Summertime Sun Tea

What’s a girl to do when it’s a hundred degrees outside and moving to Antarctica sounds like a good idea?  Make sun tea, of course!  With July 4th celebrations coming up, everyone is in need of some cool refreshment.  To put it simply, Summertime Sun Tea is the drink of sunshine and rainbows…colorful, nourishing, and just plain delicious!

Sun tea is a method of slow cold water brewing.  This technique produces a gentler tea infusion that’s crisper and clearer than teas brewed the traditional way.  Cold water brewed teas also have less caffeine and are less bitter since the process of steeping isn’t as harsh.

Today I’m using Elmwood Inn’s best-selling Kentucky Black Tea to make my Summertime Sun Tea.  The Kentucky Blend is a Chinese black tea made from tea leaves that originate from Yunnan (Southwestern China) and Anhui (Eastern China).  This blend is my favorite standard black tea because it’s robust without being overwhelming.  It has a rich flavor with sweet grassy notes, and complements fresh fruit flavor extremely well.

I gave up sodas just last summer and haven’t looked back since.  Being obsessed with teas and herbals like I am, this wasn’t as hard to do as I thought it would be.  Summertime is the best time to get over a soda addiction.  It’s the time when fruits and veggies are most plentiful, and this way you’ll never get bored.

Here are some of my favorite iced tea, fruit, and herb steeps.  Some flavor pairings are more adventurous than others, but all of them are delicious in their own unique way.  As always, it’s a very good idea to buy organic fruits if you can.  And as a side note, starchy fruits won’t work well in tea-fruit steeps.

My Favorite Iced Tea & Fruit Combos:

1.  Peaches & Blueberries (with black tea)

2.  Oranges & Mint (with oolong)

3.  Pineapple & Strawberries (with rooibos)

4.  Cucumber & Mint (with green tea)

5.  Strawberry & Basil (with green tea)

6.  Peach & Rosemary (with black tea)

7.  Mango & Ginger (with oolong)

8.  Apple & Spearmint (with green tea)

9.  Grapefruit & Strawberries (with green tea)

10.  Pitted Cherries & Lemon (with black tea)

At any gathering, it’s important to consider those who are going caffeine-free.  Fruit water is the ideal treat for this crowd.  Again, use any fruit that you prefer in these waters, just try to make sure that the fruits aren’t overly ripe so that the water doesn’t get too cloudy.  There’s no need to “sun” these fruit waters.  Simply mix them up and place them in the fridge or in ice a few hours before serving.

I like to call the fruit water steep in the photo above my “Fourth of July Water” because it looks so festive and patriotic.  Generally, the strawberries like to float and blueberries like to sink.  There it is…red, white, and blue!

Say goodbye to sodas this year with some wholesome Summertime Sun Tea.  Salads, burgers, ribs…these yummy, portable drinks are a perfect match for any hot weather-themed meal.  Just a few sips and your picnics and barbeques will never be the same!

Summertime Sun Tea

What You’ll Need:

mason jars with lids


tea bags, regular or decaf, one for each jar

distilled or spring water (cold or at room temperature)

fruit (not overly ripe, cut into slices or small pieces, & preferably organic)

mint, basil, or other fruit-friendly herbs



a place in the sun…

a large tub with lots of ice (or a fridge)


1.)  Sterilize the jars/lids or wash the mason jars and lids thoroughly with very hot water and soap.  Rinse well.  This step is essential to prevent bacterial growth.  We aren’t canning here but we still want to take proper precautions.

2.)  Place 1 tea bag in each mason jar, cutting off the string part of the tea bag if necessary. Pour cold distilled water into the jar leaving a 1 1/2″ clearance under the rim  (you want room to fill the fruit in later).  Screw lid on mason jars tightly.

3.)  In hot weather under direct sunlight, place the jars of lid-covered tea to brew.  In weather above 90 degrees F you can easily do this in one hour.  Set a timer to keep track of time.  (If it’s not hot where you are or you simply don’t like this sunning method, just park the tea in the fridge to steep for 6-8 hours.  You’ll get the same end result.)

