How to concoct sweet alternatives to sugar-loaded juice

Guest post by Addie Pobst

Photo by Rachel, used with Creative Commons license.
Like many kids his age, my 20 month old son Conan LOVES juice, likes milk, and doesn’t much care for plain water. When we went in for his 18 month checkup in June, our pediatrician told us that we needed to

a) make sure he stayed hydrated during the summer heat
b) give him less milk (24 oz or so a day – including the bedtime bottle)
c) give him less juice

Even the watered-down, no-sugar-added, 100% pure organic fruit juice which we had been giving him was more sugar than he needed, apparently. So what to do, when he just ignored sippy cups filled with plain water? I certainly didn’t want our little juice junkie to get dehydrated.

Enter sun tea. I made the first batch for myself, on a whim, and then discovered that Conan loved it. Now I brew it frequently. “Juice! Juice! Jooooooooooooouice!” he says, and points enthusiastically when he sees me set out the big gallon jar on the fence to brew.

I usally use a fruity tea, like raspberry zinger or berry blast. These are caffeine free, brew up to a bright, deep red or purple color, and taste delicious. I don’t add any sugar, of course, so it helps to choose teas that are naturally sweet and taste great all on their own. It also costs virtually nothing to make, and Conan happily drinks tons of it. Win!

You probably don’t need instructions, but just in case you’ve never made sun tea before, it’s the easiest thing in the world. You don’t need any special equipment, although there are some lovely tea pitchers available if you want to splurge. The basics are as follows:

1. Get a big clear jar with a lid. Wash it thoroughly.
2. Fill it with cold water.
3. Put in some tea bags. I usually use 8 bags for a gallon batch. They don’t all have to be the same kind, you can mix and match to create new flavor blends. For kids, stick to caffeine-free types.
4. Put the lid on and set the jar out somewhere sunny for a few hours. You’ll know it’s done when the color is richly developed, or it’s night time and you forgot to bring it in earlier in the afternoon. Taste it if you aren’t sure.
5. Remove the tea bags, chill & serve.
6. Store it in the fridge until it’s gone. I keep it in the same jar I brewed it in, but you can also pour it into a pitcher for easier serving.

You can add lemon juice, mint leaves, ice cubes, frozen or fresh berries, fruit slices, and even sugar or honey (for adults) to enhance the flavor. Drink up!

Comments on How to concoct sweet alternatives to sugar-loaded juice

  1. My aunt makes sun tea using dandelions and other assorted things she finds in the outdoors. She is an herbologist, but we call her the Witch Doctor. Sun teas are really great and it’s true, you can use about anything!! If you are going to use something from outside, make sure you know what it is and that it is edible first. Calendula flowers are another great option and are 100% free if you can find a patch!

  2. My daughter loves our green tea which we sweeten with a little honey. She’s almost two so we feel ok with the honey and we dilute the tea when we give it to her.

    She doesn’t drink any milk or much juice, she drinks lots of water as long as it’s full of ice. Oh and she nurses lots and lots still.

  3. We do this for our adult selves. It’s sooo cheap. We buy a 100 pack of black iced tea (which is caffeinated) when it’s on sale and make a mason jar of tea for 3 cents! It’s awesome.

  4. I drank this all summer long! I bought a box of mixed berry teas (6 varieties) and I always had some sort of yummy “juice” in my fridge. I hadn’t thought to use it for my kids though so this is a great idea!

  5. You have to be careful with sun-tea, sometimes bacteria can grow in it while it’s brewing, personally I’m a HUGE TEA FREAK!

    I use teavana’s glass tea pitcher:

    and loose leaf teas like:
    Fruita Bomba Green Tea:
    or Rooibos Peach Bloom:

    I don’t mean to sound like an advertisement, I just haven’t ever found anything better! Rooibos is also traditionally given to infants in South Africa because it’s extremely high in vitamin C, good against allergies, and gentle on the stomach. My little River will be drinking Rooibos starting in a few months (she’s exclusively a booby-baby right now).

    • Who can help themselves when it comes to rooibus? I used to drink it occasionally but while I’ve been pregnant and avoiding caffiene it has become my drink of choice. I like to think that the little guy will enjoy it too, when the time is right.

  6. I was gonna mention rooibos, but somebody beat me to it! We drink plain rooibos, but I think it’s great on its own. I’m usually in much too much of a hurry to do sun tea, though, so I make it on the stove in an old-fashioned whistling tea pot. Rooibos is strong enough that one bag makes a whole, big pitcherful of tea (and you can steep it forever, cause it doesn’t get bitter the way black tea does). So it’s even cheaper! =)

  7. erh, can i ask something? what is the difference between sun tea and “regular” tea, made with boiling water and then left to cool? does it taste different?

    • I think the only difference is that sun tea is usually sweeter than “regular” tea, probably because it brews slower. So if you’re going to just do boiling water instead, you might want to add a little extra sweetness to it, depending on your or your kids’ taste preference.

  8. I made sun teas for the first time with my three year old this weekend. She was so proud that she was able to make it mostly by herself and everyone in the family loved it!

    • You can definitely cold-brew things in the fridge. I think it just takes longer, like overnight. And it works best in a sealed container so it doesn’t pick up other flavors.

  9. I love sun tea! I was a coffee drinker and I always took it with tons of cream and sugar and over ice. I wanted a healthier alternative so I switched to tea. I love roobios, and really does taste great in iced form. I found a great website that has awesome roobios tea. My absolute favorite is the roobios rainbow they have. It has a slight amaretto flavor I can’t get enough of. I can’t get over how much cheaper it is to brew a huge jug of tea instead of drinking juice and soda. Yay tea!

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