Combine the sugar, mint (stems and all) and 1 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep 30 minutes. Discard the mint; refrigerate the syrup until ready to use.
Put 2 quarts water in a pot and add the tea bags. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat, cover and let steep 20 minutes. Discard the tea bags. Pour the tea into a pitcher and add the mint syrup to taste. Refrigerate until cool.
Serve the tea over ice. Garnish with lemon and mint, if desired.
Photograph by Steve Giralt
Recipe courtesy of Sunny Anderson for Food Network Magazine