Sun tea is one of those summer favorites that many of us look forward to making each year when the weather gets warm enough to start setting big batches of summer sun tea out on porch steps to steep.
While there probably isn’t anything the really makes sun tea better necessarily than regular tea, there is something special about setting a big jar of herbs and tea out to steep in the sunshine, and I like to think that the energy from the sun makes it a little more special to sip on.
What You’ll Need To Make Sun Tea
If you decide to start making sun tea this summer then there are a few simple tools and ingredients you will need to get started, and then you will be ready to make sun tea all summer long.
- Large Glass Jar
- Loose Leaf Tea Ball
- Organic/Fair Trade Dried Tea
- Fine Mesh Strainer
Is Sun Tea Safe To Drink?
The short answer is yes and no. While the true risk of brewing sun tea and getting sick from bacteria in the tea is low, the environment that sun tea is made in is considered to be the “time-temperature danger zone” in food safety terms, which refers to something being held for more than two hours between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.
While your tea will become pretty hot when sitting in the sun, it will usually never go much higher than 130 degrees F, which isn’t hot enough to kill any bacteria in the tea or water like boiling water for tea does. To limit this risk you could choose to opt for a “chill brew” instead, which is just as tasty as sun tea (although lacking in nostalgia) without any of the potential risks.
With that said, thousands of people drink sun tea each summer without getting sick and if you are using sanitary practices for making your sun tea the risks of drinking sun tea are low and similar to other risks associated with potential risk for food borne illness.
Some steps you can take to reduce the risk of bacteria when making sun tea are:
- Make sure your container that you will be brewing in has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
- Opt for distilled water, or water that has been boiled ahead of time, which would have killed any bacteria.
- Don’t leave your sun tea in the sun for more than 3-4 hours.
- Immediately strain and refrigerate your sun tea after steeping.
- Ideally, consume within one day of making sun tea.
How To Make Sun Tea
Making sun tea really couldn’t be easier and your recipe will depend in large part on what kind of sun tea you want to make. I personally love opting for fresh sun tea that is filled with a combination of herbs from my garden and a little bit of local honey, but you can easily make sun tea with just a few tea bags and some sugar for sweetening if you prefer.
Clean and sanitize your container that you will be brewing your sun tea in
Next, place your tea bags or loose leaf herbs into the container. If using fresh herbs make sure that they have been washed well before adding to the container.
Fill the container with distilled water or water that has been previously boiled to reduce any risk of bacteria
Cover the container with a tight-fitting lid and shake the container to mix up the tea or herbs.
Place the tea to steep in the sun for 3-4 hours or store in the refrigerator for 8 hours.
Remove the tea bags or strain the tea/herbs from the water, and add a liquid sweetener of choice to your desired taste. You can make a homemade simple syrup that will easily dissolve in your tea by combining a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water on the stove and heating until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to drink. Serve over ice and with a sprig of fresh mint or a slice of lemon.
Note: If making sun tea the traditional way, then ideally you want to finish your tea within 1-2 days.
How To Chill Brew Your Tea Instead
If you decide that you want to opt for cold brewing tea instead of making sun tea the process is pretty much exactly the same, but instead of placing your tea in the sun you place it for double the amount of time in the refrigerator.
When I make a chill brew iced tea I typically will place all my ingredients into my container and leave it in the refrigerator overnight where it will steep in the cold water. When I wake up in the morning after about 8 hours the tea is ready to strain and is incredibly flavorful
Summer Herbal Sun Tea Recipe
When it comes to making your sun tea there are so many different recipes and tea/herb combinations you can choose from. While I personally will usually opt for more of an herbal infusion without the actual tea, there are many ways that you can combine both dried tea and fresh herbs to make a really wonderful and refreshing summer tea.
So to help get you started here is a general recipe guideline to follow when making your tea in the sun this summer and you can choose to add or exclude different flavors or ingredients based on your own personal preference. For instance, if you are looking to make a traditional southern sweet tea then you are going to want to add a lot more sugar then I have listed in the recipe below.
The best part about using this guideline though is that you can scale it to any quantity you need, which I think is best when making sun tea.
Summer Mint Herbal Sun Tea Recipe
- 8 tea bags per cup of water or 1 cup loose leaf tea (white/rooibos tea)
- 2 cups fresh mint leaves
- 1 gallon distilled or pre-boiled water (to reduce any potential bacteria)
- Sweetener of choice and to desired taste (simple syrup or honey will work best to dissolve completely into the tea)
- Clean and sanitize your container that you will be brewing your sun tea in
- Next, place your tea bags or loose leaf herbs into the container. If using fresh herbs make sure that they have been washed well before adding to the container.
- Fill the container with distilled water or water that has been previously boiled to reduce any risk of bacteria
- Cover the container with a tight-fitting lid and shake the container to mix up the tea or herbs.
- Place the tea to steep in the sun for 3-4 hours or store in the refrigerator for 8 hours.
- Remove the tea bags or strain the tea/herbs from the water, and add a liquid sweetener of choice to your desired taste. You can make a homemade simple syrup that will easily dissolve in your tea by combining a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water on the stove and heating until the sugar has completely dissolved.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to drink. Serve over ice and with a sprig of fresh mint or a slice of lemon.
- If you are using dried herbs instead of tea for an herbal infusion the standard ratio is 1:32 ounces of herbs to ounces of water
- Ex: 1 ounce dried hibiscus flowers per 32 ounces of water
- If using fresh herbs I find that a 1:4 cup ratio of herbs to water works best
- Ex: 1 cup fresh mint to four cups water
- If making sun tea the traditional way, then ideally you want to finish your tea within 1-2 days.