It is summer time and with that hot sun beating down, what could be better than a cold glass of Iced tea?
My family and I are tea lovers and can not wait for that first hot, sunny day in spring, that is when I pull out the glass gallon pickle jar and make sun tea. It is easy to make and brews a delicious mild-tasting tea drink, but is it safe?
The safety of drinking sun tea has been blooming tea balls debated for several years. According to some reports, tea brewed using the sun may harbor a nasty bacteria,alcaligenes viscolactis, that can cause everything from a simple tummy ache to diarrhea or full blown flu-like symptoms. Theoretically speaking, this common bacteria is found in water and may flourish in the environment found in sun tea. Experts say that water heated by the sun only gets to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and that is not hot enough to kill off this bacteria.
So how much of a risk is there in drinking sun tea? Alcaligenes viscolactis lives in the water, it is not magically produced by placing water in the sun. If your tea contains the bacteria, then the bacteria was most likely already in your tap water. That means that you run the risk of becoming ill from any drink that you have made with water that was not boiled for 3 to 4 minutes. However, the warm temperature of sun tea would accelerate a bacterial bloom if alcaligenes viscolactis were present.
During my investigation, I found that even though the danger may exist, there is no known evidence that there has been any illness related to consuming sun tea. In reality, any risk is more likely due to poor food handling techniques rather than from the tea itself.
Here are some common sense tips to keep your sun tea safe to drink:
Always use a clean gallon glass container that has been washed in hot soapy water and then well rinsed.
- Black teas, which contain caffeine, are somewhat better at stopping bacteria from growing.
- Consider avoiding those cute decanters with the built in spigot. It is almost impossible to get the spigot clean and makes a perfect place for bacteria to hide.
- Use filtered water or purified water that has been processed using steam distillation.
- Never leave sun tea brew for longer than 4 hours.
- Use the tea within 24 hours and discard any after 48 hours.
- Keep iced tea refrigerated after brewing.
- Discard any iced tea if it smells sour, gets thick, or you see ropy strand-like particles. This is a sure sign that your tea has become contaminated with bacteria.
- If you do have tea that goes bad, make sure that your brewing container or pitcher is scrubbed in hot soapy water then dipped in a bleach/water solution and finally rinsed well with clean water before using it again.