How to Make Sun Tea

No energy is required for this slow brewing method that results in perfect iced tea.

CC BY 2.0. Alex Butterfield -- Sun tea steeps on the windowsill.

I make three cups of tea a day—a cup of green tea first thing in the morning, a cup of black tea in the early afternoon, and a cup of herbal tea in the evening. I’ve been doing this for years, filling the kettle with water and waiting impatiently for it to boil and for the steeping tea to get nice and strong. But then my mind was blown when I stumbled across something called "sun tea".

Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock and am the last person on earth to know about this, but just in case there’s another person out there who has not yet caught on to the wonders of sun tea, this post is for you!

Sun tea is what I would call a “genius recipe. To quote food writer Bee Wilson, “Certain standout recipes allow us to skip past ‘all the canonical versions’ with unexpected hacks or surprising ingredients that lead us to a smarter way of cooking.”

Sun tea fits that description well. The idea is bafflingly simple. Fill a clean jar with water. Add tea leaves. Let sit on a sunny windowsill for several hours. Serve over ice. Voilà, sun tea!

Why have I never thought of this before? It makes perfect sense, and saves having to re-boil water every time I want a cup of tea. It’s easy to make a large batch of tea and drink throughout the day.

Tea will infuse water with its flavor no matter the temperature. Tea-drinkers usually use boiling water because it extracts the flavor more quickly than cool water, but given time, water at a lower temperature can achieve the same results. (You can also do a cold brew in the fridge overnight.)

Tips for Making Sun Tea:

Use 8 tea bags per gallon of water, or the equivalent in loose-leaf tea. Keep it in a strainer, or stir into the water and strain out when you drink the finished tea. You do not have to use top-notch tea, as the quality doesn't shine quite as much in cold-brew tea as it does in hot. It will taste fresh and delicious, regardless.

Let sit 2-4 hours, or until it reaches desired strength.

You can use any tea flavor:
Herbal teas such as mint, chamomile, hibiscus, lemon verbena (add fresh herbs, as well, for an extra jolt of flavor)
Caffeinated teas such as green, Earl Grey, or black (add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidic taste that comes from steeping black tea for prolonged periods of time)
Fruity teas such as orange, lemon, berry, peach (consider adding a dash of cinnamon)

Add finishing touches: lemon slices after steeping and sweetener (sugar, honey, agave, or simple syrup). Serve over ice cubes in a glass.

Note: Make sure your container is perfectly clean. There is some discussion about the potential dangers of bacterial growth in sun tea, as it sits in direct sunlight for several hours, and the CDC advises against it. However, if you take care to clean your container thoroughly, do not leave it too long, and drink it promptly, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Opt for glass over plastic, as plastic heated in direct sunlight may leach undesirable chemicals into the tea. (It's unlikely, however, that the water will get hot enough to do that.) If you do use plastic, make sure it's free from BPA. Aluminum containers can leave an off-taste, but generally you won't notice once the tea's been served.