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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

The Dangers of Sun Tea

Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Here in the U.S., about 85% of tea consumed is black tea and iced. The heat of the summer is the perfect time to enjoy a tall glass of refreshing iced tea, but how you brew it is an important step to keeping you safe.

When exactly "sun tea" appeared is a bit of a mystery, but I certainly have fond memories of this practice on the porch of our family farmhouse. However, come to find out, this practice can come with some risks. Tea that is made with cold or room temperature water and left to brew out on the counter all day or kept in a jar under the sun, is at a higher risk for bacterial growth. The water simply doesn't get hot enough to kill potential microorganisms that can be found in tea leaves, leaving a petri dish of tiny microbes just waiting to get you sick.

When brewing tea, heat water to 195°F and allow to steep for 3-5 minutes. Pour in a pitcher over ice and refrigerate after brewing. Be sure not to store brewed tea at room temperature for more than 8 hours. Tea can have many health benefits, including a protective role against heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancers, such as colon. This largely comes from teas antioxidants, called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect the body from free radicals, which can damage cells and lead to chronic diseases. All forms of tea, whether black, green, white or oolong have different health benefits to them. Of course, you'll need to avoid the southerner's sweet tea by adding no to very little sugar. And brew safely without the use of the sun!

Minty Green Tea Lemonade (Printable PDF)

4 cups water

3 tea bags green tea

1 can (12 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate

2 ½ cups water

½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

Heat 4 cups water to 195°F; remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for about 4 minutes until the strength you like. In 2-quart pitcher, combine all ingredients; chill at least 2 hours. Strain, if desired. Serve in ice-filled glasses. Garnish with lemon wedges.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 70 calories, 0 grams fat, 10 milligrams sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams protein

Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension, "Summer Equals Time for Tea" by Dee Decker