Sun Tea

As the mercury breaks 100°F on these hot summer days (or 38°C for those of you on a metric system) a great way to make some tea without heating up your kitchen is to use the power of the sun to make sun tea.

Sun Tea Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4-6 tea bags

Method

Put 4 to 6 tea bags into a clean 2 quart glass container. Fill with water and cap. Place outside where the sunlight can strike the container for about 3 to 5 hours. Move the container if necessary to keep it in the sun. When the tea has reached its desired strength, remove from sun and put it in the refrigerator. You may or may not want to remove the tea bags at this point. I usually don't.

The tea will probably taste more mellow than what you are used to from using boiling water. The slow seeping has a way of bringing out a slightly different flavor from the tea. Also, because you didn't use boiling water, you should refrigerate the tea and drink it up pretty quickly - a day or two. It will not keep as well as iced tea made from boiling water.

I usually make sun tea with various forms of herbal tea. Sometimes you can put in a few sprigs of fresh mint as well.

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54 Comments

  1. Jennie

    I love to substitute one regular tea bag with a herbal tea bag…usually lemon, orange, peach, or mint. Very good on a hot summer day in Arizona!

  2. Wynne

    Black currant makes great sun tea, I think. I second the idea of subbing 1-3 bags of lemon, orange, peach or mint. I often make it with 2:1 plain tea to Constant Comment (orange spice).

  3. Hillary Randle

    I think this is a great idea! My grandmother use to make sun tea here in Texas! Are there any health benefits to making sun tea, besides the fact that you use herbal teas and they already have these health benefits to them anyways!

  4. Amanda

    I keep reading that making sun tea is unsafe. That bacteria can grow in it because it doesn’t reach a temperature of 190 degrees or more. It only gets up to 130. I don’t want to get ill. Can I make sun tea, but add boiling water when I bring it in from out doors and have it be safe?

    I also have one of those sun tea jars from the 70′s that has a spiggot on it. I cleaned the container with hot soapy water, but I didn’t bleach it. Should I transfer the tea to a different container instead of using the spiggot since other sites have said that the spiggots can get really nasty?

    A friend of mine made Sun Tea just last year and she and her daughter were fine. I just don’t want me or my family to get sick.

  5. Elise

    Hi Amanda,
    The problem with Sun Tea is that it doesn’t last as long as tea made with boiling water. You really do need to drink it up within a day or two. If you add boiling water to it, you defeat the purpose of sun tea, you may as well make the tea using boiling water. Regarding the spiggot – if it is “nasty”, like dirty or mold, I would clean it off with soap or a bleach solution (bleach kills the mold), otherwise I would use it.

  6. Dee

    I have made Sun Tea for years and until now have never heard of a concern.

    I usually refrigerate it as soon as I bring inside and we consume it so quickly it usually doesn’t last 2 days around here!

    We have NEVER been sick and I give it to all my children who enjoy it.

    It’s so easy to make that if you have concerns after 2 days throw it out and start a new batch.

    jmo :-)

    Dee

  7. PamC.

    Constant Comment tea makes great sun tea. I have made sun tea for years and have never gotten sick.

  8. shawn

    I have drunk suntea for years and so has my mom and her mom. If it is going to be more than a few days old, keep it cold. I make mine in a clear plastic pitcher and just put that right into the fridge. I use 7 bags though, I like a dark flavor.

  9. monthon

    Black currant sun tea is very nice for beginer. I put only 1 tea bag in a 600 cc glass bottle and fill with clean water. I leave the bottle at the sun spot in my garden surrounding with shrubs trees and flowers….for day long in Thailand. It is really strong flavor. In the evening, I keep it in the fridge and enjoy my sun tea by mixing 30-50 cc of sun tea with 100-200 cc cold water.

  10. Larissa

    I love drinking sun tea it’s my favorite passed time at my grandma’s house in the summer while I”m basking on the porch. Finally I can drink a taste of heaven without going to my grandma’s home. But… they do say there’s nothing like a grandma’s cooking…Right?

