How to make herbal sun tea on a hot summer afternoon

There’s something nostalgic about making a big pitcher of sun tea on a summer afternoon and sipping it over ice on the porch.

Traditionally, sun tea is made from black tea and sugar that is steeped in the sun. However, with the rise of herbal teas or tisanes, there is no saying that you can go ahead and make yourself a jar of your favorite herbal variety.

What exactly is sun tea and how do I prepare it?

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Sun tea is just an iced tea drink that has been brewed in the heat of the sun rather than cold brewed or chilled hot tea. To make sun tea, you need a large glass jar with a secure lid and a hot, sunny day. If you can find a glass jar with a faucet attached, that’s much more practical when it comes to pouring yourself a glass.

Four black tea bags are about enough for a gallon of water. Simply place your tea bags in the jar of water and add sugar or sweetener to taste. Then place a lid on top and place the jar in your garden in direct sun for 3-4 hours. When your sun tea is ready, you can either bring it inside and put it in the fridge to chill or serve yourself a glass right away with ice.

Do I have to use black tea?

You don’t need to use black tea to make sun-brewed tea. You can use any number of herbal and even fruit teas in place of black tea bags. You can use any herbal tea bags you already have in the same ratio of about 4 to 6 tea bags per gallon of water, or you can make your own blends using loose dried herbs or even fresh herbs from your garden.

With dried herbs, you can substitute a tea bag for about two tablespoons. Fresh herbs are much less pungent, so you’ll need to add a few sprigs of your herb of choice to the water to get the same flavor strength as dried herbs.

Which herbs are best to use?

  • chamomile and lemon balm– Chamomile makes a delicious iced tea. Apple notes are perfect for a summer day. Combine this with a tangy lemon balm or even some lemongrass if you have it available, and you have a wonderfully refreshing yet calming tea to drink.
  • Mint– Mint tea is a perfect sun tea to make on a hot afternoon. Cooling menthol will help you feel much cooler in the heat. Add some lemon slices too for a tasty drink.
  • Hibiscus and rosehip– If you want a sun full of color, try preparing an infusion of hibiscus and rosehip. The pink tones will make you feel like you’re sipping a fun cocktail on the porch while sipping tea that will refresh you and give you a mega-vitamin boost at the same time.

Some tips for sunbathing

  • Use only glass jars– when choosing a jar to make your sun tea, be sure to choose a glass jar. Some plastics can leach chemicals into the water while it’s in the sun.
  • Make a fresh batch each day– Just as you wouldn’t drink yesterday’s coffee today, make sure you make enough tea for that day. It is recommended that you do not store sun tea for more than 24 hours due to the risk of bacteria.
  • Refrigerate after preparing– Once your tea is ready, store what you are not drinking in the fridge. This will help reduce the risk of bacteria.

Is sun tea safe?

All the fun of making sun tea aside, there is some evidence to suggest that because making sun tea heats the water but doesn’t boil it, bacteria may be allowed to grow in the water. The risk of getting sick from this bacteria is very low, but it is worth thinking about and making the decision for you and your family.

If you still want to enjoy iced teas in the summer but aren’t too sure about making a sun tea, you can always make a cold brew in the fridge. Prepare your tea-water mixture as described above, but place your jar in the refrigerator instead of the sun. Your tea will take a lot longer to brew since you’re working with time here, not heat!

Whichever method you choose, you can enjoy a cold, caffeine-free drink on a sunny afternoon.

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