On sunny days, my mom would often have a jug of tea brewing in the sun. Garnished with sprigs of fresh mint from the garden, sun tea was something I drank in abundance. It's something I enjoyed then and still do.
It's lighter tasting and less bitter than regular brewed tea because there is less tannin released from the tea leaves. Quite refreshing.
More recently a childhood joy of mine has turned into something sinister . . . although I never once got sick from sun tea there's all kinds of blah-blah-blah warning that sun tea can be a veritable petri dish bacteria.
I'm not one of those people has a bottle of hand sanitizer in every room or sterilizes every surface I touch. If you don't expose yourself to germs there's no way your body can build an immunity to them. I'm not saying wallow in filth and you'll be healthier for it . . . don't be ridiculous . . . but living in a purified environment only makes you more sensitive to cooties that your supposedly protecting yourself from.
Anyhoo . . . there are bacteria commonly found in water which can be destroyed if the water is heated to a temperature of 195° for three to five minutes.
Tea steeping in a jar on your porch won't get any hotter than 130° Fahrenheit, which isn't hot enough to kill germs.
Frankly, I'd be surprised if its even possible for anything to be alive in our drinking water . . . it's so chlorinated and chemically processed.
Again . . . I've never gotten sick from sun tea. However, that may be because there are certain steps you can take to keep the germies at bay. One . . . use a clean container. Soap and hot water should be sufficient but you can also rinse the container in a bleach solution made with 1-1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water for added security.
We've always used plain old fashioned mason jars to brew tea. But they have special fancy dancy copntainers specifically for brewing sun tea . . . basically a big mason style jar with a spigot. The problem with the spigot is that it's hard to get them thoroughly clean with all the little nooks and crannies and whatnot.
Just keep in mind that sun tea doesn't keep as well as regular brewed tea so make sure to refriderate what you don't drink right away and don't keep it around for more than a day or so. And, if it gets syrupy or has weird floaty ropey thingies in it then don't drink it . . . that's bacteria and you've just brewed yourself a healthy culture.
Anyhoo . . . sun tea is really easy to make, delicious, requires minimal effort and requires no energy other than that which comes from the sun.
Sun Tea Recipe
Put 4 to 6 tea bags into a clean 2 quart glass container. Fill with water and cap.
Place outside where the sunlight can strike the container for about 3 to 5 hours. Move the container if necessary to keep it in the sun. When the tea has reached its desired strength, remove from sun and put it in the refrigerator. You can leave the tea bags in the jar if you want.
The tea will probably taste more mellow than what you are used to from using boiling water. The slow seeping has a way of bringing out a slightly different flavor from the tea.
Serve over ice with a few sprigs of fresh mint and/or a squirt of fresh lemon.
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