4.)  After 1 hour, take the jars of tea out of the sun.  Open jars and use tongs to place fruit slices/pieces or herbs into each jar.  Screw lids on tightly.  Plunge the mason jar teas into a tub of ice or place them in the fridge for easy drinking later.

***Entertaining Tip:   If you are serving these at a party put a small tub or container next to the tub of sun teas.  Guests can drop the jar lids in when they start sipping. 

73 thoughts on “Summertime Sun Tea

    • Hey Angie! You are too kind. I have random tea related thoughts floating in my head all day. I thought of these on Monday morning, when I realized I had an excess number of mason jars lying around. There’s something so homey and distinctively American about mason jars that I couldn’t resist doing something with them for July 4th. :) So glad you liked the idea!

  1. These are so pretty, and they look so easy! It makes me want to go back to the US for a backyard BBQ. A nice lightly brewed black tea sounds fantastic.

    • Buri-chan, if they make you want to come back to the US then I know I’ve done a good job! This is a random question but does black tea cost more then green tea in Japan?

      • Hmm… not that I’ve noticed? I think most people have a taste for green tea which is why you’ll find more varieties of it available in tea speciality shops, but if you go to a cafe, black tea is more likely to be on the menu than green tea. Perhaps there is a difference in perception of their use as beverages–black tea is something to sip slowly and serve in a Western tea cup, green tea is something to drink like water from a Japanese tea cup. Tea preparation, too—if you’re more accustomed to drinking green tea at home then you may have more confidence at preparing that than preparing black tea, but on the flip side, if you’re not accustomed to preparing green tea then you might be more afraid of scorching it!

  2. Love the idea of cool and refreshing tea especially in those mason jars, perfect for a picnic or BBQ! Your guide on what fruits to pair with what tea is very helpful. Strawberry and basil sounds great with green tea :)

  3. Do you take the tea bags out before you put the fruit/herbs in?
    My mom is a sun tea addict, so I’m sure I’ll try this at our next gathering! Thanks for the ideas!

    • Hey Amy! Actually, no, I don’t. The time the tea spends in the sun is only an hour, and the tea I use doesn’t easily oversteep in cold water so I don’t have to. However, if you notice the tea is brewing really strong/dark after an hour then go ahead and take it out before placing the fruits/herbs in. Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by! :)

  4. This is the best idea for 4th of July and the lighting on the pictures makes it look so pretty! But I was wondering where you got the mason jars if you can remember. Everyone seems to be using them and I have no idea where to get some. So thanks a lot if you can help! :)

    • Hi Genny! I got them from my local market in California (Vons). You can usually get them at any craft store (like Michaels) or even Target or Walmart. Oh, and even Home Depot sells them too! Michaels sells them in singles and the rest of the places sell them by the pack (like 12 or more). Thanks for the kind words and hope this helps! :)

  5. Gorgeous presentation and fabulous ideas. I’m positively thirsty and so inspired devouring this beautiful post.

    Happy and cool 4th!

  6. I always learn so much from you, Bonnie! Who knew you could brew tea under the sun? And I’ve never been a soda drinker (the carbonation hurts my tongue!) so I’ve always been an avid water drinker! :)

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  10. LOVE IT! I thought I was one of the only people who knew about sun tea. O kind of figured it was a Southern thing since it’s something my Mom does.

  11. Great ideas! Two questions
    1- when do you remove tea bags? After the 1 hour steep?
    2- if I make a bunch at one time and put fruit in them, how long can I leave them in the fridge? Will the fruit start to look yucky? Should I take the fruit out after a certain point?

    Thank you!

    • For the tea that I use (Elmwood Inn’s Kentucky Blend) I only steep for 1 hour out in a very hot sun (90 degrees F or above). I would say for most black teas this would be a good amount of time. The best I can tell you is to check the brew after an hour…if it’s still a light brew, then just leave the tea bags in when you thrown them into the ice. At that point, cold brewing is very slow and it’s unlikely you will oversteep. They will last in the fridge for a day or two (remember you are adding the fruit after the “sunning” step). For prettiest results, drink them within 24 hours as the fruit will get start to get overly saturated. You are so welcome, hope you enjoy! :)

