Now that the days of warmth are returning, I’ve begun to think about one of my favorite summer rituals: making big jars of sun tea.
Sun tea is a process that involves steeping tea using the heat of the sun as opposed to boiled water. It takes a lot longer than using hot water, but it’s a passive process, the sort of thing you set up, forget about, and then remember later, delighted at yourself for having done it. Plus, I’m convinced sun tea tastes a notch better than tea brewed the normal way. It must be that sunshine magic that infuses into the water alongside the herbs.
I run an herb farm with my husband, so during the summer months, we have access to a huge variety of fresh and dried herbs that I can use for tea. I also love using our blend of black tea and flowers, Arise Divine, to make sun tea. However, you don’t need to live on a farm to make sun tea! All you need is a jar, a sunny day, any type of tea, and time.
How to brew sun tea
You can brew sun tea in a glass jar of any size. Personally, I like to make a half gallon of tea at a time, unless I’m making it for an event, and, in that case, I’ll brew up a whole gallon. However, for this recipe, I’ll use a quart jar.
If you’re using tea bags, place two at the bottom of the quart jar. If you’re using dried loose tea, fill the jar a quarter of the way full with tea leaves. If you’re using fresh herbs, boy are you in for a treat! You’ll want to wash the fresh herbs first and remove the leaves from the stems, then fill your jar up halfway or even all the way. (No one has ever said, “I made that herbal tea too herby.” Go wild!)
Fill the jar with cool water from the tap. If you’re using loose tea or fresh herbs, give the brew a stir with a wooden spoon to make sure the herbs are all evenly submerged. Cover the jar with a lid or a cloth affixed with a rubber band.
Place the jar outside in a sunny spot. Be sure to pick somewhere that will have sunshine for many hours so that your tea can steep sufficiently.
Go out and enjoy the weather! When you return (two to four hours later), check on your sun tea. If you used black tea, the brew should be dark and well steeped; for herbal teas, the brew should be deeply green (or red, or yellow, depending on which herbs you’ve used). Take a sip of the tea to discern whether it has finished steeping. Since you’ll be diluting the tea later with ice cubes, you’ll want a brew that tastes very strong.
When your tea is done, you’ll need to either remove the tea bags with a spoon or strain out the loose herbs some other way. I often pour the tea through a tea strainer or cheesecloth. If you don’t have either, you can also simply use the lid to pour the tea into another jar, making sure that you hold back the herbs with the lid as you pour.
If you’d like to sweeten your tea with honey or sugar, now’s the time to do it. Sweeten to taste and then place your jar in the refrigerator to chill. Or, if you’d like, you can pour the tea into popsicle molds to create delicious herbal popsicles! Note: if you’re making popsicles, add more sweetener than you would for tea.