- Food and Cooking
Using the Power of the Sun to Make Tea
SUN TEA – The Beverage Mother Nature Serves
There is a great way to make some tea without heating up so much a kettle and your kitchen. That is, to use the power of the sun. This is a practice used in the summer time wherein the sun’s energy is used to brew tea, rather than relying on electricity, fire or gas.
I like brewed coffee but I am also a tea drinker, hot or cold, black or green, herbal or regular, loose leaf or bagged tea, etc. I am familiar with the traditional brewing method which calls for boiled water poured on a cup or teapot then left to brew for few minutes before drinking. When I first learned about this great idea of making tea without heating up so much a kettle, and that Mother Nature will do it for me, I wanted to try making one myself. Although technically, it is also pointed out that this method is not completely safe, but I will get to it later. So, I set out to search for a nice clear glass jar (and found one stashed in our basement, only with no spigot). That was good enough because it is glass (not plastic) and it has a lid. The lid does not have to be tight fitting so that pressure will not build up. (Luckily, the one I found did not have a gasket). Clear glass will allow the sun’s rays to penetrate better to the contents. The size of the jar I found is small enough to hold 15-20 cups of tea, which can easily be consumed in a day or two. I filled the jar with water (filtered, ionized, bottled or distilled) and picked a tea. I preferred black tea as it looks more versatile in the jar with or without ice. Besides, the black tea has caffeine which helps inhibit bacterial growth somewhat, unlike an herbal tea which does not have caffeine. I just enhanced the flavor by adding fresh herbs when in the refrigerator and let the flavors infuse.
The sun’s heat was so intense that day and would definitely affect the brewing. So I looked for a spot in our patio/deck that will get full sun for more than 3 hours and let the jar sit there. After about 4 hours, the tea attained a deep hue and had fully infused. I removed the tea bags and discarded them. I tasted it and it was so full of flavor. The flavor can even be enhanced by adding mint, lime or lemon wedges, basil, etc. and let them steep along with the tea. I did not add ice so the taste will be less diluted. I just refrigerated it and poured me a cup or two every time to quench my thirst or refresh myself.
The other option is to sweeten it with maple syrup or sugar. I prefer to drink unsweetened sun tea and just savor the taste of the original ingredients and herbs.
Does Sun Tea have Nutritional Benefits?
We know that tea, in general, has nutritional benefits and is protective against any kind of diseases. Teas are supposed to promote weight loss, help lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer because of the antioxidant properties: polyphenols and phytochemicals. It is likely that sun tea has similar effects. I used oolong tea, and it is known to help in fat-burning or increasing metabolism, then I could still get the same compounds oolong tea has to offer, whether taken hot or cold, boiled or warmed under the sun. I don't think those compounds disappear completely.
However, I have heard and read as much health risks as health benefits in making sun tea, although there is not too many sources cited regarding these risks. The commonly mentioned risk is that it can encourage the growth of bacteria, “alcaligenes Visco lactis”, one of which is commonly found in water, especially when the tea is brewed too long under the sun. Then do not brew it too long. Give it 3 hours maximum or better still, when you see a deep hue or color that looks strong enough for you, you can start refrigerating it. You may leave the tea bag in it to steep more or simply discard it. Consume it immediately as a refreshment (add sugar, herbs or ice later) and share. That way, it will not keep for so long. You can always make another fresh batch. But if this bacteria is commonly found only in water, then it is wise to use distilled, filtered, purified, bottle or ionized water rather than tap water.
In one article, however, it stated that because the water has not boiled hot enough, the polyphenol antioxidants cannot be released. Then think of it as just like drinking plain water. You still get the hydration in this case – and just consider the small bit of antioxidant as a bonus.
For me, making sun tea is an inexpensive way of having a kind of beverage, and an alternative to commercial soda or soft drink that is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Just like any other beverage, sun tea, when cooled or iced, will make a perfect refreshment, especially in the warm weather months. The bottomline, you will save on gas or electric bills, and keep your kitchen cool.
I have also read of another alternative to sun tea - brewing tea in the refrigerator and let it steep and it comes out almost same thing or even better and not to worry about the bacteria to breed. I like that idea, but to me, it is more fun and amusing to watch Mother Nature doing the job of serving tea.
Utilize the power of the sun, folks! It’s free! I am sure the sun was created to bring good benefits, not harm. The sun connotes light. There are even scriptures in the bible that suggest Jesus as the "Sun".* So what harm could the sun bring?
A clear glass container is a better choice than plastic to avoid chemicals in the plastic to contaminate the beverage.
It the container has a spigot, make sure it is well washed and cleaned thoroughly so the bacteria will not harbor in it.
Use distilled, purified, bottled or ionized water. It is safer to use than tap water.
Thoroughly wash the container first with soap and hot water before using to sanitize it, or run it through the dishwasher. This way, the container is sterilized or sanitized and will not allow bacteria to breed in your water when the sun heats up the water to a certain degree or temperature.
Check the surface of the tea for bacterial growth. If you see stringy strands or any tiny specks, discard the tea.
When you also notice that the tea is getting syrupy in consistency, discard it.
As far as bacteria and microbes are concerned, I am still wondering whether "alcaligenes Visco lactis" is a type of probiotic. Our bodies need bacteria after all. I still have to make a research on that. In fact, fermentation is a healthy process to some.
What do you need to make sun tea?
* "For the Lord God is the sun and shield." (Psalm 84:11)
* "The Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing on Its wings." (Malachi 4:2)
* Christ will "shine" on you. (Ephesians 5:14)
* When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, "I am the "light" of the world." (John 8:12)
* I have come into the world as "light", so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46)