I make sun tea all the time. But I make it in small quantities so it gets used up faster. I use very hot water to make the tea and let it "brew" in the refrigerator overnight for use the next day. If I do brew it in the sun, it is just for an hour or so, just to get the brewing started and then into the refrigerator it goes. Here is some more information:
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension
SafeFood Rapid Response Network
Is Sun Tea Safe?
Using the natural rays of the sun to make tea is fun and popular in the summer. However, using such a method to make tea is highly discouraged. Sun tea is the perfect medium for bacteria to grow. If the sun tea has a thick or syrupy appearance, it may be due to the presence of a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis
. Ropy bacteria are commonly found in soil and water.
Several years ago in Ohio and Washington, several people became ill after drinking tainted ice tea. In Washington it was determined that the tea had been made with tap water only heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and left to sit at room temperature for more than 24 hours. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association recommend the following when making tea.
- Brew tea bags at 195 degrees F for three to five minutes.
- Brew only enough tea that can be consumed within a few hours.
- Never maintain brewed tea for more than eight hours at room temperature. Discard any unused tea after eight hours.
- Wash, rinse, and sanitize tea-making equipment regularly.
- Instead of making "sun tea," brew tea overnight in the refrigerator as you would in the sun.
- Store tea bags in a dark, cool, and dry place away from strong odors and moisture. Do not store in the refrigerator.
Adapted from "Bacteria-filled iced tea can cause illness," Fort Collins Coloradoan, June 12, 1996, Pat Kendall.