sweet tea. Some are local, some are chains, but all are awesome.

McAlister’s Deli

McAlister's sweet tea is not to be missed!
McAlister’s sweet tea is not to be missed!

McAlister’s deli has four locations in Columbia, and they are proud of their sweet tea recipe. Served in large glasses (which come with dine-in free refills), McAlister’s sweet tea is not to be missed.

Bonus: Kids Eat Free! Get your sweet tea fix and enjoy some of their fabulous menu options on the following nights at locations below. The kids eat free special is valid with the purchase of an adult meal, so you can get your sweet tea fix and eat with your family relatively inexpensively!

  • Lexington – Kids eat free Monday-Wednesdays after 5 p.m.
  • Irmo and Forest Drive – Kids eat free on Tuesday nights after 5 p.m.
  • Sparkleberry Road – Kids eat free after 5 p.m. on Sundays and Tuesdays

Groucho’s Deli

Groucho’s Deli opened in Five Points in 1941 by a Northern transplant (but now has six locations in the Columbia area). You’d be missing out if you ordered your STP sandwich with anything other than a glass of their sweet tea, and as an added bonus, Groucho’s has crunchy ice!


For years, I only went to Bojangles for breakfast, but recently have branched out and tried them for other meals. Their sweet tea is awesome. And with 26 locations around the Columbia area, including Camden and Newberry, you can get a cup of tea whenever the craving strikes you!


Refreshing, and it fits PERFECTLY in your car cup holder for on-the-go!

Also a chain that was started in the South (Statesboro, Georgia to be exact), Zaxby’s is liked for their sweet tea as much as their chicken. They currently have 11 locations in the Columbia area, including one in Batesburg-Leesville and one in Newberry. Many locations offer kids eat free nights, as well as discounts with church bulletins on Sunday evenings. Call the location closest to you for specific details regarding their specials.


Started in the 1960’s, Rush’s is well known for their burger baskets, chili dogs, shakes and fried chicken. (Is your mouth watering yet?!?) It’s always a welcome sight for their employees to circulate the restaurant with a pitcher full of sweet tea (who wants to get up for refills in the middle of their meal?!). It’s Southern hospitality at its finest. Rush’s has 9 locations in the Midlands (including a location in Camden). They offer fried chicken and BBQ suppers to go, and both include a pitcher of sweet tea — perfect for those nights no one feels like cooking in your household.

Publix (Honorable Mention)

The latest limited edition variety of Publix tea is very refreshing!
Publix’s latest limited edition tea is refreshing!

Publix has many varieties of sweet tea available for purchase in their deli, and they are sold in gallon, half-gallon and individual sized bottles. It goes on sale frequently for half price during the summertime, so if you’re headed to the lake or to a barbecue, it won’t break your budget!

Here in our famously hot Capital City, you’d have a hard time finding a restaurant that doesn’t have sweet tea on the menu! Where’s your favorite place to grab a glass? Include a link if you can!


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