When the days get longer and hotter, it’s my sign to make sun tea. Have you ever had it before? If you haven’t, you are in for a treat!
Sun tea is a southern summer staple (say that 3X fast) – no need to turn on the stove in the heat! I love making sun tea because it’s so easy and I feel connected to my southern ancestors. Back in the day, everything was done as simply and efficiently as possible. There were too many things to do, and time was precious. Taking a step out of any process was ideal for busy homemakers.
So, along came sun tea. You only need a few ingredients to make it. Plus, it takes the extra step out of boiling the water.
What you will need:
8 black or green tea bags
1-gallon spring or filtered water
Local honey or simple syrup to taste
1-gallon glass drink dispenser (or pitcher with lid)
How to make sun tea
This is the easiest perfect summer drink recipe. All you have to do is pour water into a clean glass dispenser, then put in the tea bags. Put the lid on, go outside and find a bright sunny spot. Leave the dispenser in the sun and let it sit. Your sun tea only needs about 3-4 hours to steep. Once the water turns from clear to dark amber color, you will know it is ready! Don’t let it go past 4 hours, because you risk the growth of bacteria.
Is it safe to brew tea this way?
Even though sun tea is an easy way to brew up your tea, it is not the safest method. Because the water is not boiled, you are at risk of growing harmful bacteria found in the water or even tea bags. It is a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis. This bacteria develops because the water can not heat past 130 degrees F in the sun, which is not hot enough to kill it. However, this is rather uncommon.
How do I know if my sun tea grew bacteria?
If your brew has a syrup-like consistency, that is an indicator that bacteria is present. You may also see cloudy “ropes” in the tea. The risk is low, and it is more likely that bacteria will grow when using tap water. I only ever drink/use spring water, for many reasons (post about that coming soon). I have never experienced any issues with bacteria when using spring water. But of course, just because I haven’t had any issues, doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible. Always do your due diligence and remember: when in doubt, toss it out.
Alternative method for brewing
If you are nervous about bacteria growth during this process, you can brew your tea another way. This is the “cold brew” version of sun tea. All you need to do is leave the tea in the refrigerator for about 6 hours and you have a similar result. Although it takes longer, there is less risk involved in brewing at a lower temp. It is harder for bacteria to grow and breed in cool temps.
- 1 gallon glass pitcher with lid
- 8 black tea bags
- 1 gallon spring or purified water
- 1/2 cup local honey or simple syrup (or to taste)
- In a clean pitcher, add water and tea bags.
- Take outside to a sunny spot and let sit for about 3 hours.
- When finished, bring inside, add sweetener of choice and immediately refrigerate.
- Discard leftovers after 24 hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have to make it in a glass container?
Yes, I would say that glass is a must. Plastic leaks chemicals like BPA in the liquid when it heats in the sun which is never a good thing.
What type of water should I use?
I HIGHLY recommend using only spring water (my favorite) or filtered water. Avoid tap water.
No, it needs to be in the refrigerator as soon as it is done brewing. This will control the growth of bacteria and help keep it fresh.
How long does it last in the fridge?
24 hours. Do not drink it past 24 hours! Toss it if you have leftovers and make a fresh batch.
Can you make sun tea when it’s cold?
Yes, but it will take longer. If you can find a sunny spot in your home during the winter months you can make it.
Can you get sick from sun tea?
Yes, but only if you have bacterial growth. In the event that happens, do not drink it.
Is there caffeine in sun tea?
Yes, there is caffeine in black and green tea. This is a good thing because it actually helps fight off bacteria, to an extent.
Can I use herbal tea?
It is not recommended to use herbal tea because it has a higher chance of developing bacteria. This is because there is no caffeine to help fight it off.