We are right in the thick of the dog days of summer and things are super hot all over the country… which means it’s perfect for making sun tea. A sun tea recipe hardly needs a recipe, which is in part why it’s such a a staple in the South —  growing up, I remember my mom’s 80s Sun Tea pitcher (just like the one below!) on the back porch, brewing up sweet tea all summer long.

(Though I would love using this mason jar style 1-gallon glass sun tea dispenser complete with spigot, for easy pouring for the kids.)

However you prepare it, sun tea is great to have on hand for any outdoor get togethers 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 always scrambling for new ideas to keep the kids entertained through the summer.

More than a dozen sun tea recipes and variations to drink all summer long

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Making Sun Tea: Where to Start

To start, I would check out this article about sun tea at Serious Eats, in which J. Kenji López-Alt tests some theories about sun tea. You’ll learn which type of tea leaves make the best tea, whether it’s best to brew in glass or plastic and more. Plus 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.

Related: 12 creative frozen cocktail recipes for cooling down summer: Boozie Slushies, Granitas, Popsicles and More

Sun Tea Recipes:
4 Variations That Change Things Up Deliciously

Once you’ve decided which method to use, let’s talk about sun tea variations. Because this is where you can use add-ins to impart tons of great flavor for sun tea without the 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.

Just, you know, use caffeine-free tea for the little ones. Pro tip.

I also suggest you brew a big jar of plain sun tea to keep on hand in the fridge, then change things up by adding variations for individual servings so everyone can drink it as they like it. But hey, if you all love a big batch flavored the same way, go ahead and have at it with the full jar!

1. Add herbs to your sun tea recipe
Infuse your sun tea with herbs | Peach & Thyme sun tea at Hello Glow

  • 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 All the Nourishing Things. But don’t stop at mint! You can try out fresh rosemary, thyme, or other summer herbs from your garden right now.
  • 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. .

Related: 8 unexpected ways to upgrade your iced coffee

2. Add fresh fruit to your sun tea recipeAdd fresh fruit to your sun tea | Raspberry Lime sun tea at Two Lucky Spoons

Raspberry Lime Sun Tea recipe from Two Lucky Spoons

We’re all about fresh fruit right now, and it’s so easy to slice up whatever fruit you have on hand and add it to your sun tea pitcher before you pour in the water and tea bags.

  • Literally any citrus fruit will work as a sun tea add-in: oranges, lemons, grapefruit…you name it.
  • For 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.
  • This peach sun tea recipe at Binky’s Culinary Carnival helps you make the most of your neighborhood roadside peach stand or farmer’s market spoils.
  • Think out of the box, with a creative watermelon blueberry sun tea recipe from Lemons and Basil. Those are two flavors that are delicious together! It’s fruity and light and kid-friendly.

Related: 6 great iced coffee recipes to fuel the summer months

3. Add fruit syrups or compotes to your sun tea recipe
Upgrade your sun tea with fruit compotes | Strawberry sun tea at The Cake Chica

Strawberry Sun Tea recipe from The Cake Chica

Try pouring your tea into a tall glass over a delicious fruit compote or fruit-infused syrup for just enough sweetness. Here are some fresh ideas:

Related: 12 easy lemonade hacks we love all summer

4. Add spice to your sun tea recipe
Add spices to your sun tea | Chai sun tea recipe at I Cook You Eat

Chai Sun Tea recipe from I Cook You Eat

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 using chai tea bags as a flavorful base.
  • This spiced ice tea recipe at Food.com uses cloves and cinnamon sticks, which I wouldn’t have considered as summ flavors, but sound terrific. Feel free to add sugar, honey, or agave syrup if you want to sweeten yours up.
  • This ginger, lime and mint sun tea at Gourmet Project looks amazing.

I’ve got a lot of sun tea drinking to do this summer!