Sun Brewed Tea

A big jug, clean water, a few tea bags, and a few hours of direct sunlight are all you need for sun-brewed tea.
By Connie Toops
May/June 1979
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A crisp class of sun-brewed tea, flavored with lemon, is always refreshing on a hot summer day.

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Spring and summer are the seasons for iced tea, but who wants to stand over a stove to heat up steeping water when the weather's warm anyway? Instead, make sun-brewed tea with this super-simple, four-step method that lets the sun do the work for you!

[1] Find a half-gallon glass jug and fill be container up to an inch from its top with cool water. (Orange or grapefruit juice bottles work fine, but any vessel will do as long as the bottle's neck is wide enough to admit tea bags and the glass is clear, rather than frosted or tinted.)

[2] Hang five regular-sized tea bags (or an equivalent amount of leaves in a teaball) in the water. Then cap the jug tightly, letting the lid hold your bags in place. (if you prefer weaker "sippin's," use only four of the little leaf holders. If you want your infusion "too thick to drink and too thin to plow," try six tea sacks.

[3] Place the brewing flask outdoors in direct sunlight. Take a peek at the beverage every half hour or so to make sure ol' Sol's diurnal movement hasn't left your drink in the lurch (i.e., shade).

[4] Come back in two or three hours (or a bit later if the day's a tad cloudy or cool), and grab your juice. 'Tain't no more to it! The finished brew will be ready for drinking (if you serve it with ice). Or you can refrigerate the sun's "shine" until the next time a parching thirst scrapes the sides of your tonsils.

How does this solar brewing process work? Simple! The water in the glass stops and absorbs the sun's radiant heat. Then this closed "heat collector" starts the tea flavor to leaking out of the bags, which in turn makes the water darker, which—in turn again—makes the whole mix absorb more sunlight ... and so on and so on until your tea is deeply steeped.

And, once you've got the hang of this operation (that should, indeed, take no more than one try), you can do some experimenting to spice up the flavor a bit. Substitute a bag of green or herb tea for one of "traditional" orange pekoe, for instance. You could also throw in some sassafras bark, mint leaves, dried lemon or orange rind, cinnamon, or create your own savory invention!

Whatever tangy combination you settle on, though, you'll find—as I do—that the gentle heat of solar brewing gives your "sunshine tea" a much smoother and less bitter taste than that ol' 'biled water" residue has

So the next time you're planning to fix up some refreshing iced tea, don't you do it. Let the sun brew it!

EDITOR'S NOTE: A fine collection of sun brew ideas and recipes can be found in the article, "Sun Tea: Brewing Tips and Herbal Tea Recipes" (although the herb pennyroyal mentioned in one of the recipes should, according to more recent research, be used with caution). 

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