I have a confession to make. Prior to meeting my southern husband, I have never heard of Sun Tea before. When he found this out, he had the most quizzical expression on his face as if he saw something in my teeth and couldn't decide whether to laugh or cringe.
And so I got the lecture. "Sun Tea", he proclaimed, "is part of what bonds children with their mothers, is what makes childhood memories everlasting, it's what no child should ever be deprived of, otherwise its a childhood not worth having..." OK, maybe I am exaggerating the lecture a little bit.
So in order to save my marriage, I embarked on a Sun Tea journey to discover everything I can about this mysteriously fascinating summer liquid. I phoned the in-laws of the south for ole' fashioned recipes, I scoured the Internet for variety of recipes, I researched recent safety concerns in the making of Sun Tea and experimented in my own backyard to bring you this very thesis on Sun Tea.
To begin, here are some basic ground rules in preparing to make Sun Tea:
1. Watch Out for Bacteria. If you ask the new-timers, the process of making Sun Tea can form a bacteria that can be harmful to your health. If you ask the ole-timers, a lil' bit of bacteria ain't hurt no body! The issue is that using the sun's rays to make tea can facillitate bacteria called alcaligenes viscolactis, according to the Center of Disease Control. Tea steeped in a jar on your porch won't get any hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to truly kill germs, water needs to be heated at 195 degrees F for 3-5 minutes.
To appease both the old school and the new school of thought, it's best to avoid risk yet without stripping yourselves from fond childhood memories by doing the following:
a) Use a sterilized glass container (more about glass below)
b) Use a strainer after steeping Sun Tea to rid of any aliens in it.
c) Simply toss the tea away if you see foamy, syrupy substances or any weird-looking strands.
2. Use a Glass Pot. According to recent studies, plastic containers may be adding harmful chemicals to the liquids they contain. The procedure speeds up if the liquid bottle in plastic is left in the sun for a long time. Bottles exposed to the sun in the research showed traces of carcinogenic and neurotoxic substances.
3. Use Filtered Water. Tap water typically contains unknown substances that without a full boil may be harmful to your health. Another cleaner and safer method to make Sun Tea is to use filtered water instead. This will also enhance the flavor of the tea itself.
4. Use Loose Leaf Tea. Even though most of the traditional recipes utilize tea bags, I prefer to use fresh ingredients wherever I can. Tea bags to me are akin to buying pre-ground coffee in a can where the freshness is compromised.
5. Be Creative. Add your favorite citrus rinds and/or garden herbs to your own batch of Sun Tea.
5. Refrigerate immediately after use. Throw out any leftover tea after 3 days.