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Sun tea is the perfect drink for cruising families. The ingredients take up minimal storage room, it’s easy to make, only requires three basic ingredients, tastes smooth, and is easily customizable. In fact, it’s so simple to make that the kids can do it…unsupervised. Really. It also holds a special place in my summer childhood memories. Maybe you can relate?

How do you make sun tea? 

On Purrfect, we usually start a batch of sun tea in the morning before we start boatschool. We make a concentrated brew then water it down using this pitcher system. (It’s also great for making lemonade and flavored water, but my favorite feature…I can lay it on it’s side in the fridge and not worry about it leaking.)

When posting this, I noticed the pitcher system I purchased isn’t currently available. You can still get the smaller pitcher and the larger pitcher separately. You can even save yourself a few bucks by getting this larger pitcher instead. It doesn’t have the infuser cup for the lid, but the lids are interchangeable. A great feature!

What you need to make a 1/2 gallon of tea: 

8 tea bags (We prefer 1/2 green tea & 1/2 black tea.)
1/2 gallon of water
1/2 – 1 cup sugar

What you do: 

  1. If your tea bags have strings, de-string them, then put the tea bags in the infuser cup and attach it to the lid. (You don’t need a fancy pitcher to make sun tea. My mom used a big pitcher and draped the paper tags over the side so the lid would make sure they didn’t drop in the water.)
  2. Using the smaller pitcher, fill it with water and screw on the infuser lid.
  3. Put the pitcher out in the sun and leave it there for 3 – 5 hours. Of course, living on a boat means you’ll likely have to move the pitcher at some point to keep it in the sun – tidal currents, earth’s rotation, and all. (You’ll see the solution growing gradually darker throughout the day.)
  4. Your brew will be finished in as few as 3 hours for a mild flavor or up to 6 hours for a strong flavor. (Your kids will likely be peeking at it all day reminding you a gazillion times that they can’t wait to have a glass, so move on to the next step in 3+ hours or ‘whenever you reach your threshold of their ‘helpful’ reminders’. 🙂
  5. To sweeten – take advantage of the sun’s work and dissolve the sugar now while the brew is warm. The amount of sugar you use will depend on how sweet your crew likes it. My kids would prefer I use a full cup of sugar, but I typically only use 1/2 a cup and they deal just fine. Stir stir stir or lid on and shake shake shake.
  6. In your bigger pitcher, fill it 1/2 way full with water. (On land, I’d fill it 1/2 way with ice instead, but ice is a luxury on our boat, so we save our ice for our glasses.) * Now add the sweetened brew to the pitcher. Lid on and shake shake shake.
  7. Grab a few glasses, put a few ice cubes in each, and pour yourself some yum.

*Our favorite way to dress up sun tea is our recreation of a ridiculously refreshing beverage we had on a super hot day at Frigates in Rock Sound. We add 1/4 cup of lime juice to the pitcher before shaking. Add a few ice cubes to your glass, fill it 1/2 way with lemon lime soda and the rest with sun tea. Add an additional splash of lime juice, mix, and enjoy. So refreshing!


  • You can make sun tea in super small doses or ginormous batches. The ratio you’ll need is 1 tea bag per 8 oz. of water.
  • Sun tea is easily customizable. The possibilities are endless…
    • Like mint? Try a batch of peppermint tea and sweeten it with honey instead. 
    • Using herbal tea makes pretty colors. (Hibiscus flowers make an especially nice pink hue.)
    • Can’t decide between lemonade and sun tea? Make a 1/2 and 1/2 pitcher and you’ve got yourself a yummy Arnold Palmer!
  • Did your batch not have enough tea flavor? There are a few things to try next time: let it steep longer in the sun, use less water, or try adding an additional tea bag or two before brewing.
  • A word of caution. When we started making sun tea on the boat, I didn’t sweeten the pitcher. Instead, everyone sweetened their own glass using a simple syrup I keep in the fridge. Things did not. go. as. planned. The kids would practically drain the entire simple syrup container after one drink. 😮 So, we reverted to sweetening the pitcher to save our sugar stores…and my sanity.
  • If you have any sun tea leftover (a rarity on our boat), put the pitcher in the fridge to chill. (This quenches the ‘bacteria possibility’ heebie geebbies, to which I say, ‘we’re cruisers and we drink water we’ve made from the ocean – you can’t scare us!’, but to each her own.) 

Wrapping Up

Remember, sun tea making is a task that can be handed off to your kids! Mine love being creative making ‘custom brews’ and dazzling us. When we meet up with other kid boats on the beach for sundowners, we bring our frosty adult beverages and the kids bring their iced down sun tea concoctions. We hope you enjoy making sun tea on your boat as much as we do on ours. Be sure to share your crew’s favorite sun tea brews with us!

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