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  13. I love this idea! I am a big tea drinker and cannot wait to do this. One question, do you take the tea bags out right before serving or drinking, or do you leave them in while drinking? I noticed you can leave them longer for cold steeping, but do you actually take them out? Can’t wait to try :)

    • Hi Karen!
      So, taking out the tea bags is really a preference thing. I would say only take them out if it looks like the tea is getting to strong/dark, or if, perhaps, you simply don’t like the look of them. Since these would be popular at casual events like a summer party or BBQ, and also because the tea I use (the Kentucky Blend) doesn’t overstep easily, I went ahead and left mine in. Hope this helps, and thanks so much for stopping by!! :)

  14. I have a question and I was wondering can u put the fruit slices in along with the tea and water at the begining. And just let the tea steep along with the fruit in there? Instead of doing it the way u said to do it in the mason jars

    • Hi Mary!
      So if you actually use the outside “sunning” method I would say no, don’t add the fruit slices in at the same time. The fruit is added at the end of steeping and right before being plunged into an ice water bath because cut fruit harbors bacteria, so you wouldn’t want it to be sitting out in the sun for an hour without temperature control. However, if you use the cold method of brewing (in the fridge overnight) you can definitely add both the tea bag and cut fruit at the same time. Thanks so much for stopping by and hope this helps :)

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  17. I made these with peach slices and a some with red raspberries last weekend for a cookout. They were a HIT! My Gram always made us sun tea in our own mad on jars but for some reason… nobody ever thought about adding anything!!! Thanks for the AWESOME idea!!!!

  18. This looks so fun and I am getting ready to have family here for a few days, so I want to try this. I read all your comments and questions, but here is one more for you if you don’t mind. I was wondering if I can make the sun tea up and keep in fridge. Then when ready to use, can I just add the fruit that morning. Say, if I just want to have 6 of the jars on hand incase needed. Wondering how long the tea stays good in fridge without the fruit? And I realize that I would need to add fruit and give time to produce flavor.

    • Hi Debbie, sure, you could brew the sun tea for an hour, then place it in the fridge and add the fruit later. Depending on when you plan on serving, I would watch for over steeping though. If you notice this, you can take the tea bags out using a clean pair of tongs. The tea should be fine in the fridge for a few days. And yes, do add the fruits at least a few hours before serving for them to give off flavor. Hope you have a wonderful time serving these, and thanks for stopping by! :)

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  22. Hi there, I love this idea and would love to feature this on Swanky Decors ( If you approve, i’ll post an image and a link back to you for all your ideas. I couldn’t find an email address anywhere, so I hope you don’t mind! Thanks

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  24. What size mason jars do you use? I like to drink a large glass of tea. Would you get the larger mason jars and use two tea bags and increase the fruit? This sounds wonderful. Right now I use 10 black tea bags in a gallon picture with hot water and leave it out on the counter for a few hours and its perfect, then add lemon and Splenda. But it’s getting boring!! I’d love a new change.

    • Hi Julie. I use a 16 ounce jar for the teas. How many tea bags you use depends on the brand. If you want really strong tea and use a larger jar, I think you could go ahead and use 2 tea bags. If you see that the brew is getting too dark, just take the tea bags out. Hope this helps, and thanks for stopping by!

  25. Love this idea!! My ittle grandchildren always want to share my drink. Now they can have their own fun mason jar and I won’t have to worry about “sugar monkey’s” floating on top when I get it back. I love my grandchildren…just not their “sugar monkeys”!! LOL

  26. Living in the south means sugary sweet tea to lots of people. With that said, when should it be added? I usually melt it down with water to a syrup and add to tea… Or would it be best to just let them add their own??? Really looks great, though!

    • Hi Sandy! Yes, I would suggest letting your guests add the sugar syrup on their own after the tea and fruit have had a chance to steep. The fruit adds sweetness all on its own, so this way people can add the syrup to-taste. Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by!


    • Thank you so much Tonya, there should be a Pinterest button at the bottom of the post. You could also add it at the Pinterest site by pressing the “+” button and pasting the link. Thank you so much! I’m working with a graphic designer to revamp my site, so that Pinterest button will be much more obvious soon! :) Happy Thanksgiving!

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