Summer and Sun Tea
Sun tea gained popularity in the United States in the early 1970s although some have been making tea this way for generations. It was definitely a part of my childhood days in Maine.
We would fill a two-quart glass jar with water. Mom would add four or five teabags to the container and screw on the cap. She’d stand the container out in the backyard to steep in the summer sun for three or four hours. When the tea was ready, we’d pour it over ice and stir in a little sugar.
As attractive as the idea of sun tea may be, there are concerns to be considered. Over the past few years, warnings have been issued about the safety of drinking sun tea. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the water in this type of brewing stays at or below 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This water is not hot enough to kill any bacteria that might be present in the water or in the tea leaves.
If you choose to make sun tea, there are a few things you can do to make it a safer option:
- Make sure the jar/container is absolutely clean and sterile.
- You may wish to boil the water that you will use to kill any bacteria. (Although, some argue that if you have to boil the water anyway, you’ve lost the value of making sun tea in the first place!)
- After no more than four hours, the container should be removed from the sun and refrigerated.
- Remove the teabags from the jar before placing in the refrigerator.
- The tea should be consumed within a day or so.
- It is believed that the caffeine in tea can slow bacterial growth so it is best to use caffeinated tea rather than herbal blends.
- If your sun tea is ever thick or “syrupy,” discard immediately.
I suspect that sun tea will continue to be a summer tradition for many. Just remember, though, if you decide that sun tea is not for you, you can try the cold-brewed iced tea method we talked about last time.