What Do You Mean You Don’t Know How To Make Suntea

This is so weird I almost don’t know how to bring it up, but — do you guys not know how to make suntea? You do, right? Because I was pretty sure you did but then I found out sometimes people don’t and was bewildered and upset. Obviously I’m going to work on the assumption that you, individual reader, already know about this, because it is such an essential life skill I just can’t even deal with thinking about how you are getting through a day in August without it. So for maybe like some friends of friends of yours who are somehow missing out, here’s the deal.

Suntea is essential because it provides you with iced tea, without which there is no point in even existing during the afternoon in August, but you don’t need an iced tea pitcher (which, where do you even get those? I have never known) and you don’t need to heat water or anything else in your kitchen, or do the thing where you then put hot water in plastic in your refrigerator and wait for it to cool and worry that the hot water is leaching carcinogens out of the plastic and into your drink. Also you don’t have to time the steeping and then try to somehow fish like eight teabags out of a gallon of almost-boiling water so that it doesn’t get too bitter and undrinkable. Anyways. Making suntea is really easy and also avoids all of those problems! Here is how it works:

Take a large Mason-type jar, the largest one you can find. It needs to have a lid. Take a handful of teabags, more than you would use for the same amount of water if it were hot, and put them inside the jar. I like to mix types – mostly black tea with maybe one or two bags of fruity tea, and a handful of fresh mint is very refreshing if you have it. See here:

Did you do that? Good, great, you’re doing really well. Now put it in the sun. Seriously, that’s it. Do you have a porch? That’s probably ideal. A windowsill would probably also work. Maybe the dashboard of your car if you have street parking? I haven’t done this but I imagine it would work. Mostly the key for, you know, the SUNTEA is SUN. Leave it there for like 4-8 hours. I don’t know. Somewhere in there. Until it looks like tea. The magic of this is that the gentle heat from the sun means it never oversteeps, so if you get wrapped up in watching every movie Ellen Page has ever been in and also Trailer Park Boys because it turns out she was in that too it will still be totally fine and delicious twenty-seven hours later. Here is an example of when I decided mine was “done:”

Okay, done! Pour it over some ice and drink it! Are there any questions? No of course there aren’t because all you have to do is put some shit in a jar and then fill it with water. You could literally just pass out for hours after that step. In fact maybe you should. I find it works really well to do this right when you get up, just mix that shit up and stick it out on the porch, and then around noon (or maybe when you get home from work eight hours later) and are all “JESUS who do I have to commitment ceremony around here to get some iced tea” well hey, it’s right there. Are you doing this right now? There is absolutely no excuse not to, unless you have some kind of strong personal reason from your past for avoiding Mason jars or maybe religious restrictions against, I don’t know, things that will make you happy. Anyways what are you gonna put in your tea??

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. We re-used a glass cider jug for ours — and you can get away with, like… 4 bags to the gallon if you leave it out all day.

    But this is like not knowing how to make kool-aid.

      • kool-aid mix + half gallon of water + 1 cup of sugar + stirring = kool-aid

        some people add more or less sugar. also, the mixes that come in canisters don’t even need sugar added.

    • I would die in the post-apocalyptic Kool Aid Jungle without this vital life skill.

      However, I’ve been loving on some sun tea while the gettin’s good. A true summer staple. That, plus home-grown tomatoes and basil. :) mmmm, tastes like nature!

    • I’m not even entirely sure what Kool Aid is, except that there’s a jug that busts through walls.

  2. I want to try this.. But I’m in England, more specifically, north England. We seriously lack sun…

    • i was going to say the same about the netherlands
      our summer happened yesterday. i had to work, now it’s raining again

      • I went to Holland a few years ago, to visit relatives. Oh god, it wasn’t a few, it was ten. Ten years ago. I feel old. Anyway…I was there for two weeks. It was sunny every single day, until the last day, when I got on the plane to go home. I think Holland wants me to live there.

    • It was really cloudy, I had a nap, woke up and its scorching! *Goes out to play*

      Also.. how to make this drink alcoholic?

      • I bought this amazing black tea, it has dried pineapple and coconut in it. suggest NSFW serving involves adding brown sugar and spiced rhum.

        I’d add spiced rhum to any kind of spiced/cinnamon-y/whatever tea.

