Sun Tea: How to Brew Safely Plus The Tastiest Flavors
Sun tea is a summer pastime that involves brewing tea bags or tea leaves using the vibrant rays of the sun. The tea delivers a mild yet nuanced flavor that can be enhanced by adding fruit, sweeteners, and herbs. It's the perfect beverage for cooling off by the pool on a hot summer's day.
Discover how you can make sun tea right in your own backyard. With this guide, you'll get tips to brew it safely and discover some of the best flavors for your next batch. Want to pick up tasty teas to make sun tea today? Check out our collection of the best teas for sun tea right here.
What Is Sun Tea?
Sun tea is a fun summertime activity that people have enjoyed for decades. Sun tea is simply iced tea that is allowed to brew in sunlight for several hours. Sun tea is traditionally made using black tea such as Lipton or Luzianne. For your homemade sun tea, you can use any black tea you like or opt for herbal teas instead. The tea is often sweetened using sugar cane or brightened up with the addition of fruit.
The flavor profile of sun tea varies depending on what type of tea is used in the brewing process. In general, teas brewed suing sunlight tend to have a milder flavor than those brewed using hot water or boiling water. That's because sun tea never really gets above 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Even the most delicate teas such as white tea and green tea are brewed at 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold water does not develop flavors as well or as quickly as hot water.
The result is a mild flavored tea that can be accented by adding sweeteners or blending different tea flavors. Some of the most popular flavors include hibiscus, peach, and rosehip. Black tea leaves will add a stronger earthy flavor profile while green tea with lend a grassy and herbaceous note.
The Best Teas For Sun Tea
Black tea is a perfect addition to iced tea because it delivers a strong and robust flavor. It offers earthy, roasted, and rich flavors that are the perfect backdrop for the addition of herbs or fruit. You can use classic Indian varieties such as Assam and Darjeeling or go for a British influence with bergamot-infused Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea.
Hibiscus tea is a tart and sweet floral tea that delivers a crisp and refreshing flavor to sun tea. The flavor profile of hibiscus tea is similar to cranberries with contrastingly sweet and sour tastes. The light floral undertones and aroma complete the exquisite flavor profile. It also brews into a stunning magenta hue that lends a beautiful visual component to your sun tea brew.
Green tea is one of the most well-researched teas. It's been shown to have a host of health benefits ranging from lower risk of serious disease to improved weight loss. The tasty tea is the perfect addition to sun tea as it offers a range of flavors from grassy and umami to earthy and herbaceous. Opt for Chinese varieties that are roasted for a toasty, rich flavor or select a Japanese green tea for vegetal and seaweed notes.
Chamomile Lemongrass Tea
Chamomile tea is known for its calming nature and soothing effects. It's the perfect bedtime tea and can help you relax after a long, piping hot day. The tea also delivers a flavor similar to crisp green apples. The lemongrass adds an additional crisp and refreshing flavor to make this the perfect sun tea candidate.
Blood Orange Black Tea
Citrus-infused black teas are perfect for sun tea because they add a refreshing component. The citrus adds tart and crisp notes that inspire visions of summertime relaxation. The black tea offers a strong flavor profile that develops well. It's a stronger tea option that will delight tea lovers who enjoy bolder flavors.
Jasmine Oolong Tea
For people who enjoy mid-range flavor and floral accents, Jasmine Oolong tea is the perfect choice for brewing sun tea. The oolong adds fruity and floral flavors that can be played up with the addition of berries and citrus fruits. The jasmine flower petals add a subtly sweet floral tone that makes this sun tea lighter and fruitier.
Mango Black Tea
Another fruit-infused black tea, this mango blend offers a tropical take on sun tea. Dried mango pieces and a touch of lime make this beverage feel like it came straight from the Caribbean. The tangy citrus flavor pairs perfectly with black tea leaves that deliver a stronger punch of taste.
One of the most beloved teas, peppermint tea is a natural choice for brewing sun tea. The mint leaves offer a refreshing flavor and tingling aftertaste. The menthol in the leaves creates a cooling sensation that is ideal for summertime blends. It's also packed with health benefits so you can toast to your health.
Add Fruit & Herbs
One of the easiest ways to play up the flavor of sun tea is to add fruit. Oranges, lemons, limes, and berries are popular favorites. You can also add tropical fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, and passionfruit to elicit new flavors. Other creative additions include peaches, pears, and kiwis. You can also toss in some fresh herbs or roots such as rosemary, thyme, and ginger.
