Almost all of my summertime memories from childhood have iced tea in them. Odd, I know, but growing up in the hot, humid south, iced tea was a big deal. My mom didn’t even heat up the water first. She would simply drop a couple bags of black tea in a pitcher of cool tap water. The heat from the sun would work its magic, and several hours later, voila!
“Sun tea,” as it’s called, is one of the easiest ways to enjoy tea during hot months. Plus, it’s uh-mazing when infused with fresh fruit and home grown herbs. Here’s how to make your own infused sun tea to get you through the dog days of summer.
How to Make Infused Sun Tea
Making sun tea is so simple I’m not sure it really deserves a lengthy how-to. Just place a few tea bags in a pitcher of water and set it on the windowsill. The idea is that the energy from the sun will slowly heat the water, giving you perfectly brewed tea in a couple of hours – all without heating up your kitchen.
Genius, no? But why stop there? I like to add fresh fruit, citrus rinds, herbs and spices to create different flavor combinations. The water will slowly extract the flavors and oils the same way it does with the tea. And with a little bit of patience you’ll be left with delicious iced tea that took less than 5 minutes to throw together.
That being said, some types of tea are better brewed the old fashioned way, especially if you want to reap the health benefits. Green tea is one of those that’s sensitive to temperature. In order to extract the polyphenols and antioxidants, you need the heat from almost-boiling water to release them. But if you’re like me and you sometimes drink tea just for the flavor, go ahead and use the sun tea method. You might be missing out on a few of the antioxidants, but it tastes just as good and is so much easier to make.
One of the questions I see a lot is, is sun tea safe? The answers online are mixed. It’s true that leaving food sitting in the hot sun for hours can create an environment ripe for bacteria. But I’m of the opinion that sun tea is no more dangerous than drinking infused water or cold brew coffee. Don’t leave your tea sitting out for more than three hours before transferring it to the refrigerator. And if you’re worried about bacteria, don’t place your tea in the sun at all. Let it steep on the kitchen counter or even in the fridge. It will still taste just as great.
Flavored Sun Tea Recipe
- 2-quart glass jar with lid
- 2 tea bags
- 4 cups distilled water
- Fresh fruit and herbs. My favorite combinations are: peach + thyme, strawberry + mint, pear + rosemary
- Honey, optional
- Ice Cubes
Place tea bags in a clean glass jar. If your tea bags have the paper tags, leave those draped over the outside of the jar. Add the filtered water, fresh fruit and herbs. Screw on the lid, place the jar on a bright windowsill and let sit for up to 3 hours. Strain the solids from the tea. Add honey to taste, then serve over ice with extra fruit and herbs as garnish.
Refrigerate any leftover sun tea and use within 2 days.