  3. Suntea! We made suntea when I worked in Shakespeare in the Park a couple of years ago. The set of The Bacchae was essentially a giant reflector/sun-catcher.

  4. You forgot the part where you add sugar. Am I the only Southern-bred-straddler here for whom “iced tea” is pretty much synonymous with “sweet tea” ??

    • You’re not. In the south there is no other tea but sweet tea. I cannot imagine drinking anything else. Also, I’m saying it’s assumed you will add sugar along with the tea. Why would anyone drink it differently?

      • I’ve come to the conclusion that tea in the South is only as sweet as the women who make it. Case in point: my grandmother, one of the bitterest, angriest, rudest women I know, drinks hers plain. My aunt, who is as sweet as the sunshine that pours out of her southern accent, drinks what really should be called iced syrup.

          • You’d better, or people will start to wonder. And I don’t even like tea. Clearly, there is room for expansion/revision in this metaphor. I wish I weren’t too lazy to do it, haha :)

      • i only like sweet tea. or sweet peach tea. but it’s gotta be super sweet. mcdonalds and sonic are good for that though.

      • Sweet tea has its place, but I drink the vast majority of my tea unsweetened. Which is frustrating when out in the world, because almost every bottled iced tea you can buy is sweetened. Usually oversweetened, IMHO. With high fructose corn syrup. Too sweet makes me feel seriously ill.

        Sun tea is awesome. We do an orange tea with either black or green tea. About a 1:1 ratio between the two flavors.

        • I hate bottled sweet “tea”. It doesn’t taste anything like tea. I avoid it at pretty much all costs. I do have a limit for just how sweet my tea can be, but I haven’t managed to develop any love for tea without sugar.

    • I don’t know how I didn’t notice. I guess because when you say iced tea I do, indeed, assume sweet tea. If you want anything other than sweet tea, you have to ask for it specifically.

  5. My ex made sun tea ALL THE TIME. So I can’t really drink it anymore, because, you know, memories.

    • I’m pretty adventurous with tea, but Red Rose has been my standby since I was young. I come from a tea-drinking family.

      btw, the little figurines are not as good as they used to be.

      Question for anyone:

      I’ve been making iced the usual way using a “safe” plastic pitcher, and I seem to be getting mold after just a few days (you know, looks like small jellyfish floating around in there). I’m thinking either my fridge isn’t cold enough or the lid isn’t tight enough. Anyone have this issue? Or know where I can get a larger glass jar? I like to make iced tea in large quantities.

      • Ohhhh wait a minute. I was raised on Lipton tea, weaned if you will, as we were poor and my dad was a salesman for Lipton. Tea is a BIG DEAL. My dad once told me Red Rose bought the ‘reject/dust’ leaves left from Lipton tea. That may be a Lipton Urban Myth, idk.

        Tho I have grown to accept the choices of others, I can never see myself teafully fluid.

        For me, sun tea is not the best ice tea. The best: Lipton tea bags in boiling water, steep, cool, poor over ice. And use glass jars, not plastic, multiples if you want to make boatloads.

        • “My dad once told me Red Rose bought the ‘reject/dust’ leaves left from Lipton tea.”

          Lol. I’m pretty sure they both use the reject dust from like, Twinings-level teas, who in turn use the reject leaves from higher quality loose tea companies. It’s like the used clothing life cycle hierarchy but for teas.

      • Check your local Goodwill. Sometimes if you’re willing to sort through all the gummy tupperware and discarded spatulas, you can find some nice big glass or ceramic jars.

        Srsly, when I’m in the US I pretty much supply my entire kitchen from Goodwill. The only other thing in my budget is Walmart or Dollar Tree and those things break if you look at ’em wrong.

        • yeah, good idea. I’m sure I could just buy a bunch of smaller ones there, too. One can never have enough Mason jars…

  6. “The magic of this is that the gentle heat from the sun means it never oversteeps, so if you get wrapped up in watching every movie Ellen Page has ever been in and also Trailer Park Boys because it turns out she was in that too it will still be totally fine and delicious twenty-seven hours later. ”


  7. I had no idea what suntea was until I read this article. I think if I left anything outside in the sun it would get stolen. I love New York.

  8. Suntea is fantastic, but it reminds me of 6th grade when we had to cook hot dogs using only a shoe box, paper towels, aluminum foil, and sun.

  9. fuck yeah, i love suntea!!! we really need some in chicago right now, we’re getting a hella heatwave!!!

