If you've ever watched your grandmother or mother set a glass jar filled with tea bags on the back patio to heat up in the summer sun, you're familiar with sun tea. It's no secret that we love an ice-cold glass of the stuff on a hot day, and this old-school method is one of our favorite ways to make it. Rather than boiling water on the stove, this nostalgic way of brewing tea harnesses the power of the sun instead.
Generally, we think of making tea with hot water, but the reality is that it doesn't matter if the water is hot or cold: When tea leaves get wet, they release their flavor. That said, hot water expedites the process, resulting in a quicker, more intense flavor. Because it takes longer for the sun to heat up a jar of water than it would take in the microwave or on the stovetop, sun tea typically has a milder flavor than traditionally brewed tea. After the sunbathing process, you can give it a stronger taste by adding sweeteners or flavors to your liking.
So this summer, instead of making your go-to classic sweet tea, try making a big batch of sun tea in the backyard. You won't create any extra heat in the house on a hot day, and you likely already have everything on hand to make this easy, popular summer drink.
Combine a gallon of water and eight tea bags in a large glass container (adjust the water and number of tea bags proportionally if you desire a different amount). Cover the container with a lid and put it outside in a bright, sunny spot.
The time your tea needs to bask in the sunlight will vary depending on a few factors, including the type of tea and size of the container, but mostly the temperature outside. On a super-hot day, it might only take one hour, but we advise allowing about to two to three hours for your tea to steep. The best way to tell when it is ready is the color. Check it occasionally until it appears the color you desire. Once to your liking, removed the tea bags and add any finishing touches or flavor enhancers before storing in the refrigerator.
For a sweeter beverage, add a liquid sweetener like simple syrup, honey, or agave. If a citrus note is your cup of tea, garnish the jar with lemons or limes to add a tart flavor. You can also toss in a fresh mix of cut-up fruit and herbs. Once it is to your satisfaction, pour yourself a cup over ice, garnish, and enjoy!
Yes! Just be sure to follow these tips.
First, use a clean, clear glass container with a lid. Don't use plastic, as plastic can release chemicals when heated (even sitting in the sun). The lid is also imperative for keeping anything unwanted from getting into your tea while it sits outside. Next, use filtered or distilled water to avoid any bacteria that could come from tap water. This helps reduce contamination since the water is not being boiled.
Be sure to keep an eye on the clock and don't leave it in the sun for more than four hours. Less steeping time means less time for bacterial growth. Additionally, wait until the steeping process is complete to add sugar or any additional flavors or garnishes. Lastly, be sure to refrigerate immediately once ready and consume within a few days.