The best things in life take time. That’s why, if you want the most refreshing glass of iced tea, you might want to try Sun tea. What makes Sun tea so much better than the stovetop version? Sun tea drinkers say that it has a much fresher flavor than boiled tea, and it’s not as bitter or strong.
Sun tea easy to make, it doesn’t require lots of supplies or cleanup, and you can make it with nothing more than sunlight – no stove required!
However, there are a few methods to follow to ensure you are making the freshest and safest brew!
How Solar-Powered Brewing Works
The beauty of Sun tea is the way that it’s brewed. To make any tea, you need at least a little warmth. You could brew tea in the refrigerator, but the process takes a long time and it results in a rather weak beverage. With Sun tea, instead of heating water in a kettle, you can rely on a natural radiant heat source – the Sun – to do the cooking for you. The water won’t get as hot as boiled water, but that’s actually a bonus. Boiling water causes tea leaves to release more of their tannins, which makes for a much stronger, more bitter beverage.
The key is to use the right container. Clear glass will absorb and trap heat from the Sun. As the brew grows darker, the mixture will absorb even more heat until the tea is fully brewed.
What You’ll Need:
- A large, clear glass container: You can use anything from recycled juice bottle or a canning jar to a large jar with a spigot. The container should have a tight-fitting lid, and the opening should be large enough for you to insert tea leaves or tea bags. Some say that glass containers with dark colored lids or metal lids work best because they capture even more heat from the sun.
- Water: Many people make Sun tea with cold tap water, but some have concerns about bacteria or other contaminants. If you’re worried about contamination, use distilled water and fresh tea leaves. You can also reduce the chances of contamination by only brewing enough tea to last you a day or two.
- Tea: You can use whatever kind of tea you like, from loose leaves to bagged cold-brew tea. Cold-brew tea is finely ground and tends to be the lowest quality tea, but if you’re not picky about your tea varieties, it still makes a very refreshing drink. Many people simply use regular tea bags while connoisseurs prefer loose-leaf teas.
- The Extras: You can flavor your tea with orange zest, cinnamon sticks, mint, sassafras, raspberry or a variety of other extras to enhance the tea’s flavor.
Ready, Set, Brew!
Start by making sure your clear container is completely clean. Fill it with half a gallon of cold water and add four to six tea bags – four, if you like mild tea and six for strong tea.
Alternatively, if you’re using loose tea, add three tablespoons of tea leaves. You can also add the orange zest, lemon, cinnamon or other flavorings, but wait until the tea is finished brewing before adding sugar, since sugar promotes bacterial growth.
Seal the container tightly and put it in a sunny window or out on the front porch. Make sure to check in on the tea every hour or so to make sure that the Sun hasn’t shifted enough to put your tea in the shade.
On a hot, sunny day, your tea should be ready in two to three hours. If the day is somewhat cloudy or cool, it may take as much as six hours to brew a batch of sun tea. Once the tea is sufficiently steeped, remove the bags/leaves, add sweetener, and place the container in the refrigerator.
When you’re ready for a refreshing drink, pour some in a glass over the ice, and enjoy!