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Everyday Cheapskate: How to Make Sun Tea So It Is Bacteria-free and Safe To Drink

Mary Hunt on

A quick Instagram search for #suntea turns up more than 36,000 results confirming that the summer months are prime time for this classic tea beverage. Add in the untold number of sun tea worshippers out there who aren't into hashtags and social media and the results are clear: There's a lot of love for sun tea.

But what is sun tea, exactly, and why do more than a few health experts warn1 it may be dangerous? Making homemade sun tea (tea brewed by leaving it to steep in sunlight) can be dangerous because it can facilitate the growth of bacteria.

Does that mean you should abandon your favorite method of making home-brewed iced tea? Not necessarily. What it means is that you need to know how to do this safely.


Tea steeped in a jar on your porch won't get any hotter than 130 F, about the temperature of a really hot bath and not nearly hot enough to kill nasties lurking either in the water or on the tea itself. For that, water needs to be heated to 195 F for three to five minutes.

So, does that mean sun tea will make you sick? No, it probably won't, but the risk is there. It's up to you to evaluate that.


The easiest and safest way to make iced tea is to make cold brew tea. Combine the water and tea bags and let steep in the refrigerator overnight instead of in the sun. This eliminates the threat of contamination.

If you decide to go ahead and make sun tea, use regular black tea, not herbal tea. Why? Because caffeine aids in prohibiting the growth of bacteria.


The following guidelines are recommended for those who choose to brew sun tea:


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