Making Sun Tea

National Iced Tea Day is just two days away, on June 10. And with our days (finally) warming up, making a jar of Sun Tea is the perfect way to keep cool and celebrate! Apparently, ice tea was popularized at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and has since been a summertime staple. From about May to whenever-it-stops-being-hot, I almost always have a half-gallon mason jar of tea in the fridge, and another jar brewing out in the yard.

brewing multiple jars of Rooibos & Mint Sun Tea for my wedding, 2012
brewing multiple jars of Rooibos & Mint Sun Tea for my wedding, 2012

Sun Tea, or as I like to think of it, Lazy Tea, is simply tea where the sun did all the work, using its rays to warm the water and steep the tea instead of you having to stand over a hot stove, boiling water. I love having something cold to drink during a hot day, and the nice flavors are encouraging if you are trying to drink more water. You just need a bit of thinking forward and prep.

Sun Tea from Tazo brand hibiscus teabags
Sun Tea from Tazo brand hibiscus teabags

To make your own batch of sun tea, it is uber simple. Combine loose leaf or bagged tea with water in a glass jar and set in the sun for 3-5 hours. Then, strain and cool in the fridge or pour over ice. Done. Any tea that you would drink hot you could drink as sun tea. Black is the classic, but I like green or roobios even better. You can brew the tea on its own, or in combination with fresh or dried herbs, or just herbs itself (which is then technically a tisane, not a tea, but lets not get all fancy here). Sun Tea is pretty forgiving and is not pretentious, so you don’t actually need to measure. I steep in a half-gallon mason jar, and generally follow this ratio:

General Sun Tea Ratio:

  • 8 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons loose tea, or 6 tea bags
  • &, if desired, 2 tablespoons dried herbs or 2 large sprigs of fresh herbs

I will often use herbs and flowers that I have previously harvested and dried, or I’ll pick herbs fresh from the garden. I also make tea from have a variety of loose tea blends purchased from Healdsburg Tea Company or Humboldt Herbals, or standard grocery-store bought tea bags. Here are some of my favorite combinations:

My favorite teas combinations:

  • Rooibos + lemon balm
  • Rooibos + lemon verbena
  • Rooibos + mint
  • Jasmine Green + mint
  • Hibiscus + lemon verbena
  • Honeybush + calendula
  • Mint + chamomile + rose

I’d love to know: Do you make Sun Tea? What’s your favorite flavor?

Steeping a Honeybush Calendula blend, from the Healdsburg Tea Company
Steeping a Honeybush Calendula blend, from the Healdsburg Tea Company

DisclaimerThe Man will tell you that Sun Tea isn’t safe, because the sun never gets the water hot enough to kill any bacteria that may be present in the tea, the jar or the water. You could get sick. You could die. A fair concern, but I personally pay no heed to this warning. I drink raw milk, I don’t always wash my produce, I grew up drinking from the garden hose, and I *gasp!* sometimes even follow the European method of upside down sealing with preserving jam. However, if you worried,  you could easily produce a similar tea by letting it steep in the fridge overnight. Regardless of your brewing method, wait until after steeping if you want to add fresh fruit, honey or sugar to the tea.

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