It’s summer and that calls for a natural summertime refreshment. Here in the South, there is no more natural summer refresher than iced tea. Sun-brewed iced tea, that is!
Everyone the world over shudders when they first encounter the Southern native’s craving for a tall glass of iced tea. My first tour in Germany brought culture shock to myself and my waiter when I asked for a glass of iced tea. He looked at me most perplexed, but said he thought he could accomplish that. He returned with a crystal clear cup of hot tea with a lonely ice cube rapidly melting away. When I explained what I meant by iced tea, his face froze in horror!! “No! No!” he exclaimed. He kindly informed me that this would be bad for my stomach and interfere with my digestion! I, on the other hand, gently explained to him that (1) I was from the Southern United States, and (2) we are quite accustomed to our iced tea and (3) it not only doesn’t interfere with but rather, enhances our dining experience. I can still recall the look of shock and dread that hung on the poor man’s face as he retreated from my table, mumbling incoherently about crazy Americans not knowing what is good for them and abusing their poor stomachs!
Now, let’s get down to the matter at hand. Brewing Sun Tea is really quite simple. The human work is very little. As the name implies, the sun does all the serious work. You do all the enjoyment. That seems a fair trade-off in these blistering days before us.
You will need at least one Sun Tea Jar, preferably glass, capacity one gallon. Some stores do offer plastic jars, but being a purist, and preferring the benefit of the rich favor of extended brewing time, I opt for glass jars. This is so simple, why not just set out two or three at a time. Once your family tastes this, multiple brew jars will make sense. I prefer to use the family-size tea bags for their convenience, but the regular single-serve tea bags will do just nicely. My brand of tea is Luzianne but others will suffice. Using the family-size tea bag, gather 4-6 bags and suspend them over the edge of the jar lip, holding on to the tags. Fill the jar with COLD water to about 2-3 inches below the collar. Screw on the lid and place your jar on a flat, stable surface in direct sunlight.
If you’re using the single serve tea bags, gather 10 to 14 bags and follow the instructions above. Please DO use only COLD water. Now, your part is done. Go on with the rest of your day’s business. Give the sun 4 to 6 hours to work its magic.
I must warn first-timers that this recipe is meant for serious tea drinkers. Southerners, particularly folks in the country, regard a good tea as a thing of pride and glory. We’re talking serious braggin’ rights, here!! Get this wrong and the old folks will shame-talk about you for decades!!
Your tea should be DARK amber in color. My grandfather was known to throw out a full pitcher of tea if it wasn’t sufficiently dark-brewed. Serious tea drinker, Grandfather Samuel was! Nobody ever under-brewed sun tea twice in his house. Lost a few pitchers tho.
Back home at last? Good, now it’s time to finish the tea. Bring the jar(s) inside and set it or them on the table or counter. Open the jars and remove the tea bags. I like to press the bags and get the very last dregs of tea out of them. Discard the tea bags in the trash. To each jar add one-half cup of sweet cane sugar. Yes, I said sugar. One-half cup will more than suffice to sweeten your sun. Don’t add more until after you have test-tasted the tea. Nobody like overly sweetened tea. Only thing worst is weak,brackish tea.
Follow instructions, youngster and foreigner alike, that means you northern folk who never heard of iced tea before coming down here. Using a long handle mixing spoon, preferably a wooden spoon, stir the tea to completely distribute the sugar. Place the jar(s) in your refrigerator and let chill for about two hours.
For those with no sense of patience, get a tall glass, overfill it with ice cubes and pour the divine liquid into your glass. Savor its rich, dark color and smell its enticing aroma. Garnish with a slice of lemon or a swig of fresh mint if you wish.
Now, wander out on the veranda and sit a spell, gazing upon your backyard view. Perhaps a bird is visiting your feeder, or the sun is seating, or a favorite jazz artist is playing on the radio or stereo inside.
Press the now sweating glass to your forehead and feel its beads of sweat cool your furrowed brow. Take a sip. Take another. Your tastebuds will rejoice as they thank you for this wonder of miracles. Bet you won’t have tea any other way from here on out. Welcome to Sun-brewed Iced Tea. You’re part of the Southern States now.