  11. becky

    Every day years ago we would have sun tea at a friends. We found new flavors to make every day! We started using flavor ice popsicles with lemon juice and sugar to taste and ended up making our own cheap arizona iced tea. And none of us ended up getting sick!!

  12. sabrina

    My two young daughters and I just made sun tea with Celestial Seasonings Mango Darjeeling Black Organic Tea, at my 11 year old’s suggestion. I was just going to use regular Red Rose (which my mum always did) It turned out heavenly!

  13. Jen

    What about putting a sliced up lemon, lime or orange into the jar before putting it out in the sun? It might add nice flavor but could it spoil the tea?

  14. Christie

    It won’t spoil the tea to put fruit in it. My grandmother always cut up slices of lemon and put it in the bottom before she set it outside. It gives it a great flavor.

  15. Don from Florida

    If sun tea was dangerous, half of the population of the South would get sick every summer.

    Everything can harbor bacteria, but it is only in recent years that people have gotten so scared.

    Drink the tea before it gets moldy, wash your jar, relax, enjoy life.

  16. Joey

    What tea bag size does this recipe call for – Single or Family? I also don’t know where to find a large glass container, I don’t want to buy a plethora of pickles and throw them out. /giggle Thanks for this wonderful post. I grew up enjoying sun tea and can’t wait to recapture that southern home flavor. Thanks.

    Regular size tea bags. Regarding the glass jar, I use large juice jars. ~Elise

  17. Florida John

    Well….they say to refrigerate hard boiled eggs immediately or you will get sick. When my Mother made Easter eggs, they sat in a bowl on the kitchen table. My brothers, sister, and I, ate them on a daily basis until they were gone. Sometimes they were there for a week or more. None of us ever got sick from them. I don’t think that I would be too concerned about two day old, refrigerated, sun tea.

  18. Q

    Joey, if you don’t have a large (gallon or half gallon) size glass container…you can always use something like a small 1 quart glass jar w/lid and make a concentrate.

    Just make sure you use the correct amount of tea bags for the final amount of tea you plan to make. Then after the tea has “brewed”…just add the concentrate and the proper amount of water to your serving container along with whatever other extras (sugar/syrup, honey, etc) you desire.

    I use this method all the time whether I’m making sun tea, or regular “boiled water” iced tea. Using a smaller amount of water means it takes less time and energy to “heat” your liquid.

  19. Jonah Lisa

    I make sun tea weekly in a 1 gallon jar. We keep it in the fridge and drink it over 4-5 days. It tastes great that long, we’ve never gotten sick. I’ve been doing this for years.

    My favorites are herbal zinger teas–raspberry zinger, red zinger (a hibiscus tea) and lemon zinger. Lemon slices and mint sprigs are a great addition but I remove them after a day or two.

  20. mikie

    Living in Florida, I make sun (green) tea year round! I usually make it in a quart jar (left over from some store-bought juice). Never use plastic, as the heat could release carcinogenic chemicals into the brew. I leave it out for only an hour or two because it gets really hot! I then bring in in and pour a bit of natural sugar in it, and let it cool down (sometimes I take the bags out, sometimes I leave them in) before putting it in the frig as I don’t want to heat things up and run the frig unnecessarily. Occasionally I have not consumed it within 2-3 days and it gets an off-taste that means it’s time to throw it away. I’ve never been sick by drinking over-stored tea.

  21. Tom

    I also have done a similar trick with coffee!
    I use a mesh bag and place 6 scoops of your favorite coffee grounds, tie the bag tight so you dont end up with grounds in your coffee. 4 tsp cinnamon (more or less to taste) and “sun bake” for 3 hours with 3/4 gallon of water.
    I chill it (almost frozen) and serve it with a splash of pure vanilla after dinner on hot days.

  22. bert

    Can I add lemon and sugar to the jar or do I need to wait till it is brewed.

