My mom always said, with the kind of certainty used by parents relaying wisdom to half-listening children, that iced tea is more thirst quenching than water. I don’t know if this is fact or belief, and I’ve never bothered to look it up – because my mom said so, and it certainly feels that way, so that’s good enough for me.
Iced tea in our house was always unsweetened. Black. Lemonless. And brewed in the sun. You put it out in the morning. You do whatever the hell you’re doing in the yard all day (mowing, weeding, swearing at the pool filter, leaning on the fence with neighbors, picking green beans, laying around). You put the tea in the fridge. You put your outdoor shit away, shower up, and a couple hours later, you pour a glass of sun tea over ice. Then you sit down with the paper and your iced tea, and make it clear to your offspring that you’re not to be interrupted, or else.
As a grownup with my own mowing, weeding, green beans, and fences, the sun tea sits on the front steps in the same glass pitcher my mother used. It’s usually herbal instead of black (which is not actually tea, my mom is quick to point out). But to me, tisanes present a ton of subtle flavor options that are caffeine-free and don’t skyrocket me out of my own pants on top of the copious amounts of coffee I also drink.
The first warm, sunny day spent yanking things out of the ground outside makes me stop mid-weed with a giant imaginary light bulb over my head and yell – out loud, usually – “Oh shit! Sun tea!” It’s the summer seasonal special that doesn’t require the work of sweet corn shucking, tomato growing, grill-tending, berry picking. And that makes it even more of a treat.
The best part of sun tea – even better than the inexpensive, sugar-and-chemical-free deliciousness – is that it makes itself. There’s no chopping, stirring, or general farting around – you just put tea bags in water and the sun does the rest. Whether the quenching qualities of the resulting tea are steeped in lore or just tradition, a cold glass is a reward worth barely working for.
Put 4-8 tea bags in a clear glass jar with a lid (8 bags per gallon; scale according to the size of your vessel). If they’re the kind of tea bags with strings, I knot them together so they’re easier to yank out. Fill the container with lukewarm water. Park it in a sunny spot for 4-6 hours. Remove the bags, chill the tea in the fridge. Relax with your paper.