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The safe way to brew sun tea in Los Angeles


Iced tea photo by Benjamin Earwicker

The hot weather in Los Angeles is a great time to brew sun tea. Making it is a simple technique of filling a glass jar with water and adding loose or bagged tea.

However, there is a growing concern over a bacterium that forms using this method. Alcaligenes viscolactis is bacteria found in water. Because the sun brewing only heats the water to a maximum temperature of 130 degrees, it is not hot enough to kill it. Caffeinated teas protect the brew for a while but not beyond a few hours. Herbals, because they lack caffeine, are the most affected by growth of the microbes.

To safely make sun tea, wash a container and then use a bleach mixture to rinse it. Containers with spigots harbor hidden germs and bacteria. They need to be disassembled and cleaned with each use. If it is not possible to take it apart use another jar or glass brewer.

It is much safer to brew tea in the refrigerator. Fill a container with water, add desired amount of loose or bagged tea and allow to “brew” for 12 or more hours. The result is smooth but highly flavored.

Garden Teas
Choose herbal or fruit teas. Using a vegetable peeler, strip thin pieces of skin from a lemon and/or orange. Add this to the tea jar. When the tea is brewed, squeeze the juice of the fruit and add to the mixture. Herbal and fruit teas taste great with or without sweetener.

Sage leaf tea
Pick fresh sage leaves from your garden and wash to remove grit. Boil one quart of water, add the leaves and let the mixture steep. Adding sweetener and lemon rind or juice makes a delightful and healthy drink. Sage relieves excessive perspiration and helps with hot flashes. Chewing the leaves is beneficial to gums and teeth.

Rose petal tea
Carefully wash about two cups of fresh rose petals. To conserve water, use a container for washing instead of letting water run over petals. Boil three cups of water and pour over clean petals. Steep until the rose petals discolor. Sweeten with honey. Serve warm or cold.

Mint tea
Adding fruit flavored mints to an herb garden brings year-round pleasure. Besides the standard peppermint teas, there is a wide variety of fruit mints like pineapple, lemon, orange, rose and geranium. Add banana, lime, grapefruit and even chewing gum to the list. It is possible to use these mints alone but use any of them with rose petals, black or white teas. The refrigerator method of brewing keeps all flavors true and without distortion.

The benefits of drinking herbal teas fresh from the garden include knowing exactly what went into each plant. Besides the nutritional value of the herbs and plants, the homegrown product is fresh, without questionable pesticides and without loss of value. It reduces footprints on the planet because no transporting is involved, thus making it a very green and eco-friendly contribution with benefits.


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