    Wait until it is brewed. ~Elise

  23. Mora

    Sun tea, mmmmm! I’ve been making it for years and was surprised and skeptical to hear that it could potentially make a person sick! It hasn’t stopped me and my family from enjoying it during those hot summer days! Sadly, there are a lot of people today who have never known real fear or worry (think about our parents and grandparents during the Depression) so they make up things to be scared about! I just want some proof! Who has actually gotten sick from sun tea? And if it’s someone who drank a glass of ancient, smelly, stringy tea from the back of the refrigerator, do they really deserve the press?
    After all that, my favorite recipe! A couple of large, regular tea bags, and a couple of chai tea bags. Steep in the sun. Serve with a splash of milk and a touch of sugar over ice.
    Ahhh…..

  24. Amanda

    My mother has recently started making sun tea again. But we’ve encountered a problem… We make it the day before ..like 3 or 4 gallons of it. We Drink most of it that very day but it seems that when we wake up the next morning not even 24 hours after it’s been made it tastes soured. Is there something that we are doing wrong? or is it just not hot enough outside to where it stays good longer. Please let me know what I’m doing wrong. Thank you.

    If it gets sour, I wouldn’t drink it (sour). No idea what’s going on. I am assuming you are refrigerating? I would check the cleanliness of the container in which you are making/storing the sun tea. ~Elise

  25. Mark

    I have been making sun tea using the below recipe for more than 25 years. There is no wrong in the types above; however, here is what I have found to be true.

    I use distilled water in a one gallon plastic jug with a spigot. I prefer glass, but cannot seem to find one presently. After every two or three gallons of sun tea made I clean the bottle and spigot thoroughly with a bleach/water mixture.

    The Celestial Seasonings “Zinger” teas are the tastiest I’ve found. I use eight bags per gallon of water and leave in the sun for three to four hours, no longer. I have found that in very hot, sunny climates that the taste becomes less than fresh after that amount of time. I do remove the bags immediately upon bringing indoors as most teas get bitter if the bags are left too long. I have tried both ways.

    My children have grown up on this and continue to thrive.

  26. Julie

    The Walmarts in my area carry the one gallon glass sun tea jars with a spigot. If you do not wish to use the spigot, you can easily pour it from the pop up lid on the top. An old-fashioned hardware store sometimes will carry the one gallon Ball canning jars. This is what my mom always used. I would stay away from plastic because of the chemicals in it.

    Also to the poster who makes this in a large batch, I am not sure I would make it in anything larger than a on gallon size because I do not know if the water would get hot enough to keep in safe for more than a day.

  27. Brandie

    Isn’t lemon a natural preservative? When you make pies or homemade jam or really anything where you are boiling down the fruit, isn’t lemon juice almost always an ingredient? So my thought is if you put lemon in there wouldn’t it prolong its refrigerated shelf life? I mean fruit goes bad much quicker than sun tea would I’d imagine.

    My mom used to make this when I was a kid but I haven’t had it in so long. I’m really thinking about making some but don’t want to go through the trouble if it only lasts 2 days.

    Throwing it out is a waste and I don’t want to use up my tea bags even making a half or concentrated serving just to throw some of it out.

    Lemon is acidic, like vinegar, and acid is a natural preservative, if you have enough of it. I don’t think there would be enough lemon juice in this tea to help preserve it though. My guess is that if you added what you needed, it wouldn’t taste like tea any more. ~Elise

  28. ben

    Suntea unsafe?! The Snopes article cited says the bacteria found in suntea comes from the water used to make it, not the tea itself. That would mean that the water is the real issue, and people with unsafe water should boil it all the time and never drink from the tap. Now if the article had cited ecoli cases from contaminated tea bags, that would be more compelling. Otherwise the argument and evidence are fallacious, i.e. false causation. If the water in your municipality is safe to drink from the tap then the suntea you make with it will also be safe. Just wash the containers and don’t add sugar until ready to drink. Otherwise relax, with a glass of suntea!

