Sun Tea: Is It Safe & How To Make It

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Naomi Blue Modified: September 22, 2021
Sun Tea: Is It Safe & How To Make It
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Many have probably gotten a taste of the nostalgic sun tea back when they were kids. And while there are many kinds of tea, like Chinese tea and its many types, nothing is as sentimental as sun tea. This old-school drink brings back special childhood memories that will make anyone feel nostalgic. Instead of being boiled in hot water, this beverage is left under the hot summer sun for hours to steep before drinking. All are unique in their own ways, but this drink is one that surely brings up a lot of childhood memories. 

What Is Sun Tea?

You may have some fond memories of this beverage back in your childhood. Maybe you spent your summer vacation swimming on the beach, playing in the park, or riding your bike around the neighborhood. But a staple summer memory would always involve watching your mom or grandma prepare tea drinks by brewing them under the sun instead of boiling water. 

Sun tea is not a type of tea, like Jasmine or Earl Grey. Rather, it’s an old-fashioned way of making tea. Unlike most, this beverage is brewed and prepared under the sun instead of a kettle or stove. This method of preparation uses the sun’s heat to brew the drink, letting it sit for around three to four hours before serving. 

This tea is often left in areas where it can be steeped under the sun. Places such as the balcony, by the window, or on the kitchen counter are good options. As long as the place is hit by sunlight, you can leave your drink to be heated there.

How To Make Sun Tea

how to make sun tea infographic

Now that you’re feeling nostalgic, you’ll probably want a blast from the past by making sun tea. Don’t worry, it’s easy to recreate this childhood drink.

Unsweetened Sun Tea

All you need are four tea bags, water, and a clear and clean gallon jar, preferably with a lid. You may also use any kind of sweeteners that you like such as sugar or honey. For the tea, you may use any of your usual tea blends, or even some healthy herbal tea. Although, it’s a black tea that is normally used for this drink. However, there are always alternative options for those who want a little experimentation when it comes to flavors.

The steps are simple:

  1. First, pour the water into the clear gallon jar. 
  2. After that, put four black tea bags in the water and leave them for two to three hours while exposed to sunlight. Make sure to shut the lid of the gallon jar in order to keep the flavor within the mixture. 
  3. After a few hours, remove the tea bags from the water. You could also use a slotted spoon to scoop the tea bags and filter them as well while removing them. 

Voila! Now you have made your own sun tea.

Sweetened Sun Tea

Once you’ve removed the tea bags, you have the option to add any sweetener or to keep its natural flavor. You can either store the tea in your refrigerator for a few hours or up to a week or serve it as it is.

If you don’t want to mix any sugar into your tea, you can try alternative sweeteners like honey or stevia instead. First, combine water and cane or granulated sugar in a 1:1 ratio. Then put the mixture on a saucepan and place the pan on the stove over medium to high heat. Keep heating the mixture until the sugar dissolves completely. When you are done, you may also mix this sweetener into your beverage.

Iced Sun Tea

glass of iced sun tea

You want to drink sun tea to quench your thirst. However, it’s summer, and you don’t feel like drinking anything that isn’t chilled. In a season like this, you may want to pick a cooling, citrus-flavored iced sun tea

The method for making this version is the same method as the regular sun tea recipes. You may even sweeten it too. But instead of serving it at room temperature, you’ll have to first chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Or, like most recipes, you may also just add in a few ice cubes and serve! Now you have something to freshen you in the middle of the hot season.

Mint Sun Tea

mugs on mint sun tea

You don’t need to always stick with your usual black tea blend to enjoy this beverage. There are a few other kinds of sun tea that you can make to experience a different flavor.

Sometimes called “sun-brewed mint tea,” this kind of beverage has two added ingredients: fresh mint leaves and rind from one lemon. As for the version, it’s not so far from the classic recipe.

  1. First, place the water into the sun tea jar. Then add four tea bags into the water. 
  2. After adding the tea bags, mix the fresh mint leaves and lemon rind to the tea and water.
  3. When finished, place the mixture under the sun for six to eight hours. Make sure to close the lid of the gallon jar as well. This allows the flavors of each ingredient to be fully mixed. 
  4. After steeping the tea under the sun, you may refrigerate the mixture until it is fully cold and chilled. Serve it with some ice and a sprig of fresh mint to make the drink even more refreshing. However, you can also just serve it warm.

Green Sun Tea

mugs of green sun tea

While the usual green tea is enjoyable, using it for your sun tea, and even adding in fresh mint leaves makes it even better. The recipe for this type of sun tea is also not far from the original.

  1. Pour the water into the gallon jar first. But this time, add six green tea bags instead of black tea bags. 
  2. Place the mixture under the sun for three hours
  3. If you feel like it, add some sliced fruits such as orange and lemon for more flavor. If you do so, remember to brew the mixture under the sun for another two hours

After hours of being steeped under the sun, you can add fresh mint leaves as a garnish to make it taste even more refreshing. And just like your classic sun tea, you can also serve it as is, or with ice.

