10 Tips to make the Best Sun Tea Safely

Making Sun Tea is a favorite Summer past time for most families. Many of us have found memories making this delicious brew with our mothers and friends growing up. So why are people now getting down on this fantastic summer tradition?

This southern tradition has found its way into the hearts and homes of Millions of Americans going back to the early 1800’s or at least that is when the first green tea iced tea was written into recipe.  These recipes were called punches in the in the early 19th century and often contained a good bit of liquor to boot. Green tea had been grown in South Carolina since the late 1700’s and tea drinking quickly became a southern tradition.  Regardless if you hail from the south where sun tea is a sweet drink or if you are from the north where most people have no idea how sweet, sweet sun tea really is. Making sun tea is still to this day a great American past time. Yep I said it, for this household it ranks higher then baseball.

So how can we make this delicious tea safely so that there is the least possibility for harmful bacterial growth? How do we protect our tummies and those of our loved ones? Its simple. We remember the basics that will empower us to safely make this wonderful brew and then pass that knowladge along so that everyone can enjoy.

These are the top 10 tips of the trade to help you on your way to making a great sun tea every time.

 

  1. Quality of water: Choose the best quality water you can. If you have access to clean crisp spring water or good well water these are my personal favorites. Although if I could access fresh glacier water I might be game for that but it might not be warm enough for sun tea then. I will put a note of caution here. Do not be fooled by the bottled water that says spring water on it, these waters are not the same and have been sitting in plastic bottles usually for a long time likely leaching up whatever the manufactures made the bottle with. You can get distilled bottle water which might be a step up. I would say a better choice would be reverse osmosis water that you fill yourself with bottles that you know what they are made of or better yet glass gallon jugs. I would not use tap water under any circumstance for making sun tea. The level of contaminants (fluoride, chlorine, hormones and who knows what else) is often high in city tap water. Since each municipal drinking water system has a different choice of cocktail they use to make recycled water “safe” for us to drink I would be the most leery of using this water to make sun tea. If you are using bottled water or tap water I suggest boiling the water before you make this tea for 3-5 minutes to kill off harmful bacteria that may be there.
  2. Start with hot of cold water: You can either start with boiling water 3-5 minutes to put in the Jar(recommended with tap and bottled water). Or you can start with really cold water (recommended for reverse osmosis, spring and well water and if you want to keep your kitchen cool). If you have a sensitive tummy already then boiling your water might be a good idea, This however negates the purpose of making sun tea so you might just make regular tea if you feel the need to boil your water(see our tea recopies for these great teas).
  3. Use a clean jar without a spigot: Now this is going way back in traditional sun tea. The American picture of the sun tea jar with the spout is not all that old. Jars with tight fitting lids are far more traditional. We love to use wide mouthed mason jars for making sun tea. You can get them in the ½ gal size or even 1gallon size. We hand wash our jars with good organic soap. While some tote about the sterilization of a dish washer, There is a part of me that just says if you wash it by hand in really hot water then you know you got it all out.  Clean jars help reduce chances for bacteria to grow so get it good and clean before you make your tea.
  4. Fill it to the top and seal the lid: Filling your jar to the top of the brim leaving little room for air is a double bonus. It leave little to no room for air. This reduces any oxidization from happening to your tea which can make it bitter and it creates an environment without air which helps in decreasing bacteria growth.
  5. Use top quality tea. If you have ever opened a fresh high quality loose leaf tea you can smell the difference. Its almost like you are standing in the field at harvest time. When you know it’s a great quality tea you are using there is less of a chance for contamination to be in your tea from the start. Small tea growers who are use best practices tend to discard any poor quality leaves or leaves that are soiled. Hand picking leaves and getting them from a supplier who also has good practice of quality control will give you a great pesticide & GMO free tea that will be the tasty  talk of the neighborhood.  Even better you can find some great herbal tea in your back yard, harvest it yourself, wash it well and toss it in your jar. Then you know it is as good as it gets.
  6. Make it during the heat of sunny day: Making Sun tea on a nice clear sunny day when it is the highest heat of the day is best practice around our house. We usually make ours from 11am- 3pm. This gives the highest temperatures and the most sun energy. 3-4 hours is all you really need when the conditions are good and it helps prevent bacteria growth from the varying temperatures. (UV filtration or sterilization from the sun is not applicable here folks. You would need smaller bottles or reflective surfaces and a longer time, do you research before doing a long brew of sun tea if you think that longer is better for purification)
  7. Add the sugar and fruit juice last: Bacteria love sweet, so leave it last. There are much better chances of your summer tea staying safe if you add the sugar after its done brewing, before you cool it down. You can also boil a little water and dissolve the sugar in it and add the solution to the tea before you put it in the fridge
  8. When it’s done get it cold: Putting the tea in the fridge right away and add ice before you drinking your tasty cold tea is a pretty good practice. Keeping your tea from sitting at room temperature which is the ideal temp for bacterial growth is the way to go. In the restaurant business there is a simple relevant saying: “Keep your hots hot and your colds cold”
  9. Drink it that day: The best part of making sun tea is that you get to drink it! We make enough for the afternoon and evening time enjoyment. Its amazing how fast a gallon jug can disappear and a half gallon is never enough. Just Imagine sitting on the porch after a good evening meal looking at the stars drinking tea, yep that’s one of the highlights of summer. The longer you keep sun tea the greater chances of bacteria growing so drink it up within 8 hours after brewing it.  We do not keep it that long at our house. We are lucky if it makes it 5 hours without someone saying.  The tea is gone can we make more tomorrow mom.
  10. Above All Use Your Best Judgment: If your tea has something floating on the top of it, if your tea seems oddly slimy or starts to look like syrup, if your tea just does not seem right then it’s a good chance that it’s not ok. Trust your intuition and you will find your way to fantastic and fun tea making to fill your summer days with.

