If you are still making Sun Tea, be aware that it is not recommended by The Tea Association of the USA as an acceptable means of steeping tea. The reasons concern both taste and safety.
Tea, being an agricultural crop is subject to contamination by bacteria, as is virtually every food or beverage item that is consumed. While careful attention is exercised during the process of the tea leaves there is always the risk of post- production contamination. While this is of little concern if tea is prepared following the guidelines of the Tea Association. There are potential concerns about Sun Tea for
the following reasons:
- The containers used may be dirty or become contaminated during the long exposure in the sun and ambient air or the hands of the preparers may not be sufficiently clean.
- The temperature of the water used for steeping sun tea generally is insufficient to kill off any bacteria that may be present.
- The conditions typically present by leaving water in the sun are ideal for the growth of bacteria (low temperatures and long periods of time.)
- To maximize the taste of the tea and to realize all the healthy properties the water used to steep the tea should be close to the boiling point and the steeping time is ideally between 3 and 5 minutes.
If you do make Sun Tea and it has a thick or syrupy appearance, it may be due to the presence of a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes Viscolactis commonly found in soil and water. Discard immediately and sanitize the container. A few years ago, several people became ill after drinking tainted iced tea. It was determined that the tea had been made with tap water only heated by the sun to 130˚F and then left to sit at room
temperature for more than 24 hours. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and The Tea Association of the USA recommend the following when making tea:
- Brew tea at 195˚F for three to five minutes.
- Brew only enough tea that can be used within a few hours.
- Never keep brewed tea for more than eight hours at room temperature.
- Wash, rinse and sanitize tea-making equipment regularly.
- Instead of making Sun Tea make tea (cold brew) overnight in the refrigerator as you would in the sun.