Tulsi Sun Tea

Tulsi is a type of plant that originates from India. It has purples flowers blooming from long stems. The plant is known to be sacred in Hindu tradition. Additionally, thanks to Tulsi tea‘s many health benefits, it is also called “holy basil” since it is related to the basil herb family.

You don’t need tea bags to make a tulsi sun tea. However, you will need a handful of tulsi leaves. 

  1. If you’re going to make tulsi sun tea using leaves, make sure to wash them first before soaking them in the gallon jar filled with water. 
  2. After steeping the leaves, leave the jar under the sun for six to eight hours
  3. Strain the leaves from the tea, and add sweeteners if you want, then serve. Make sure to place the leftover tea in the refrigerator!

How To Make Sun Tea During Winter?

You don’t always need the summer heat to make this childhood drink!  You can still enjoy a taste of this amazing beverage even during the winter season. During winter, the sun is not hot enough. You’re probably concerned that your sun tea might not brew effectively because of this. However, you can still make it during this cold season. You just have to leave it under the sun for a longer period of time.

To enjoy sun tea during winter, simply follow the mentioned steps earlier. However, instead of leaving the sealed gallon jar filled with tea bags for two to three hours under the sun, you will have to leave it for three to five hours.

Just like the original sun tea, you may also add sweeteners to give it a better taste. Refrigerate the remaining tea, and sit back while enjoying the cold season with a chilled, soothing drink.

Why Make Sun Tea

pitcher of sun tea

Just like other kinds of tea, there are also benefits to making and drinking this childhood tea.

Practical And Easy To Make

Sun tea is probably one of the easiest beverages to make. All you need is some sunlight, water, your tea of choice, a gallon jar, and some sweeteners if preferred. These are not hard to find. Not to mention, you don’t need to worry about needing to use the stovetop or electric kettle to brew yourself some tea. 

Reduces Blood Pressure

Just like other kinds of tea, this tea can calm you down and relieve stress that could lead to high blood pressure. Tea, in general, is filled with antioxidants including vitamins C, E, or B6 that can help reduce hypertension.

Rich in Vitamin E

Both black and green tea have vitamin E which is capable of reducing high blood pressure and fighting diabetes. Additionally, research on vitamin E shows that it also aids sight improvement and reproduction. Furthermore, it helps improve eyesight and fights off cancer, heart diseases, and other ailments.

Dangers of Sun Tea: Is It Safe to Drink?

While sun tea is a beverage that brings back a lot of memories, it is not a miracle drink. Despite being able to brighten someone’s day, this kind of tea still has its own risks and dangers.

Hard To Control Temperature

This tea does not require any stove or gas to be heated and only needs sunlight. That means that you can’t control its temperature, which is one of the major drawbacks of drinking this beverage. The heat that the Earth receives from the sun varies every day. And if the sun tea you made isn’t brewed in hot enough water, it could lead to the next risk.

High Risk Of Bacterial Growth

Water, when heated up to room temperature or 130 degrees F, is not hot enough to kill any bacteria. In fact, this temperature is just right for dangerous bacteria to thrive and grow. Since we can’t control the heat when making sun tea, there is a high chance that instead of making a healthy beverage, it might turn out contaminated with unwanted bacteria. However, if you are worried about harmful bacterial growth, then bring the tea to a rapid boil after steeping so you can avoid any risks. 

Safer Alternative Drinks To Try

safe sun tea alternatives

Because of the risks involved in this nostalgic drink, you’re probably thinking of safe alternatives that offer the same, soothing experience without the drawbacks. If so, you may want to consider making refreshing cold-brewed iced tea.

Instead of exposing the tea you made under the sun for two to three hours, keep it in the refrigerator for six hours or overnight instead. Bacteria in the water only comes when exposed to room temperature. Those microorganisms are not built for low temperatures. And since you’re not going to expose your homemade iced tea to that temperature, there is no risk for unwanted bacteria.

Additionally, aside from being safer than sun-exposed tea, cold-brewed iced tea is already ready to be served. Some people even find cold-brewed iced tea tastier than sun-exposed tea.

Enjoy Your Sun Tea Safely Now

Sun tea is a nostalgic drink that just brings you back to simpler times. Though this tea may have a sentimental place in your memories, there are still some risks in making this beverage. To ensure the safety and health of your loved ones, simply boil the drink for a few more minutes after steeping it under the sun. This way, you’ll be sure that there is no risk for bacteria. You’ll get to enjoy the nostalgia that this tea brings, and even pass this tradition to your own children and grandchildren someday.

Read Next: 11 Jasmine Tea Benefits You Need To Know

Naomi Blue

Naomi is a writer, editor, and manga enthusiast. She has written for various websites, events, and ad commercials. She is also an avid fan of street food and food history. She’s currently in her Japanese and Indonesian food phase and is interested in exploring Vietnamese cuisine next.