How To Make Sun Tea
- 4 to 8 tablespoons of loose leaf tea or 4-8 tea bags
- 1 gallon of spring water or purified water
- 1 large glass container (a 1-gallon jar or larger is ideal)
- Direct sunlight
- Sweeteners (cane sugar, brown sugar, simple syrup, etc)
1. Start with a clean, disinfected 1-gallon container. Fill the glass container with water and add the tea bags. Cover with an airtight lid.
2. Place the clear glass jar in direct sunlight for 3 to 5 hours. It may be necessary to move the jar once or twice to keep it in the sunlight depending on where you live.
3. Bring the tea inside and refrigerate immediately once it reaches your desired flavor profile.
4. Sweeten the tea as desired.
5. Serve in glass mason jars and sip on a hot summer day. Do not store the sun tea for more than 24-32 hours.
This recipe can be even more refreshing by adding fresh mint leaves to the mix. The mint tea will add an invigorating aroma and crisp flavor. Additionally, you can add other herbs such as lemon verbena or lemongrass for a tart taste.
Risks Associated With Sun Tea
Some research shows that brewing tea in sunlight may encourage the growth of bacteria that can make humans sick (1)(2). While the risk is extremely low, it is higher than when the tea is brewed using boiling water or hot water. The vast majority of individuals who brew sun tea will not experience negative side effects when brewing this tea. That does not mean it is entirely risk-free.
There are several things you can do to ensure your sun tea is not contaminated with bacteria. We've outlined some tips below that you can use to brew the tea as safely as possible.
If you are still concerned, you can brew iced tea in the refrigerator instead of in direct sunlight. This method is known as cold-brewing. Cold brew tea takes longer to develop flavors than hot brewed teas. That's because the process uses time instead of temperature to draw out the tastes of loose tea or tea bags. You can also simply brew the tea using hot or boiling water and cool to room temperature before storing in the refrigerator.
Tips For Making Sun Tea
Don't Use Plastic
Plastic containers can alter the flavor of tea and may impact human health. Plastic containers may leach chemicals and unwanted toxins into the tea mixture when subjected to high temperatures. Instead, use only clear glass containers when brewing sun tea on a hot day.
Clean Your Tools Well
One of the best ways to avoid contaminating your sun tea is to use clean, disinfected tools. One of the most common ways that sun tea is contaminated is through the spout of the container. Make sure to clean the spout and spigot of the container well before and after each use. You can do this by hand or using a dishwasher. Make sure to take any pieces apart to get the deepest clean possible. If the container cannot be easily cleaned, choose a different vessel to brew your sun tea.
Use High-Quality Water
Most tea experts recommend brewing tea using filtered or purified water. That's because tap water can contain chemicals such as chlorine that alter the natural flavor profile of tea leaves, roots, and flower petals.
In the case of sun tea, it's particularly important to use high-quality water. Dirty or contaminated water sources may contain bacterial growth that will thrive when exposed to sunlight and warm temperatures. To avoid negative side effects, only use filtered or purified water when brewing sun tea.
Brew For 3-4 Hours
Sun tea should not be left in sunlight for more than 3-4 hours. Tea that is left out for longer has a higher risk of developing bacterial growth due to long-term warm temperatures. After the tea reaches your desired taste, bring it in and refrigerate immediately.
Only Brew Daily Amounts
Since the risk of bacterial contamination is higher with sun tea, most experts recommend brewing only what you will drink that day. This tea should not be stored for more than 24 to 32 hours. If you do not finish your sun tea, simply discard and brew a new batch the next time you crave the sweet tea.
Refrigerate After Brewing
Sun tea should be refrigerated after brewing. The cooler temperature of the refrigerator helps prevent bacterial growth. Make sure to keep the sun tea refrigerated and do not leave out – even if you are serving tea at a garden party. Bring the tea out of the refrigerator to serve and place it right back inside.
Discard If Necessary
Contaminated tea will appear thicker than normal. If you see long strings or a syrupy texture, discard the tea immediately. These are signs of bacterial growth, which may cause harmful effects to your health.
Brewing Sun Tea
Sun tea is a wildly popular beverage in the southern states and coastal areas such as California. These regions receive hours and hours of sunlight that are ideal for brewing tasty teas. Harness the power of the sun and brew a tasty jar of sun tea today.
Just follow the tips above to keep your sun tea brewing process as safe as possible. And remember, you can still enjoy the tasty flavors of sun tea even if you choose to brew it using hot water or simply by placing it in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.