Is It Safe To Brew and Drink Sun Tea?

Good Questions

Q: I just bought a vintage sun tea pitcher, and I just read that iced tea prepared this way may be unsafe!

Is it true that bacteria may grow during the steeping making it unsafe unless consumed right away? Please tell me this is not true.

Sent by KathleenEditor: This romantic, old-fashioned way of making iced tea is very popular in the summertime. You just place a few tea bags in a big jar of water and let them slowly steep in the hot sun. And technically, yes, this method is not strictly safe. Our reading shows that the 130°F or so that the water reaches is an ideal temperature for harboring (and growing) the bacteria commonly found in tap water. Without a boiling session to kill off this bacteria, there is the chance that they will grow in the sun tea. The caffeine in black tea does inhibit bacterial growth somewhat. (Herbal tea should never be used to make sun tea.)

Here are some sites that talk abou this more in-depth:
Is Sun Tea Safe to Drink?
Bacteria in Sun Tea - At Snopes.
The Dark Side of Sun Tea

Ultimately, will brewing sun tea definitely make you sick? No. In fact, it probably won't, but the risk is there, and it's up to you to evaluate that. On the other hand, it's just as simple (although perhaps less picturesque) to just add tea to cold water and put it in the fridge all night. This will yield excellent iced tea, and it will already be cold. It won't technically be "sun" tea, but you don't need to tell anyone that, right? Not when it's in such a cute jar!

Readers, what are your thoughts on sun tea?

Related: Refreshing Drink for Summer: Cold-Brewed Iced Tea

(Image: Kathleen via email)

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