    I have found that the sun tea I make lasts a couple of days in the fridge, no more. When it starts getting a little murky, or there are wisps of something developing in the liquid, it’s time to throw out. ~Elise

  29. Michelle

    I love tea and solar energy, and this recipe sounds amazing. I’ve never heard of sun tea before! One question: exactly how warm does the weather need to be or the strength of the sun? it is almost never hot around SF. :(

    Great question, especially since the best time to make it is in the summer, when it is typically foggy, not sunny, in San Francisco. Don’t know what to tell you, other than to wait for a sunny summer SF day. ~Elise

  30. julyevening73

    We are starting to consume more tea as we want to become healthier and have been consuming regular sodas for years…so we are new to this, but have been around sunteas for years. Looking forward to the teas and getting away from the sodas and the weight associated with it too!

  31. Cassandra

    Use a glass container, not a plastic container. Plastic leeches dioxins into your beverage. Heating up and chilling the plastic is even worse. Dioxins cause cancer…
    Anyway, if you are really concerned about your tea going bad, which it does quickly when left out over night (I know this from working a summer “farm fair” and at McDonald’s) You can use filtered water or bottled water (not spring, but distilled). Distilled and filtered water is what they recommend using to make baby formula with because it is “safer” or if neither is available, boing a pot first. Also, as previous posters have suggested, do not leave the tea out all day and refridgerate immediately. If you do not think you can drink so much in a few days, use smaller containers. My aunt used to make personal sized teas in smaller quart sized canning jars. Make sure you wash the outside of your lemon well before slicing it and putting it into your tea.

  32. Tara

    In regards to the post is sun tea safe? The writer stated the following. “Suntea unsafe?! The Snopes article cited says the bacteria found in suntea comes from the water used to make it, not the tea itself. That would mean that the water is the real issue, and people with unsafe water should boil it all the time and never drink from the tap.”

    According the Center of Disease Control, brewing sun tea for long periods of time, actually encourages the growth of bacteria. Apparently there’s a type of ropey bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis which is commonly found in tap water. Since water must be heated to 195 degrees for 3-5 minutes to kill bacteria, the relatively low temperatures of sun tea just isn’t hot enough to kill anything, either in the water or the tea.

    The point being, whether you have good or bad water it’s the process that makes sun tea unsafe.

    He also states,”If the water in your municipality is safe to drink from the tap then the suntea you make with it will also be safe”. This is false.

    Do your own research if you have concerns. I’ve made sun tea for years and have never had a problem.

  33. Karen

    Does anyone know where to buy a gallon “glass” jar for making sun tea? I have been to 5 stores in Fort Wayne, Indiana and cannot find “glass gallon” jars. Would like to try Black Current Tea–do you have a receipe? Thank You.

  34. paxnovus

    After reading some of these comments I would opt for a smaller glass container for sun tea and I may go OCD and boil our water prior to making the sun tea– sounds silly but ugh our Philly suburban water has alot of grunge in it and a peace of mind perhaps killing the germs…. I am going to use a glass container I actually got from the $$ store that is a quart– and use teabags enough to make a gallon– that way the water also has a better chance of heating up to a higher temp as there is less volume to heat up….

  35. Jerott

    My roommates and I have been doing this for a few weeks now, and we have noticed that the sun tea doesn’t keep as long as the boiled tea… but honestly, it’s much cheaper this way. We only use about 2 tea bags per bottle (we make these in Simply Orange/Lemonade bottles) and the tea always comes out perfect. We also stir in a little bit of simple syrup. We’re college kids, we like things sweet. :)

    Celestial Seasonings makes a Moroccan Pomegranate tea that is absolutely perfect for this. I’m going to try black currant now, though.

  36. Nicole

    I enjoyed sun tea for years as a child whenever I spent time with my grandparents. As an adult I have been making it now for a few years and I have never gotten sick from drinking sun tea.