MostOfAllFunSunTea 

 

Here are two favorite past time recipes for making Sun Tea

 Traditional Southern Sweet Sun Tea

Makes ½ gallon

Ingredients:

½ gallon cold water
Favorite Organic Black or Green Tea :Loose leaf use ¼ cup dried tea or 1/8cup dried tea (if you like it stronger use ¼ )  or you can use 5 regular sized tea bags
1/2 to 1 cup granulated sugar or to taste (if you really want that southern sweet tea use 1 cup.)
Ice cubes

1 lemon sliced

½ gallon wide mouthed jar with tight fitting metal lid (canning jars work great)

1. Place tea bags into your ½ gallon Jar fill jar with water till it is full to the brim and screw top on it leaving as little air in jar as possible.

2. Set in a sunny spot for 3-5 hours in the heat of the day.

3. After tea is brewed strain tea from jar or remove tea bags.

4. Add sugar and stir till dissolved.

5. Add a few slices of fresh lemon to tea

5. Chill in fridge for 15-20 minutes

6.  Fill a tall glass with ice cubes and pour your tea over it.

Relax and enjoy your tea.

 

Caffeine Free Lemon Balm Sun Tea

Makes ½ gallon

Ingredients:

½ gallon cold water
Organic Lemon balm herb:Loose leaf use 1/8  cup dried lemon balm (or pack jar with fresh lemon balm leaving room for hibiscus

Organic Hibiscus herb: Loose leaf 1/16 cup dried hibiscus

1/4 cup local honey or to taste (we do not add any to our tea)

Ice cubes

1 lemon sliced

½ gallon wide mouthed jar with tight fitting metal lid (canning jars work great)

1. Place tea into your ½ gallon Jar fill jar with water till it is full to the brim and screw top on it leaving as little air in jar as possible.

2. Set in a sunny spot for 3-5 hours in the heat of the day.

3. After tea is brewed strain tea from jar or remove tea bags.

4. Add honey and stir till dissolved.

5. Add a few slices of fresh lemon to tea

5. Chill in fridge for 15-20 minutes

6.  Fill a tall glass with ice cubes and pour your tea over it.

Relax and enjoy your tea.

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