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Easy Sun Tea Recipe

This sun tea recipe will bring back so many fantastic childhood memories!

It’s nostalgic, extremely refreshing, and crazy-versatile to boot.

Spiked sun tea, anyone?

Tall, Cold, and Refreshing Glass of Sun Tea with Ice, Lemon, and Mint
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Remember when people would brew pitchers of tea out in the sun? It was a southern summer staple, and I’m not sure why we stopped.

So today, let’s bring back a family fave that’s as comforting as a day lying in the grass.

If you’ve never tried a sun tea recipe before, don’t worry: I’ve got one right here that’s foolproof.

Let’s get to it!

What is Sun Tea?

Sun tea is a classic summer drink typically made in southern states. To make it, add tea bags and water to a pitcher, then leave it to brew at room temperature for a few hours. Usually left on a window sill, sun tea steeps in the sun until it’s potent. When ready, it can be sweetened or garnished.

Pitcher of Sun Tea with Tea Bags Sitting in the Sunshine on a White Marble Table

Is Sun Tea Safe to Drink?

Sun tea is typically safe to drink, and the chances of it making you sick are very low. That said, brewing tea in the sun means it will only heat up to 130°F – no matter how hot it is outside. That temperature isn’t hot enough to kill bacteria, so there is always a chance you could get sick.

So, while no one really gets sick from drinking sun tea, it also isn’t exactly safe to drink.

To dig a little deeper, consider that tea is usually brewed in hot or boiling water. That extreme heat kills all the bacteria that live in warm conditions.

In fact, 130 degrees Fahrenheit is a prime temperature for bacteria growth. So, it might not be the best option for you if you’re susceptible to illnesses or are already sick.

But again, the chances of sun tea making you sick are very low to almost none. 

At the end of the day, it’s up to you if you want to take the risk.

Two Tall Glasses of Sun Tea on a White Marble Table, One with a Mint Sprig for Garnish and the Other with a Lemon Wheel

How to Ensure Sun Tea is Safe to Drink

Luckily, if you’re still determined to try sun tea, there are measures you can put in place to ensure it’s safe to drink.

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Here’s how to ensure sun tea is safe to drink:

  • Use a sanitized container.
  • Use filtered, distilled, or pre-boiled water.
  • Stick to black tea as caffeine helps suppress the growth of bacteria. 
  • Don’t add sweeteners and/or garnishes while the tea is out in the sun, as they may promote further bacteria growth.
  • Don’t leave the tea out for over 4 hours.
  • Remove the tea bags and bring the tea to a boil once you take it out of the sun to kill any bacteria it’s been exposed to.
  • If you notice your tea is thick or syrupy, throw it out.
    • That means it’s contaminated with a rope-like bacterium called Alcaligenes viscolactis.
    • These bacteria are not safe to ingest.
  • Strain the tea and refrigerate it right away to stop bacteria growth.
  • Brew and drink the tea on the same day.

How to Make Sun Tea

1. Fill a pitcher with water and arrange tea bags on top.

It doesn’t have to be a sun tea pitcher. It just has to be large enough to hold the water.

Lay the tea bags on the rim of the container, so they float in the water.

Cover the container and secure the tea bags in place.

2. Let the tea brew in the sun for 4 hours.

Set it out on the front step, porch, or any place that has direct exposure to sunlight.

If you can put it on a stone or concrete surface, that’s better. This will speed things up.

Let the tea steep for 2-4 hours.

3. Garnish and serve.

Remove the tea bags immediately after brewing. Sweeten it with your choice of sweetener – I like honey.

Garnish with lime slices or strawberries and serve with ice. Enjoy!

Tea Bags Steeping in a Glass Pitcher on a White Marble Table in the Sunshine

The Best Tea for Sun Tea

You can use any flavor of tea, but for a true southern sun tea recipe, stick to black.

Not only does black tea have the boldest flavor, but the caffeine in it will also help inhibit the growth of bacteria.

Any brand works, but I highly recommend Yorkshire Gold. It’s the crème de la crème of tea!

Tips and Tricks

  • Let the tea sit on a surface made of concrete or stone. These surfaces absorb heat well, allowing the tea to brew much faster.
  • Besides sugar, you can also sweeten the tea with flavored simple syrup. No-calorie sweeteners are also great for when you want a refreshing beverage without added sugar.
  • Use 1 tea bag per cup of water. But when making a larger batch, add an extra bag or two.
  • Don’t squeeze the tea bags! It won’t make your sun tea more flavorful, only bitter.
  • Be sure to make sun tea on a sunny day. Without the sun, the tea won’t brew.
  • Try spiked sun tea! Add lemon vodka or bourbon for a grown-up version.
close Up of Two Tall Glasses of Sun Tea on a White Marble Table, One with a Mint Sprig for Garnish and the Other with a Lemon Wheel

How Long Should You Steep Sun Tea?

Sun tea should steep for 2-4 hours, with 4 hours being the absolute maximum. Sun tea may only need 2-3 hours to brew if it’s very hot outside. Also, if you like a milder flavor, 3 hours should be enough. For a fuller flavor, or if you have a large batch, let it steep for 4 hours (never longer).

More Summer Drinks You’ll Love

Chick-Fil-A Lemonade
Texas Roadhouse Strawberry Margarita
Starbucks Pink Drink
Starbucks Chai Tea Latte
McDonald’s Caramel Frappe

Easy Sun Tea Recipe



Prep time


Sun Brewing





This sun tea recipe will bring back so many childhood memories! It’s nostalgic, extremely refreshing, and crazy-versatile to boot. Spike sun tea, anyone?


  • 6 – 8 black tea bags

  • 1 gallon water (filtered preferred)

  • 1 cup sugar or sweetener (optional)

  • Lemon slices and strawberries, for garnish (optional)


  • Pour water into a container with a lid. Arrange the tea bags around the rim of the container, so they float on the water. Put on the lid, using it to secure the tea bags in place.
  • Set the container outside under direct exposure to the sun. Let it sit for 4 hours, or until the tea is brewed to your liking.
  • Take the tea inside and remove the tea bags. Sweeten the tea with sugar or sweetener, if using. Garnish with lemon slices and strawberries, if using. Serve with ice. Enjoy!

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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