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What is Lurking in That Jar of Sun Tea?
It is summer time and the hot sun is beating down, what could be better than a cold glass of iced tea?
My family and I are tea lovers and can’t wait for the first warm, sunny day of spring, that’s when I pull out the gallon glass jar of pickles and make the sun tea. It’s easy to make and mix a great tasting tea drink, but is it safe?
The safety of drinking sun tea has been debated for many years. According to some reports, tea brewed using the sun can harbor a nasty bacteria,alcaligenes viscolactis, which can cause everything from a simple stomach ache to diarrhea or flu-like symptoms. Theoretically speaking, this common bacteria is found in water and can flourish in the environment found in the sun. Experts say that water heated by the sun only comes to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and that it is not hot enough to kill this bacteria.
So how much of a risk there is in drinking sun tea? Alcaligenes viscolactis lives in the water, it is not magically produced by putting water in the sun. If your tea has bacteria, then the bacteria was most likely already in your tap water. This means that you take the risk of getting sick from any drink that you made with water that was not boiled for 3 to 4 minutes. However, the hot temperature of the sun tea would accelerate a bacterial bloom if alcaligenes viscolactis was present.
During my investigation, I found that although the danger may exist, there is no known evidence that there was any disease related to consuming sun tea. In fact, 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 sun tea safe to drink:
- Always use a clean gallon glass container that has been washed in hot soapy water and then rinsed thoroughly.
- Black tea, which contains caffeine, is a bit better at stopping bacteria from growing.
- Consider avoiding these beautiful decanters and built in the claw. It is almost impossible to get the pin clean and make a perfect place for the bacteria to hide.
- Use filtered water or purified water that has been treated using steam distillation.
- Never leave tea in the sun for more than 4 hours.
- Use the tea within 24 hours and discard any after 48 hours.
- Keep iced tea in refrigerator after brewing.
- Discard any iced tea if it smells sour, thickens, or you see stringy, ropy particles. This is a sure sign that your tea has become contaminated with bacteria.
- If you have a bad tea, make sure your container or brewing pitcher is cleaned in hot soapy water, then dipped in a bleach/water solution and finally rinsed thoroughly with clean water before using it again.
I have brewed sun tea for over 20 years and served it to friends and family, young and old with no ill effects, but I am a stickler for cleanliness and proper handling of food. I always wash my hands before preparing my Sun Tea, always clean my container, use filtered water and fresh tea that has been well stored, and promptly refrigerate the product once it’s brewed.
Now that you are aware of the Pros and Cons of making Sun Tea, the choice is yours.
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