It seems like everyone across the country is pushing through this dreadful heat! Nashville actually broke its record this past week by getting above 107 degrees! In this miserable climate, we all need to stay hydrated. I've been trying to make water a regular habit and something I crave, but I've got to be honest...nothing beats a big glass of sweet tea on a hot summer's day. And my FAVORITE sweet tea is made with the sun! If you haven't ever tried making sun tea, it's super easy. I'll walk you through the steps. It has a flavor I can't describe, besides to say it's different and delicious.
Here's what you'll need:
- A large clear jar or container
- Tea bags (not cold brew)
- Lemon (optional)
You can use any container you like, but the best option is an actual "sun tea jar" like the one pictured above. I bought mine last summer season at Publix for $4.00, but you can get them at Target, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Bed Bath & Beyond...pretty much any place that sells picnic/kitchen dishes and glasses. If you can't find one, you can certainly use a large glass mason jar, just be sure to adjust your ingredient proportions. I haven't tried to make it in a frosted plastic or opaque container, but I don't think that will work. The heat from the sunlight is what helps to brew the tea, and I think it would be pretty tough to get it right if the sunlight can't get through.
For the tea, you can use any kind you like. I prefer to use either Luzianne or Lipton regular iced tea bags. It's the most plain tea you can get, and the most traditional. Actually, sometimes there are sun tea directions printed on the side of the box! You don't want cold brew because the sun is going to be the heat for brewing. You could also use green tea or another flavor, but I've never tried it myself.
Although I was born in Pennsylvania, I consider myself a southern lady. I've lived in the south the majority of my life, and am about as ingrained in the culture as a natural born southerner. That being said, I like my tea SWEET! You can cut back on this amount if you prefer unsweet or less sweet tea. For my taste, I measured out 1 cup of sugar. This seems like a good amount because it's enough to make it sweet, but you still get that unique sun tea flavor.
Next, you'll need to prep your tea bags. For my 1 gallon container, I used three tea bags. Simply take each bag out of the paper wrappers and tie the strings together in a regular knot. I try to place the knot in the middle, so that the tea bags are close together, but have room to spread out in the water.
Next, put it all in the jar! I dumped my cup of sugar in the bottom, then filled the jar with water. No need to stir, your sugar will dissolve in the sun and you'll need to stir later. Next, put your tea bags in the water. You'll need to use a spoon or other utensil to push them under so that the tea bags and leaves absorb the water. Finally, I sliced half of a lemon and added them to the top. You can leave this out if you'd like, but I think the lemon adds the perfect amount of citrus, fresh flavor.
The next part is that hardest...the waiting. You'll want to make your sun tea on a hot, sunny day and find a spot that will get direct sunlight for 2-4 hours. Of course, you'll want it also sitting somewhere that will be undisturbed by weather, animals, people, etc. I have a tiny patio, so I used a little table and moved it with the sun during the day. Although this step is the hardest, it's also the easiest. Find that special brewing place, get your full jar all comfy, and LEAVE IT ALONE!
You will be able to watch your water slowly transform to tea over a few hours. I remember doing this as a kid when my mom made sun tea and it was so fun to watch. It was like magic in my youthful eyes. So if you have kiddos, be sure to let them watch the magic of the sun! But remember, don't move it, don't stir it, just let the sun do its thing, girl.
It is really up to you to decide how long to let it brew. You can bring it inside as soon as you think your tea is brewed to your desired strength. For my taste, 3 hours seems like the perfect length.
Once it's finished brewing, bring it inside, give it a stir, and stick it in the fridge. At this point, it's ready to drink and you can pour it over a glass of ice and enjoy! I leave the lemon and tea bags in my jar, but I know a lot of people take them out. I just leave them in because it's a lot less messy to dump them when the jar is empty (which for me, doesn't take very long)! Sun tea is delicious, but be mindful that this was brewed fresh and was sitting in the sun for several hours. So although it is uniquely refreshing and enjoyable when you pour your first glass, it doesn't stay fresh for long. Be sure to drink it all up in about two days and then it will be time to dump what's left (if any).
This is a great drink for barbecues, pool days, having friends over, etc. It's not something you can make all year, and I think that small window of opportunity is what makes sun tea so special and enjoyable to me. I hope you like it as much as I do!