Summer is my favorite time of year for many reasons. Maybe it’s the warmth of the sun that seems to fill me and everything around me with a feeling of goodness and plenty, relaxation and sharing. It’s the warmth of the sun that lets me shed the restrictive layers of winter clothes that leave me hidden inside much of the year, and allows me to walk the ground barefoot and connected to the earth.
In childhood, the first few weeks of June were always an anxious wait for the freedom of summer, counting down the moments to the last school bell of the year. Summer was a time for fun, and family, and vacations and hobbies. I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten that feeling.
In celebration of my favorite time of the year, the sun, and the warmth it brings, I give you some of my favorite recipes for herbal sun teas. These teas, delicious and cooling on a hot summer day, are just the beginning of what you might accomplish. Anyone with a garden, or even fresh bought herbs from the farmer’s market or grocery store, can experiment and come up with many tasty varieties far beyond what I offer here. You will need a glass sun tea jar. I got mine at the local hardware store in Albuquerque for a good price.
The premise is simple. Add fresh herbs (or citrus) to water. Let sit in the sun for an afternoon, then let it cool overnight in the fridge. Voila! Sun tea. Many herb teas taste great on their own, but if you want to add a sweetener, I recommend raw honey. To name a few benefits- it’s full of vitamins & minerals, it’s antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and it even heals burns. Also try to buy organic, because pesticides will show up in the pollen that makes honey.
Maybe you don’t want to wait a whole afternoon for your happy summer drink. Okay, well then, you can take the sun out of sun tea. Simply pour boiling water into the jar over your fresh herbs. Let it steep for half an hour or more. Then pour your tea into a cup. If you are using raw honey, be sure to add it at this step. (Making raw honey too hot destroys many of its healthy properties.) Add your ice cubes and you’re all set.
Now, if you’re like me, and want to infuse your tea with all the goodness of the sun the old-fashioned way, the recipes are below.
First on the list is Mint Tea. As mentioned before, it could not be simpler:
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves.
My first few undertakings of this tea were rather mild, too mild. The problem was solved by my clever sweetheart, who decided one day to crush the mint leaves. Problem solved. So.
Crush mint leaves in your hand- not too much, you still want them to look pretty, but enough to let some of the plant’s oils into the water. Add them to your sun tea jar and fill it with water. Let sit in the sun on a hot sunny afternoon. Later in the evening put it in the fridge to cool & by the next morning you will have a nice, cooling, refreshing mint water.
I imagine this recipe would be really good with many other herbs: lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, sage, raspberry leaves, a combination of herbs. Experiment and see!
Next we’ll try something that is probably not technically a tea, but is still warmed by the sun. This recipe was inspired by my yearly summer vacations at the beach in my childhood, and a treat my family and I used to share on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey. We always stopped to get fresh lemonade. I don’t remember the vendor, but I sure remember the drink. Lemon slices would float through chilled water, as we would slurp sweet sugar granules up through our straw. Delicious. In honor of that lemonade, I bring you a healthier version that still manages to capture the yummy goodness of my memories.
3 Lemons (or more for stronger taste)
Organic Raw Honey (Local if possible)- Approximately 1/4 cup- more or less to taste.
Cut one of the lemons in half & squeeze the juice from both sides into the glass pitcher. Slice the remaining two lemons and put the slices in the pitcher, too. Fill with water and put in the sun for the afternoon. In the evening when you bring the sun tea back inside, you can add the honey. The warm temperature of the water will help the honey dissolve but it won’t be too hot. Put in the fridge overnight. Enjoy lemonade in the morning.
Okay, my last recipe isn’t exactly a sun tea, but it’s such a delicious summer drink and family favorite, that I had to include it anyway.
1 cup fresh basil (more or less to taste)
1 cup ice
1 Tablespoon raw honey (more or less to taste)
Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and process till you have a thick, delicious shake. Yum! The perfect refreshment on a hot day.
These recipes make great drinks for my significant other’s lunches. I pour them into a re-used glass kombucha bottle and add a sprig of mint or slice of lemon for effect and flavor. He loves it!
Do you have any favorite summer drink recipes?