How to Brew Herbal Sun Tea

| July/August 2007

Cool down with delicious, thirst-quenching herbal sun tea. Follow a few simple steps to enjoy a variety of refreshing flavors that are perfect for front porch sipping. Solar tea has never tasted so good.

Fresh organic herbs produce healthier, more refreshing teas, so pick your ingredients straight from the garden or buy from a local grower. All you need to make solar tea is a quart canning jar (good for preserving the herbs' fragrant oils and properties), water, coarsely cut herbs of choice and sunshine.

To start, toss a half cup to 1 cup of fresh herbs into the canning jar. With practice, adjust this amount to suit your taste and the plants' nature. Add water, a lid and a few shakes. Place the jar where it will receive full sunlight, such as on a rooftop, open field or driveway. If possible, give the mixture a couple more shakes throughout the day. You will learn how long to brew certain teas for the desired taste.

As the sun goes down, the tea should appear rich and translucent in color. While still warm, shake the mixture, strain the contents and use the plant material for mulch. Pour fresh tea on ice and enjoy.

These two-ingredient blends from The Herbal Tea Garden: Planning, Planting, Harvesting & Brewing by Marietta Marshall Marcin are good for beginners.

  • Alfalfa leaf with lemon verbena or red clover blossoms

  • Chamomile with hibiscus flowers

  • Elderflowers with peppermint or yarrow

  • Fenugreek with alfalfa or mint

  • Hibiscus flowers with rose hips

  • Marigold petals with mint

  • Mullein with sage, chamomile or marjoram

  • Pennyroyal with any of the other mints

  • Peppermint with spearmint

  • Rosemary with hibiscus flowers

  • Sage with lemon verbena

  • Strawberry leaves with woodruff

  • Yarrow with peppermint

To explore more garden flavors, try these creative summer medleys from the e-handbook 15 Herbs for Tea.

richard robinson_2
7/18/2007 12:00:00 AM

I don't make sun tea, I brew solar tea. I have taught classes on solar cooking, so I make a distinction between sun tea and solar tea. Solar tea is made the same way as sun tea, but the jar is placed inside the solar cooker. Being in the solar cooker, the jar gets about 30 degrees hotter just being in the sun.

brenda travis
7/15/2007 12:00:00 AM

Pennyroyal in tea? It is not for consumption.

toddy hansen
7/12/2007 12:00:00 AM

I am not sure how much tea to put into the quart jar. Did I miss something? Or is this just a tea made from the acutal herbs. Thanks for any clarification!Todd in Phoenix

richard pocock
7/11/2007 12:00:00 AM

Hello.To make your jar more effective paint it on the outside with black schoolboard paint, it will then warm up much faster and be ready sooner.Put a tape strip up the jar before painting it and strip it off after the paint has dried for an observation windowHave a sunshine day

pennyrile b
7/10/2007 12:00:00 AM

I would be weary of certain bacteria that may flourish while brewing sun tea. The water doesn't get hot enough in the sun to kill off the offending bacteria. I would at least boil the water before hand, but then again, I'd just chose to make tea the safer way, with water at over 195 degrees F. I'm not a germaphobe (people do get a bit nuts about sterilizing everything around them and use antibacterial products without thought), but I also don't push my luck by drinking tepid water that has been sitting for hours on end.

pennyrile b
7/10/2007 12:00:00 AM

SCorbin--You have something working in your favor when you brew conventional tea, rather than "herbal tea". Caffeine in tea (black tea containing more than green) helps keep bacteria at bay for at least a limited time. Years of brewing without problem, merely shows that you've been fortunate(probably aided by using dried teas and clean utensils and consuming the tea soon thereafter) and attests to the veracity of our stomachs. There's plenty of opportunities to test our limits and knowledge of the risks involved with atypical food preparation should at least be encouraged.

s corbin
7/10/2007 12:00:00 AM

While I have not used fresh herbs to make solar tea, I have been making solar tea for 30 years. I have found that solar tea stays fresh tasting longer than the normal "brewed" iced tea. If you use standard tea bags, are willing to drink your tap or filtered water, and are confident that your container is clean, there is no need to be concerned about bacteria.I use a one gallon lidded jar full of tepid water and 24 tea bags. We use mostly green tea with a few other flavors added for accent (like Earl Grey or mint.) The tea is done after about 3 hours in direct sun. My grandsons (ages 6 and 4) help me make it [with freshly washed and dried hands]. They are proud of their addition to supper (and it helps with their math skills.)

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