Homemade sun tea spells summertime for me. Sometimes I make my first batch as early as April, but most of the time by Memorial Day or the start of June I am making it regularly. A lot of people enjoy drinking iced tea but may not know how to make sun tea.
Today I’m sharing directions for making your own summer tea at home, along with what supplies you need, tips for garnishing the tea and more. I’ve been making it for a few years now and it’s a really fun summertime activity and beverage to enjoy.
How to Make Sun Tea
What is Sun Brewed Tea?
For a little backstory, my appreciation for this tea goes back to childhood. While I didn’t really drink it as a child, I remember it as something my family would make. Many summers I would see that big jar sitting outside on the sidewalk in full sun brewing a new batch.
Usually the tea would be made during the hottest part of the day, then brought in and chilled to go with dinner. I did have the tea a little bit as I got older but it wasn’t until we moved into our home that I thought about making homemade tea for myself.
Sun tea is really exactly how it sounds, instead of making hot tea with hot water, the beverage is a slow brewed tea made outside. It takes longer to brew but I enjoy the refreshing taste over ice. I also think the tea made in the sun is less bitter, when compared to traditionally brewed black tea.
Sun Tea Container
One of the biggest hurdles to make your own homemade tea is finding a good container. I actually got the vintage container from my family and use it now myself. Glass is best. I would not make tea with plastic. You want a clean flavor.
It is a wide mouth container, very large (probably about two gallons?) and the lid is faded but says “sun tea.” I don’t know of anyone makes this container any more! I found one sun tea container that is simliar and will show a photo below.
Prior to getting the container from my dad, I was using a large glass milk container from Hartzler dairy to make my sun tea. Really any large glass container with a lid is what you need. The glass needs to be clear.
How Many Tea Bags for Sun Tea?
When I first started making home brewed tea I was using the small 1 cup tea bags. For my 2 gallon container I usually use about 5 of these bags. You will want to experiment to see how strong or light you prefer your tea.
Then I discovered the larger “family size” tea bags. Now I buy those and use two of the large tea bags in my 2 gallon container. I haven’t done a price analysis but in general homemade sun tea is really affordable to make and you can even use coupons to save more money when you buy the tea bags.
I have brewed with both regular tea bags and those labeled for “iced tea” and have found no difference. They both work great for me when I make my own sun beverage at home.
How Long Does it Take to Make Sun Tea?
I really try to aim for at least 4 hours of full sun for my tea. If possible, check the weather and make your tea on a day when it’s expected to be full sun all day. You will notice the water begin to change color and turn brown as soon as you place the jar in the sun.
However the longer you brew it the stronger the tea will be. I have found no benefit to brewing longer than four hours and honestly I’ve come close to forgetting I was brewing the tea a few times and almost left the jar outside overnight!
How Do You Make Sun Tea?
For ease of use a plastic lid on your container is probably best. The opening needs to be large enough to place tea bags inside the container. Now that we’ve talked about the container here are all of the supplies you will need before making your own outdoor tea:
- Large Glass Container (1-2 gallons)
- Black Tea Bags (regular or the large size)
- Sugar (if you want to sweeten your tea)
- Garnish (optional, mint tastes great, or a slice of lemon)
- Ice to Fill Your Glass
- Drinking Vessel (I like glass or a tumbler with a straw)
Sun Tea Directions
Find your perfect container. It should be glass. I would prefer a glass or maybe metal lid. Mine is plastic. If you have the cash to spring for something check out this self-dispensing container on Amazon. This would be extra nice if you are serving the tea to guests and would make easy pouring as well.
Clean the container with hot soapy water prior to first use, and every use after that. Then fill your container with water, almost to the brim. I use distilled water.
Add several black tea bags. More bags for stronger brew, fewer for weaker brew. I usually use five bags in a 1-gallon container. I like a stronger brew but I add a lot of ice to my glass when I drink it.
Put the lid on your container with the tea bag strings/tags hanging on the outside. Place the container in a location with full sun. I typically sit mine out around noon, if possible. Let the container sit for about 4 hours. You could also try 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or try noon to 4 p.m.
Bring your container inside. Remove the tea bags and refrigerate your mix to cool it down. It will probably take several hours to cool down. If you want to have your tea at dinner try finishing your brew around 2 p.m. Alternately, you can add ice to the drink either way to cool it down before drinking.
After it has ample time to cool, pour a glass of tea over ice. Garnish with lemon or mint leaves, if desired. Enjoy!
How Long Does Sun Tea Last?
I’ve read mixed reviews on shelf life for this homemade drink. Obviously the sterilization prior to use, cleanliness while making and proper storage are key. I try to drink mine within a few days of making it.
One time I let it sit for about a week in the refrigerator and I did notice some mold growing! Please be aware. Again this drink is all natural and has no preservatives so the shelf life is limited. If you don’t think you and/or the members of your household can drink the whole container within a few days or a weekend, consider making a half batch.
Also, clean the bottle thoroughly between uses. I use hot water and dish soap and then dry by hand or air dry. Be sure to clean both the container and the lid. It helps if your brewing container has a wide mouth for easy cleaning of the container.
How Do You Make Sun Tea?
One of my favorite parts of summer is sipping some ice cold homemade tea. Homemade sun tea is easy to make, refreshing and affordable. It can be drank as is, or sweetened with sugar or given a garnish. The best way, I think, to drink it is while relaxing outside.
I love learning how to make items that can be purchased at the store. Something about the process of making this homemade brew and enjoying it screams summer.
I hope this recipe is easy to understand, along with the tips and suggestions for preparation. If you have any questions about how to make this tea yourself, please feel free to comment below and I will do my best to help.
Do you prefer your tea sweetened or unsweetened?
*This post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.