    I have noticed that after a few days the tea develops an “off” or bitter taste and can appear cloudy. But by that point we have drank so much of it, throwing it out and starting a new batch is no big deal. My tea of choice is Celestial Seasonings Imperial White Peach tea. It makes some of the best sun tea I have ever had! Even my boyfriend, who is not much for tea, will drink it and enjoy it. Every two batches of tea I fill the jar with hot water and two tablespoons of bleach and let it sit for 3 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

    I make sure to run the bleach water through the spigot to disinfect it as well. I usually fill up my jar with hot tap water and 7 tea bags and set it out in the sun for 3-4 hours. I brew my tea in a gallon size old bell jar, then transfer it to my glass sun tea jar and refrigerate it. I also add a pinch of baking soda to the jar before I pour the tea in. The baking soda removes the bitter aftertaste tea can sometimes have, (especially black teas) without changing the flavor of the tea.

    I have yet to become ill, and when i mentioned the idea that you could get sick to a few friends who also brew sun tea, they scoffed as well. They too had been brewing sun tea for years and suffered no ill effects, nor had their children.

    Brew, sip, enjoy!

  37. Nancy

    So bottom line, is it okay to use plastic “sun tea” jars as sold in the store. I’ve heard so much bad reviews about using plastic and toxins. Please give comments.

    Personally I prefer glass to plastic. ~Elise

  38. Kelly Engbrecht

    I mysteriously became ill for a few days last week. Upset stomach, overall feeling of weakness, couldn’t eat, etc. I had no idea what could be the cause since no one else in my family had been sick. I felt better for about a week then had another day of similar illness this past week. I finally made a connection when I saw something (large and ropey) had grown overnight in my sun tea, which was refrigerated after brewing for 4-6 hours. This was a different batch than last week, but I had emptied last week’s because I had noticed a few small floaties in it. I have been drinking sun tea for 30+ years with no ill effects, to my knowledge. I am now worried because I am 21 weeks pregnant and can’t find any info on possible effects of the bacteria on my baby!!! I, of course will call my doctor, first thing Monday morning. Baby is still moving and kicking, so I hope no serious damage has been done. No more sun tea for me though-I guess I’ll have to brew it with boiling water and deal with the bit of bitterness.

  39. jane

    I make sun tea in a huge old pickle jar that I am so glad I saved…knew I might need it.
    I think it’s nearly a gallon.
    I use 2-3 Lipton Cold Brew tea bags, 1-2 lemon revive tea, and sometimes I’ll add something different, like a raspberry tea. After a few hours, I bring it in, add about a generous tablespoon of superfine sugar and shake it well. Then I pour it into a pitcher with ice and keep in the fridge. It has helped me break my soda habit.
    I’m going to look into other tea and natural sweetener options.

  40. Derek

    What temperature should it be outside to steep sun tea? The high temp in summer rarely reaches 80 degrees here.

    Great question. I don’t know. I would just try it in direct sunlight and see what happens. ~Elise

  41. Iyata

    Can you use fresh grated ginger. I’m thinking of lemon ginger and mint. I like the idea of sun tea bc it keeps it live and you get the positive energy, life force from the sun. Thanks

    I would just make mint sun tea and then add a little lemon juice and grated fresh ginger. ~Elise

  42. Leo Escovedo

    was just wondering about,do you HAVE to use a glass jar in the making of sun tea,can you use a plastic jar and if not WHY?something I told my girlfriend,that I only know of sun tea in a GLASS jar…thank you.

    Glass is preferred for several reasons I suppose. Light travels better through it, it isn’t stained by the tea, there is no chemical outgassing from the heat or the sunlight into the tea, etc. ~Elise

  43. CLBIV

    I’v lived in the south all my life and I’ve never heard of sun tea, however, I’d be willing to be it was general laziness on my part for not finding it out.

