Sun Tea – A Carbon Free Treat

July 2010

Global warming is causing record high temperatures and some of the warmest months on record all around the globe.   These hot summer days as the temperature hover around 100°F on (or 38°C for our metric system readers),  why not smartly harness some of that heat to brew Sun Tea and reduce your carbon footprint and contribution to greenhouse gases?

After all, there’s only so much water that one can drink without craving a flavored beverage every now and then.   But these products are expensive both financial and environmental.   Consider the environmental impact, the significant amount of carbon output from manufacturing and transporting these products to the marketplace.  All this consumes a considerable amount of coal and oil generated energy. 

Then once you purchase the sodas or bottled ice teas, you expand energy hauling it home, keeping it refrigerated, and later having it hauled off and recycled.  That’s a huge amounts of carbon expended during every step of the chain – all of which enlarges your carbon footprint.

Here’s a simple recipe – Put 2 to 3 tea bags into a clean gallon glass container. Fill with water and cap. Place outside where the sunlight can strike the container for about 3 to 5 hours. Sometimes you can put in a few sprigs of fresh mint as well.  Move the container if necessary to keep it in the sun. When the tea has reached its desired strength, put it in the refrigerator. You may or may not want to remove the tea bags at this point, I usually do.

The tea will taste more mellow than what you are used to from using boiling water. We don’t even add sugar because of this nice flavor. The slow seeping has a way of bringing out a slightly different flavor from the tea. Also, because you didn’t use boiling water, you should refrigerate the tea and drink it up pretty quickly – within a day or two. It will not keep as well as iced tea made from boiling water, which is explained below.

I usually mix it up and make sun tea with various forms of herbal tea.  And be sure to just toss your tea bags in your compost pile after the free brewing.

A word of caution.  

Everything has its risks, and according to the Center for Disease Control, brewing tea below the boiling point can facilitate the grow of alcaligenes viscolactis, a bacteria commonly found in water. Boiling tea kills this bacteria if it happens to be in your water supply.  

I’ve never had an issue here in the Washington, DC. area, but just in case, here are a few sensible precautions that will minimize the risk:

  • Use a clean glass container, cleaned with hot soapy water.  Carefully wash any spigots on the container – best to keep it simple and avoid these features.
  • Only brew the tea for 3-4 hours.
  • Refrigerate as soon as it is ready and prepare an amount that will be consumed within a day.
  • Toss old tea out, if there is any of this type of bacteria in you water supply it may start to grow, you’ll see white ropey strands of growth in the liquid- ugh.

We typically brew on summer Saturday afternoons, use it all weekend and toss out any residual on Monday morning.   So it’s pretty simple to reduce your carbon footprint, enjoy a practically free tasty beverage.   Green Blizzard has even made sun tea in the winter months on sunny winter afternoons with a jar strategically placed against a warm sunny wall.

If you are of drinking age, check out the Green Blizzard posting about the sun brewed brandy.

Other Green Blizzard insights on healthy, organic eating:


About the author

Keith Blizzard

A life-long environmentalist, Keith set out on the never ending journey of adjusting his lifestyle to a more sustainable one, with a goal of annually shrinking his carbon footprint. When he looked around for a dependable source of meaningful carbon footprint reduction ideas, it was pretty lame - so he launched Green Blizzard loaded with eco-friendly lifestyle tweaks. When he's not managing Green Blizzard, you'll find him on the trails around Mid Coast Maine with his trusty trail companion mutt, Moose.