Did you know that June is National Iced Tea month? Not that I need an excuse to drink iced tea. I bet you don’t either since approximately 85% of the tea we drink in America is iced. Good thing the summertime staple is as healthy as it is refreshing. That is, if you drink real brewed stuff without tons of added sugar. To make sure that you get the most out of your iced tea, here’s how to brew the best sun tea, plus a few recipes and ideas for how to enjoy it.
Oh, and if you’re wondering why we’re fans of sun brewed tea over hot-brewed iced tea, it’s because the result is a smoother tea with a mild flavor that’s perfect for summer. Plus, it’s gorgeous to look at and easy to make, and you know how we feel about that combination. It’s too good to pass up, just like these great iced tea recipes.
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1. Start with a clean, empty container.
Brewing tea in a cool, quirky container is part of the fun. Leave it to Martha to find the the perfect glass barrel with a wooden handle for brewing sun tea. Taking her lead, I found this affordable glass barrel jar for sun tea by Anchor Hocking ($18.66 at our Amazon affiliate) that gives the doyenne of domesticity a run for her money. Or, at least, allows us to be like her in one teeny, tiny, easily affordable way.
One you have the right container, give it a good clean. It’s very important that your container is free from bacteria so that it doesn’t multiply during steeping time. You may have heard the brouhaha, so to speak, about brewing tea in the sun, but according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tea has basically no history of disease transmission. Be safe, though, and sanitize your container in the dishwasher or with a good old-fashioned soap-and-water wash before you begin.
2. Add water and tea bags.
Start with filtered or distilled water if possible to prevent contamination by bacteria that may be present in tap water. To the water, add any type of tea bags: black, green, white, or herbal. Chasing Saturdays brews up one of my favorite flavors, a spicy ginger tea blend (above & top).
I use 10 tea bags for every gallon of water, but you may end up using more or less depending on how strong you like your tea. You can also brew sun tea in small batches like Kelsey does over at Babble (below).
3. Let the sun go to work.
Now is where the patience part comes in. No instantaneous gratification here. Make sure your jar is lidded or covered (a piece of plastic wrap will suffice) and place it somewhere it will get good exposure to sunlight. Let it steep for four to five hours and you should be good to go. See, we told you it’s easy!
Related: An unsweetened tea for kids? Sweet!
4. Sweeten the pot.
If you like tea unsweetened, your work is done. For the rest of us, though, it’s time to make a simple syrup. Sure, you can just add granulated sugar and stir (and stir and stir), but simple syrup is also easy to make, dissolves instantly, and lasts in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Plus, you can flavor it which, in turn, flavors your tea. I love the fruit-flavored simple syrups at This Heart of Mine and think that they’d make most any iced tea especially delicious.
If sugar’s not your thing, you can use agave nectar like PopSugar does in this recipe for a Green Tea Lime Cooler. Honey and maple syrup are always options, too.
5. Freeze up some flavored ice cubes.Another way to dress up your drink is to make ice cubes from tea or even flavor cubes with fruit or herbs. Mint cubes make a refreshing addition to most any tea. Details shares how to spice up your ice with tons of delicious ideas that would be great with sun brewed tea including a green tea ice cube with lime peel and a coconut ice cube for those of you who like your tea with a splash of milk.
6. Enjoy the fruits of your (hardly any) labor.
You’ve made it (literally and figuratively). Now it’s time to sit back and sip that thirst-quenching infusion with a splash of flavored simple syrup, pretty ice cubes, and a lemon slice or sprig of mint. And, of course, a splash of booze if you want it.
Tea cocktail mixers like the ones we found from Owl’s Brew make a mighty fine drink base and then in no time you have your very own homemade version. This Sweet Tea Mojito, above, from the Food Network is summer perfection, and a breeze to make with your own sun brewed tea.
I’m also loving this Earl Grey Snap Cider Cocktail at With Food and Love that combines a gingery molasses spirit called Snap (you can use whiskey) with fresh lemon. This has a fall vibe, I know, but the ice makes it fine for summer for me. Besides, I’ll take a boozy, gingery, tea infusion any time of year.