    I think that that the temp would have to get to 90F before 1000 or so to make sun tea. There are, however numerous ways to get around that problem: 1)find a patch of asphalt or tarmac that you know is going to be empty and park your jar there or a dark rock, 2)use a non-clear glass jar, or paint sections of your jar a dark color, using light theory not paint theory, so dark blues and reds with black used through out. 3) park you glass jar on a mirror to bounce light back at it. I want to say that if you can get your hands on a parabolic mirror that you could actually boil water with it, even on a cloudy day. Figuring out what works best would be a great science project for some kids with time and minimal adult supervision.

    For people asking about plastic stuff, worrying about carcinogens is silly, you were born with a genetic defect somewhere on/in your body that could be classified as cancer. Sunlight breaks down plastic, it’s mostly the UV rays which is why it takes so long I think, that will affect the life of you container and the taste of the tea. However, don’t just rush out and by that cute glass jar at the antique shop, glass has been made using various methods for along time, different materials have been included in glass to get certain effects. I wouldn’t trust something over fifty years old or so.

    Ain’t science nifty,
    CLBIV

  44. venmlegion

    Ive been making “sun tea” for years. Ive kept it in the fridge in a gallon size pitcher for over a week and Ive never been sick. I just cover the top with plastic wrap. I also never boil water (I use Poland Springs bottled water) and sometimes dont even use the sun.
    I just let the tea bags sit in the water over night on the kitchen counter – DELICIOUS!
    I dont add any sugar, lemon or anything, tastes great to me!

  45. nichernan

    I simply love Simply Recipes! You have wonderful recipes!
    I have made and enjoyed sun tea for years, both herbal and caffeinated without ever getting sick. In fact, I have a jar outside right now.

    I have always made sure that on the days i make it, the temperature for the day must be 88 or higher, and i don’t put it out before noon. The jar is filled with HOT water and tea bags, then set outside in full and constant sun for 4-6 hours.

    I bring the tea in, take the bags out, and (occasionally) boil it gently for about 5 or 10 minutes, then let cool down a bit. Throw it in the jar and put it in the fridge.

    I never used to boil it, and had never become ill after drinking it in the past. However a friend did tell me once that she had a bad batch of sun tea happen to her, so since then I do occasionally boil the tea after it comes in the from the sun to kill anything bacteria related. And I have still never become sick after years of drinking sun tea.

    Its my drink of choice in summer. When its hot, and thick and syrupy soda just does not sound appealing, and i want something with more flavor than water, I make sun tea.

  46. jah013

    We go through at least a gallon a day of sun tea, especially in the summer. I use half gallon mason jars, which around here are easier to find than the gallon jars, and cheaper, and the plastic wide mouth caps (dishwasher safe).

    I de-tag 6 regular teabags, tie them together for easy removal and put them in a half gallon jar, add cold water, and put in a sunny window. Depending on the strength of the sun, it will be ready in a few hours. I have even made it in the evening, though it does take a bit longer.

    When ready, I take out the tea (no squeezing, it releases the tannin and makes it bitter). I use 1/2 cup sugar per half gallon, and a couple of tablespoons of lemon/lime juice. Cap it, shake a bit to dissolve the sugar, and chill.

    I usually have two jars steeping at a time, and when one jar is empty, clean it out and get another one (or two) going.

    I get my jars from Ace Hardware. They often have coupons, so I can stock up on them for a variety of uses fairly inexpensively.

    Easy peasy.

  47. Tracy

    I will stop making sun tea if I die. Otherwise I don’t listen to all that bs about it being unsafe. Nothing has happened to me or anyone I know. Love tea.

  48. Lihannan

    For anyone in Washington State and surrounding areas looking for a glass jar w/ spigot for making Sun Tea – my girlfriend just brought one home from Fred Meyer for $6.99 and I currently have it out brewing Market Spice Original on my deck. Looks to be working well so far!

I apologize for the inconvenience, but comments are closed. You can share your thoughts on our Facebook page ~ Elise.