The days are hot and sunny right now, which means it’s perfect for making sun tea. This is a staple in the South — I remember growing up and seeing my mom’s 80s Sun Tea pitcher (just like this one!) on the back porch, brewing up some naturally sweet tea.
It’s great to have on hand for any socially-distant outdoor visits, if that’s an option for you, and it’s perfect for picnics. Besides, it’s a fun “kitchen” project with the kids, when it’s too hot to get in the kitchen. And I know we’re all scrambling for new ideas to keep the kids entertained right now.
Making Sun Tea: Where to Start
To start, you might want to check out this article at Serious Eats, in which J. Kenji López-Alt tests some theories about sun tea. From which type of tea leaves make the best tea to whether you should brew in glass or plastic — it’s great reading if you want to really get geeky about it.
He tests 7 different methods in total and I must say, he comes up with the somewhat heretical decision (in my opinion) to brew your sun tea in the fridge. Gasp! says this southerner!
Of course, that means it’s not actually sun tea, but his findings may be helpful to decide which type of container or method you want to use.
Sun Tea Variations: 4 Add-Ins That Bring the Flavor
Once you’ve decided which method to use, let’s talk about add-ins. Because this is where you can impart tons of great flavor for tea without chemicals you get from those fakey powdered mixes at the grocery. (Seriously. Do not use.)
Plus, it’s fun for the kids to watch that big jar of tea turn from clear water to deep brown tea.
1. Add herbs to your sun tea recipe
I love a spring of fresh mint in my tea, but brewing your tea with the mint from the start is absolutely delicious.
I’m also intrigued by this mint sun tea recipe at The Well Essentials. First, it has so many tips for brewing sun tea safely to avoid bacteria contamination. (Not that that’s a big concern TBH, but still.) It also includes both mint and hibiscus flowers, for a bright, floral flavor that’s refreshing and light.
But don’t stop at mint! You can try out fresh rosemary, thyme, or other summer herbs from your garden right now. This lemon rosemary sun tea at Better Homes and Gardens adds some citrus brightness to an otherwise herby tea.
Finally, Hello Glow has loads of creative sun tea recipes with fruit and herb combinations like rosemary and pear, and peach and thyme (above) and I could try every one of them. .
2. Add fresh fruit to your sun tea recipe
We’re all about fresh fruit right now, and it’s so easy to slice up whatever you have on hand and add it to your sun tea pitcher before you pour in the water and tea bags.
Literally any citrus will work: oranges, lemons, grapefruit…you name it. But if you want more inspiration, check out this raspberry lime sun tea recipe at Two Lucky Spoons. She adds slices of fresh lime to raspberry tea for a citrus-berry flavor that even your kids will like — maybe even unsweetened? Who knows.
Make the most of your neighborhood roadside peach stand, should you have one, with this peach sun tea recipe at Binky’s Culinary Carnival.
Or think out of the box, with a creative watermelon blueberry sun tea recipe from Lemons and Basil. Those are two flavors I wouldn’t have considered putting together, but whoa — it’s fruity and light and kid-friendly. Just, you know, use caffeine-free tea for the little ones.
3. Add fruit syrups or compotes to your sun tea recipe
One easy trick: Brew a big jar of plain sun tea to keep on hand in the fridge, then change things up with variations on individual servings. For example, try pouring your tea into a tall glass over a delicious fruit compote or fruit-infused syrup. For starters, this sun tea with blackberry syrup recipe at Two Lucky Spoons adds loads of flavor (and yes, sugar) to an otherwise boring glass of tea.
Liz, who always has homemade simple syrup on hand for all kinds of uses, tried out Tori Avey’s strawberry simple syrup recipe and loves it on everything, including fresh brewed sun tea. Any kind of infused fruit syrup could be great though.
Along those lines, if you like strawberry lemonade, try this strawberry sun tea recipe at The Cake Chica (above). A dollop of strawberry compote with the tea poured over just tastes like summer in a glass.
4. Add spice to your sun tea recipe
I tend to default to plain old iced tea bags when I make sun tea, but I’m pushing myself to get more creative with the tea itself and not just the add-ins. I can’t wait to try this homemade chai sun tea recipe from I Cook You Eat, which uses chai tea bags as the base — as you might have guessed.
Next, I am bookmarking this sweet and spicy sun tea recipe at Aspartame.com that uses cloves and cinnamon sticks which I wouldn’t have considered as summery flavors, but sound terrific. (Of course, you can also use sugar, honey, or agave syrup instead of a sugar substitute to sweeten up that recipe.)
Finally, this ginger, lime, mint sun tea at Gourmet Project looks amazing.
Why not try them all? We’ve got nothing but sun…and time these days.