Try this old-school way of making delicious iced tea without boiling water. All you need is tea, water, a glass container, and some ice.
A refreshing and healthy drink, sun tea should be always prepared carefully with proper hygiene. Otherwise, you might end up with a drink contaminated with bacteria.
Read this guide to learn how to make sun tea safely. You will also find out what are the best containers for brewing it and how to add interesting twists to the taste!
What is Sun Tea?
Sun tea is a version of iced tea where you use the natural heat from the sun to brew your beverage.
So what’s the point of making your iced tea this way? Why not just brew it with hot water and then chill it?
Here are a few reasons why I like to make sun tea:
- No need to use electricity
- You can make it outdoors instead of staying in the hot kitchen
- The taste is more smooth compared to brewing with hot water
On top of that, I think that making sun tea is fun!
When you use a transparent container, you can observe the process of the tea slowly brewing and the liquid changing its color.
Sun Tea Dangers
The possible health risk with making sun is related to the fact that it’s brewed in warm temperatures. This creates an optimal breeding ground for bacteria. Add some sugar to the mix and you are giving the bacteria nutrition to grow even faster.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology bacteria grows very slowly in cold temperatures, but the growth gets faster as the temperature rises. When it gets hot enough, the bacteria will die.
Sun tea is usually steeped in temperatures between 70 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (about 20-40ºC), which is optimal for bacteria growth.
However, sunlight can be used for disinfecting drinking water. So if you use a transparent glass container and place it in direct sunlight, the UV rays might actually kill some of the bacteria.
How to Minimize the Risk
Now that you are aware of the danger of bacterial contamination, let’s see how you can best avoid it:
Cleanliness: Make sure that your container is cleaned well. The best option is to use a dishwashing machine or to sanitize it with boiling hot water or steam.
Water: Use distilled (or boiled) water to make sure it doesn’t contain bacteria.
Ingredients: Use high-quality ingredients that don’t have any contaminants and have been stored properly.
Time: Don’t brew the tea for more than 5 hours.
Sunlight: Use a transparent glass container and place it in direct sunlight so that the UV rays help keep the bacteria growth in check.
Fruits and Sweeteners: If you use fruits, add them about 30 mins before consuming the tea. Any sweeteners should be added just before serving.
Storing: When the sun tea is ready, consume it right away or strain and refrigerate it. Don’t keep it in the ref for more than 24 hours.
Best Jars and Pitchers for Making Sun Tea
You can make sun tea in almost any container but high-grade glass jars and pitchers are best for the purpose.
Glass is transparent so it lets in the sunlight and allows you to observe the tea while it’s brewing. Cleaning glass containers is also very easy and they don’t absorb taste or bacteria. In addition, glass is food safe and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals (e.g. BPA) that might leach into your tea.
Below are my recommended glass jar and pitcher for making sun tea. These high-quality products can also be used for many other purposes.
Best Sun Tea Jar: 1 Gallon Glass Jar by 1790
This large glass jar is made with heat-resistant glass and comes with an airtight lid. It’s great for making sun tea for the whole family!
Use the container for anything from storing food, pickling cucumbers, or brewing kombucha. It has a wide mouth so cleaning is easy.
- Made with high-quality heat resistant glass — you can pour boiling water into it
- Comes with an airtight lid made with BPA free plastic
- Includes 2 muslin cloths and rubber bands so you can also use it for fermenting and brewing kombucha
- Made in the USA
Best Sun Tea Pitcher: SMIRLY Glass Pitcher with Lid
Brew your sun tea in this pitcher and pour it directly into glasses. It has a filter that strains tea leaves and other particles, and a spout for a smooth pour.
The stylish pitcher is great for preparing and serving any drink from juice to sangria!
- Made with heatproof tempered glass and stainless steel
- Elegant and convenient design
- The stainless steel lid can be used as a strainer
- Comes with a steel mixing spoon and cleaning brush
How to Make Sun Tea in a Glass Jar or Pitcher
Making sun tea in a glass container is easy!
Just choose your favorite loose leaf tea or tea bags, get some clean water, and a jar or pitcher.
You can use any type of tea. Black tea is a traditional choice, but green tea or any other type of tea will do as well. Sun tea is typically sweetened with sugar or honey.
Additionally, you can add some herbs in the mix.
Sun Tea Recipe
Here is how to make sun tea:
- Add clean drinking water and tea to a glass container. Use one teabag, or about one and a half teaspoons of loose leaf tea, per one cup (8 oz) of water.
- Close the container and place it in direct sunlight and let steep for about 3 to 5 hours. The warmer the water gets, the faster it brews.
- You can add some lemon slices or other fruits in the jar about 30 minutes before serving the tea.
- If you want to make the tea sweet, add sugar, honey, or another sweetener when the tea is ready. Mix well.
- Pour in tall glasses with plenty of ice. Add lemon slices for serving if you wish.
Optional Ingredients – Herbs and Fruits
Adding some fruits and fresh or dried herbs will give your sun tea some interesting flavors. You can also try leaving the tea bags out completely and making herbal sun tea.
Here are some of my favorite herbs to use:
- Mint: Make your sun tea super cool and refreshing.
- Ginger: Add some nice spiciness and healthy antioxidants.
- Yerba Mate: Try using some loose leaf yerba mate to give your sun tea an energizing kick!
- Hibiscus: Gives a beautiful red color and tart taste.
- Cinnamon: Perfect for adding some sweet and woody aromas.
When you add slices of fruits into your sun tea, you can pair them up to match the herbs. Some great combos include mint with lime, ginger with lemon, and cinnamon with orange.
How to Sweeten Sun Tea
You can always sweeten your sun tea with regular white sugar but there are also healthier options that add inspiring new dimensions to its flavor.
Organic raw honey is my favorite option but sometimes I also like to use coconut sugar or agave nectar.
Stevia sweeteners provide a calorie-free option for naturally sweetening the tea.
Risk-Free Alternatives for Sun Tea
If you are worried about the health risks related to making sun tea, there are a few alternatives that are safe for sure:
Cold Brewed Tea
You can just cold brew your tea in the refrigerator. Use the same method as described above but extend the steeping time to about 8 to 12 hours.
The coldness of the refrigerator makes bacteria grow very slow. It’s still important to practice proper hygiene and make sure that your ref is cold enough — about 40°F (or 4°C).
Hot Brewed and Chilled Tea
The fastest and safest option to make iced tea is simply to brew hot tea, let it cool down a bit, and then pour it over a generous amount of ice. This type of iced tea can last in the fridge for up to 5 days.
This means you should make the tea a bit stronger since the melting ice will dilute it.
TIP: Try one of our recommended iced tea makers to prepare your iced tea even faster.
Enjoy Your Sun Tea!
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