  10. wow. i didn’t know what suntea was, but iced tea isn’t really a thing here, even in summer, and also it’s currently minus two point five degrees celsius and i have a thousand clothes on and would totally commitment ceremony someone for a hot chocolate.

  11. I’ve actually never had sun tea before. Now I have a jar of what is slowly becoming peach white tea on the deck.

  12. This takes me back to my childhood. My mom made suntea all the time. It tastes so much better than the stuff that comes out of the iced tea maker, IMO.

  13. i didn’t know how to make suntea but now i do know how to make suntea so it’s not awkward.

  14. until you clarified that it was sun-tea, I assumed it was pronounced soon-tay-ah.

    god, I’m such a fucking hipster.

    a hipster that will soon be making suntea.

    • oh man, you know that before long some pretentious cafes are going to be selling suntea for ridiculous prices, and then everybody’s going to go around calling it soon-tay-uh and thinking themselves really cultured, and then if you say sun-tea, they’ll look at you like you’re dumb.

      just wait.

  15. I associate sun tea with my mom and my mom with guilt. I am also not a big fan of iced tea. The mystique of making-things-out-of-jars-and-sunshine is so appealing, though. Isn’t there anything else you can cook with sunlight on your back porch? Other than children and sensitive houseplants?

  16. The heat from the sun is not gentle where I live, it prefers to act like a vengeful being who wants you dead.

  17. I like this! However, no matter what I do I keep mentally pronouncing it SunteAHH. SunteAHH! Yes I am sober, why do you ask.

    • I did exactly the same! I saw the word Suntea and was like, is that a cocktail or something? It didn’t even click it was tea until I read more…

  18. How have I not only lived in the scorching desert all my life, but also drink tea every single day since I was 5, and not have a clue about sun tea? This is going to be my new obsession. Thank you, Rachel!

  19. love this! growing up summer’s were defined by playing in the fields next to my grandparents house, helping grandpa garden and drinking grandma’s suntea.

    wow now my childhood sounds “little house on the prairie” cheesy but either way Grandma’s suntea is the best!

  20. I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THIS. Maybe it is an American thing and my little Australian existence has been sheltered from this brilliant idea. So doing this in summer.

  21. I’ve never understood making iced tea by making it hot and the letting it go cold in the fridge. I put pour about an inch of hot water of the tea bags, squeeze them until it’s as strong as I will want it to be once it’s diluted, and then fill the rest of the jug with ice water. Give it a mix and you’re good to go.
    I do the same for iced coffee, just enough hot water to dissolve the coffee, and then fill the rest of the glass with cold milk.

    • Yeah, I’ve always been really skived out by leaving water out all day in bacteria breeding temperatures.

    • I have OCD and even I am not worried about sun tea.
      Scrub up your container real well and eye it after it’s made. Just to make sure it doesn’t look thick or syrupy like snopes said.
      Everyone has their own personal limits, so if the chance of microbes is too scary, there’s always the kettle. But for a nice glass of sun tea I’m willing to take a chance.

  22. You can do pretty much the same thing by just sticking it in your refrigerator for the same amount of time. But it’s not quite as romantic as letting something simmer in the sun.

  23. my apartment is awkward facing and i have no patio so i’m going to try the dashboard thing i think. or i have a truck i could always just stick it in the bed…and if the homeless guy that goes through our trash steals it i’ll have just done my good deed for the day

  24. I’m beginning to think that I’m the only person on the planet who does not like tea.

    On the other hand, I could make this and surprise my girlfriend with it. Score!

  25. im upset because i dont like iced tea. except i learned i sortof like one kind of “iced tea” i have an extreme addiction to jeremiah weed roadhouse tea which is this shitty, sweet, probably full of calories spiked iced tea in a can. we dont have it in canada. last time i went to america i brought back more than 3 times the legal limit of alcohol you can bring into canada. i lied at customs.

    also, im assuming canadian customs doesnt read autostraddle, right? right.

    also (again) im really excited you mentioned ellen page being on TPB because i saw her on that show before i even saw her in movies and oh man that show is like my childhood (seriously, i was 11 and we watched it as a family)

  26. I live in NYC so I have no real terrace or anything to put my suntea on, so it’s currently resting precariously on my air conditioner. I live on the 11th floor. This should be interesting.

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