Making Sun Tea was a fun way for this military brat to enjoy the hot summers of the Phoenix, Arizona. I lived at Luke Air Force Base, in the Valley of the Sun from 1958 to 1963. We also made Sun Tea in Seguin, Texas during 1963 – 1964 and El Paso, Texas 1964 – 1966.
Sun Tea is a technique of brewing tea slowly. It uses the heat of the sun to pull out the flavors from dry tea leaves.
I recall my mother placing a gallon size glass jar full of water and tea bags out on the cinder block fence. It was placed up high where the kids and the critters couldn’t get to it.
The sun shined down upon the liquid reminding me an offering to the sun god placed upon an altar. My mother used the hot sun to brew her tea.
Mother would fill the gallon glass jar with war and tea bags. Next we would go with her as she placed it on the cinder block fence just before lunch. We would retire to the kitchen for the noon meal. Following lunch, she would send us to our afternoon naps. We would rest for a couple of hours. Mom would let us get up from our rest in time to watch American Bandstand. It was still a daily show way back then. When Dick Clark signed off it was time to go get the jar of tea.
The clear water in the jar was now a medium to dark brown color. I got the glasses from the cabinet and the ice trays from the freezer. I filled the glasses with ice cubes. Mother poured the warm brew over the frozen water. At least half of the ice always melted. We enjoyed the liquid treat with our supper.
In researching Sun Tea online I was surprised to learn there has been some recent debate about Sun Tea being unsafe. It has been identified that bacteria can grow because the water doesn’t reach a temperature of 190 degrees or more.
The Snopes article I read says the bacteria found in sun tea comes from the water used to make it, not the tea itself. That would mean that the water is the real issue.
Information for Sun Tea Brewers (from: http://www.mommyskitchen.net/2010/07/sun-tea-my-favorite-summer-drink.html )
- Always us a clean glass jar and not a plastic jar. Make sure you choose a container that has a metal lid. Do not use a plastic one. Always place your sun tea jar in direct sunlight.
- Scrub your Sun Tea container with hot soapy water after every use I always clean mine by hand and run it through the dishwasher after each use.
- If you want, you can use distilled water instead of tap water if that is a significant issue. Don’t leave the Sun Tea to brew for more than 4 hours.
- The key is not allowing Sun Tea to sit out and come to room temperature. Refrigerate and drink as soon as possible. Don’t prepare more than you can drink in a day or two. Throw out the leftovers after day two.
- Also, throw away tea that has turned thick and syrupy or that has ropey strands, which are bacteria. I mean who would drink that? Use common sense here.
Sources with recipes: