How to Make Sun Tea | 3 Easy Steps

Introduction

The summer breeze, the hot sun, and the glare on the porch outdoors are all reminiscent of a lovely summer’s day. What’s missing? A nice sweet glass of sun tea. Sun tea used to be popular but has since faded out of fashion due to cold brew teas. As the recipes slowly fade to recesses of childhood memories, it’s nice to go back to our roots and bring back some of the fun that sun tea accompanied. In this guide, we’ll explore what exactly is sun tea, how to make sun tea, and how to best safely brew it for everyone to enjoy. 

What is Sun Tea?

Sun Tea Pouring
Before we get into the question of how to make sun tea, we must answer the most basic question: what is sun tea? Sun tea isn’t a new type of tea with specialized tea leaves, it’s simply a new way to make tea. Simply put, sun tea is a tea that is brewed using the power of the sun instead of using boiling water. Sun tea is similar to cold brew and regular tea, sun tea just needs water and the residual heat from the sun. 

It’s a lovely summer treat that doesn’t need much, just the sun and time and you can watch the tea bloom before your very eyes. 

How to Make Sun Tea

It’s fairly simple to make the basic version of sun tea. But there’s so many options that the question of how to make sun tea needs to be broken down into different sections by taste. The easiest way in three simple steps is to: Add tea bags (8-12 per gallon of water depending on how strong you like your tea) to water, set it outside for 3-4 hours in the sun, add any sweeteners or add-ins and enjoy. Below, we’ll explore the different options in how to make sun tea. 

  1. On the Stove
    Because there are multiple dangers involved with making sun tea, there’s one safe option that is similar to making regular tea. How to make sun tea on the stove? Easy, boil the water first on the stove and then pour it into the glass container with the tea bags. Place the tea into the sun until it cools. 
     
  2. With Lemon and Honey

    Sun Tea with Honey and Lemon

    Some people like their tea sweeter or with lemon. It’s easy to add additional items to your team to increase the flavor. The most common questions asked are usually how to make sun tea with lemon and how to make sun tea with honey. It’s the same answer for both, brew the tea first and then add the sweetener and other additions. You can add to taste after the tea has been brewed, but not before as fruits and other sugars tend to promote bacterial growth. 

  3. In the Winter
    Sun tea is typically made in the summer, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be made in the winter sun as well. How to make sun tea in the winter? It’s almost the exact same process. To prevent bacterial growth due to lower natural temperatures, you can always boil your water first to remove impurities and then used the cooled boiled water to steep the tea outside in the sun for 4 hours. 

  4. With Tea Bags or Loose Leaf 
    You can make sun tea with either tea bags or loose leaf tea. Tea bags are simple, you drop them in and then fish them out. You can adjust how much to use based on how big of a serving you need. How to make sun tea with family sized tea bags? Easy, use about ⅔ of what you would normally use for regular sized tea bags. How to make sun tea with loose tea? It’s about the same process, you simply have to strain out the loose tea at the end. Some people prefer loose leaf due to the stronger tea flavor, but you can always just use more tea bags. 

The Dangers of Sun Tea

Even though the most common question asked about sun tea is how do you make sun tea, you cannot ignore the dangers that are inherently present in sun tea. Because we are not using boiling water to kill the bacteria naturally present in all tea leaves, it’s important to know how to make sun tea safely. Sun tea dangers include food poisoning and diarrhea. But as long as you brew it correctly, you should be able to enjoy sun tea without worry. 

The main worry with sun tea is that the water doesn’t get hot enough to kill all of the bacteria within the tea. This allows a large amount of microbes to remain in the summer drink, and possibly cause sickness. You typically need a certain temperature for 3-4 minutes depending on the tea to ensure you’ve killed all the bacteria, but sun tea usually only brews around 100 F to 130 F which isn’t hot enough. This is actually the optimal bacterial growth temperature. However we can mitigate this danger by taking certain precautions. 

When you brew sun tea, you should always be sure to clean your glassware with hot and soapy water before use. Always use glass and never a porous container like plastic to ensure it’s bacteria free. You should always use a tea that contains high amounts of caffeine, such as black tea, green tea, or white tea, usually the higher the better. The most common tea used is black tea. Herbal teas should be avoided at all costs. Never leave the tea outside for longer than 4 hours and immediately place the tea into the fridge once removed from the sun. Consume immediately or within the day and throw out whatever tea is left. Do not retain leftovers. Always add the sweeteners or any additions to the tea afterwards as they tend to encourage bacterial growth.

To summarize, to safely brew sun tea, the basic steps to remember are the following:
  • Use glassware that has been cleaned with hot water and soap
  • Use high caffeine containing teas
  • Do not leave sun tea outside for more than 3-4 hours
  • Consume all of the sun tea made the day of 
  • Add sweeteners after tea has been brewed

Conclusion

There are so many different types of tea brewing out there, but sun tea is one of the simplest and most nostalgic. How do you make sun tea? Simple, just using tea and water. You place the tea in the water and place everything in the sun to brew for 3-4 hours and viola, you have the perfect sun tea. It’s easy to dress up or down with honey, lemons, cinnamon sticks, etc. It’s super variable and extremely delicious. While there are cautions to safely brewing sun tea, such as using the right highly caffeinated teas and clean glassware, as long as you brew it correctly, you will be able to enjoy the perfect summer treat. 

FAQs

  1. How do you make sun tea at home?

    Simply place the tea into a glass container (8 - 12 tea bags per gallon), fill it with water and place it outside in the sun for 3-4 hours.

  2. Is it safe to make sun tea?

    It’s safe to make sun tea as long as you use a high caffeine tea, clean glassware, and finish the tea the day of.

  3. Is drinking sun tea good for you?

    Drinking sun tea gives the benefits of whichever tea you’re drinking and is a lovely nostalgic treat for the whole family.

  4. How long do you let sun tea sit in the sun?

    Only let your tea sit in the sun for 3-4 hours at the most and bring it in immediately for consumption. 

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