Ah sun tea, a nostalgic drink from childhood. For many people, it brings back warm memories of long summer days on the back patio sipping tea with friends and family. I remember my time in Maine on the dock when we’d lay out in the sun with mason jars full of tea.
The general idea of sun tea is to brew a large batch of iced tea without turning on the stove. To do this many people fill large containers with water and place a dozen or so tea bags or loose tea in them. The containers are then placed in the sun for anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on the temperature outside. It’s also common to see people place lemon or lime in with their tea either while it’s brewing or after. Sounds good right? Now before you break out your gallon jugs and Lipton bags you should know that sun tea is not just bad for you, it’s DANGEROUS.
At first glance sun tea appears to be a viable and healthy drink harnessing the energy of the sun to produce a zero-calorie drink that one would presume contains all the benefits of tea. But don’t be fooled. By placing loose or bagged tea leaves in glass jars of water then leaving them in direct sunlight you are creating the perfect environment for harboring harmful bacteria.
According to the The Centers for Disease Control “the practice of making ‘sun tea’ by steeping tea bags in a container of water in the sun may be a higher theoretical risk than brewing tea at higher temperatures because it provides an environment where bacteria are more likely to survive and multiply.” Tea steeped in a jar on your porch won’t get any hotter than 130°F, about the temperature of a really hot bath which is not nearly hot enough to kill nasty bacteria lurking in the water or on the tea itself.
Alcaligenes viscolactis , a bacteria commonly found in water, is often found in sun tea. Caffeine in black tea will help prevent that microbe from flourishing but only for a couple hours. Teas without caffeine such as herbal teas are even more dangerous because that barrier is gone, allowing your tea to become a natural breeding ground for bacteria.
So what’s the best way to make iced tea without boiling water? Two words: cold brew. You may have heard of cold brew coffee, but did you know that there is such a thing as cold brew tea? Simply use an iced tea steeping jug such as our Mist Iced Tea Pitcher.
All you do is place about two heaping tablespoons of tea into the pitcher, fill it with lukewarm water, put the top on and stick it in the fridge for 2-6 hours. It’s that easy, and because it’s brewed cold you don’t have to worry about harmful bacteria growing in your tea.
In short, take your tea out of the sun and keep you and your family safe this summer!