As the weather gets warmer, cold beverages like iced tea start making a reappearance in our everyday meals. Some people like their beverages prepared at a café while some enjoy brewing them at home, and it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t fond of these simple and classic flavors.
I particularly enjoy making tea at home because I feel more in control and it almost always turns out just how I like it.
While most people dread the days when the sun is especially relentless, I actually look forward to them. That’s when I can finally get my glass jar ready to brew my favorite sun-brewed tea. I like my tea to have a dark and nutty flavor profile, so I make sure to stay stocked up on black tea leaves in the summer.
If you wish to learn how to make sun tea in a few easy steps, then keep reading to find the simplest recipe of all time.
What’s Sun Tea?
Sun tea, as the name suggests, is brewed under the heat of the sun and not with an artificial source of heat. Black tea is commonly used but you can try herbal tea flavors as well.
It’s mostly sweetened with honey or a simple syrup, and fruit can also be added to boost the flavor after it’s done brewing in the sun. It’s known to have a mild taste as compared to regular tea because the sun rarely lets the water temperature exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit. (Remember, boiling tea leaves is no bueno. It causes bitterness and aftertaste you definitely don’t want.) You can enhance the taste by mixing in a variety of tea flavors.
What makes sun tea different from regular tea isn’t just the way it’s prepared, it’s also the container it’s prepared in. You can use glass jars or plastic pitchers for brewing. I recommend using a glass jar as it allows the oxygenation process to start that’s needed to brew the tea. Plastic jars may not work the same way and they can alter the taste.
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Making Sun Tea
When you’re brewing sun tea, it’s up to you to use tea bags or loose tea. Regardless of what tea you choose, you need to make sure you’re using the right ratio of tea and water.
It’s not as simple as leaving your sun tea jar out under the blazing sun and letting the sunlight do its magic. You need to be aware of how the temperature outside helps enhance the flavor and how exposure can affect the quality of the tea. It’s also important to place the jar directly in the sunlight to make sure the tea is brewed in its entirety.
Take a look at this recipe to learn how you can make it with only a handful of ingredients.
This recipe requires slow steeping to bring out a slightly mellow flavor of the tea. Because you aren’t using boiling water for infusion, you need to drink it within two to three days after refrigerating it.
What You Need
- A gallon glass container or a 2-quart pitcher
- 4 to 8 tea bags
- Filtered water
- Your choice of liquid sweetener (honey, agave, simple syrup, or a combination)
- Add 4 tea bags to a 2-quart pitcher or 8 tea bags to a gallon container.
- Pour in filtered water to the jar and cover it with a lid.
- Place the jar under the sunlight for about 3 to 5 hours. Keep an eye on it to make sure the sun hasn’t shifted. If it has, you need to move it out of the shade and back under the sun.
- After enough time has passed and the tea looks just right for your liking, bring the jar inside. You can remove the teabags if you want or leave them in there for a stronger flavor.
- Add sweetener after you have brought the jar inside and out of the sun, or leave it unsweetened and only add sweetener to each glass as you serve it
- Store it in the refrigerator. Tea will go bad, even in the fridge. If your tea ever smells moldy or “off” discard it immediately.
You can also serve it with a few sprigs of fresh mint for a refreshing bite.
How Many Tea Bags Do You Need?
One gallon jar of water calls for an average of 6 to 8 regular-sized tea bags.
How Long Does It Take to Brew Sun Tea?
To enjoy the perfect cup of sun-brewed tea, you need to leave it under the sun for just enough time. The recommended time for brewing is somewhere between three to five hours. Leaving it outside for less time may not allow the oxygenation process to fully complete. Prolonged exposure to the sun can also affect the flavor and make it taste slightly burnt or bitter.
It can also depend on the brand of tea you’re using, so you may have to experiment for a while until you find the perfect window to brew it so it comes out tasting just the way you like it.
Is It Safe for You?
Even though sun tea is quite popular in the U.S., people are beginning to speculate if it’s even safe for them. The truth about heating up water using the sun is that it’s not going to act the same way as boiling water. It’s simply not hot enough to get rid of bacteria inside the pitcher or the tea bags.
If water is kept under the sun for longer than two hours and it’s somewhere between 40°F and 140°F, it will actually allow the bacteria to breed. This is why sun tea should be kept cold immediately after sunning, and drank within two days of making it. To help inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria, start with distilled water, either by pre-boiling the water for five hard minutes of boiling on the stove top, or purchasing distilled water from the store.
How to make cold brew tea
If you’re partial to the flavor but don’t wish to let the sun interfere, you need to opt for a cold brew infusion. All you really have to do is add the tea bags to cold, filtered water, store it in the fridge, and enjoy for up to a week!
Make sure you’re using cold filtered water. Pour it inside a transparent glass jar and add your choice of cold brew tea bags. Let it sit at room temperature for about 2 to 3 hours, and then store it in the fridge until it’s perfectly chilled. If you can’t wait for that long, then you can simply drink it over ice right after it’s brewed fully through.
It will have a lower risk of bacteria growth, and you’ll be surprised to find the flavors are just as great as sun-brewed tea, if not better.
Now that you’ve learned the simplest tutorial on how to make sun tea, all you need to do is wait till the weather gets warmer so you can brew the most delicious cup of tea for your loved ones.
If you don’t like the earthy flavors of black tea leaves, you can use other tea flavors like peach, rosehip, and hibiscus. Green tea leaves can also be used if you enjoy a bittersweet aftertaste.
- Gallon glass container
- Tea bags
- Filtered water
- Honey, agave, simple syrup
- Add 8 tea bags to a gallon glass container and pour in the filtered water to the jar. Cover it with a lid.
- Place the jar under the sunlight for about 3 to 5 hours.
- Bring the jar inside and remove the teabags. If you want, you can leave them in there for a stronger flavor
- Add your choice of liquid sweetener to the jar.
- Mix and serve.