Saturday, 6 July 2013

Sun tea for the Solstice: a Summer Recipe

It was the first day of summer vacation, eight days past the longest of the year. My children had celebrated my daughter's release from the usual rush to the school bus by whiling away the morning hours playing in their bedroom. Rather hurrying downstairs to dress and eat and get out the door, they giggled and jumped and scattered their toys while I dozed in my own room across the hall, thankful that, despite the noise, they weren't clamoring for breakfast just yet.

As the day heated up, they abandoned their newly reclaimed play-space. It was left in disarray until half-past-seven that evening,  when I came in to tidy before creating a "night" with the help of our trusty black-out blinds. As I puttered around, transforming picnic blankets and faerie cushions back into comforters and pillows, I noticed something new: vertical bands of light on the wall, sourced from their north-facing window.  I'd noted some time ago how the light bends south near the winter solstice, changing the angles from which it hits the house, but not the effects of its widening arc at the warmer extreme of the year. My children's bedroom holds the only north window in our compass-house; I suppose I haven't had cause to be in there at the right moments of the day to catch this summer phenomenon. I had wondered why their room heated up so much last July - it appears it doesn't stay quite as shaded as I'd imagined. Yet another mystery is solved through a change in routine and the power of observation.

My favourite solstice has come and gone, and the summer heat is finally upon us. While I'm not the biggest fan of temperatures above 27 C (nevermind the horrors of last Tuesday's 43 degree humidex), I love all the drinks and snacks that come with keeping cool. Due to an ill-timed and persistent cold, I had to postpone consuming many of the sweetest ones, but I'm making up for it now. I have watermelon in my fridge, yogurt pops in my freezer, and most of my coffees are turning Vietnamese. I'm also throwing lime and mint into my ice water, and trying not to covet my husband's mojitos (I'm making up for it by sending him out for smoothies).

Such treats could technically be made in any season, but there are a few that really only work in the summertime. Home-made sun tea is especially seasonal, and rather unique to our climate as well.  I'd posted about making some on Facebook last summer, and was surprised when a friend from Vancouver commented that she'd never heard of the drink. I'd assumed it was a fairly common beverage, but I suppose that the four to six hours of continuous sunlight required to brew it is a little harder to come by on the coast than it is deep within the continent. For my fellow land-locked friends, however, I am more than happy to share, so I present you a recipe for those long summer days.

I believe I got my original recipe off the internet several years ago, but, as I discovered when searching for borscht, one simply cannot re-google a term years later and expect to find the same results. I'm sure I've tweaked it enough by now to claim as my own anyways. If you posted a similar recipe online back in 2008, however, please let me know - I'll gladly give credit where credit is due.

At any rate, here's how I make it:

Summer Sun Tea


6 bags of black tea (I use decaf.)
9 raw sugar cubes
4-5 fresh mint leaves, washed & bruised
7 cups fresh cold water
1 8-cup clear glass container, preferably with a lid (unless you like a little bug protein with your tea)
4-6 hours of direct sunlight

Dissolve sugar cubes in glass container in a bit of boiling water. Add tea bags and mint leaves. Top up to 7 cups with cold tap water, and stir. Put the lid on the container and set out in direct sunlight for 4-6 hours, depending on the heat of the day and desired strength. Tea should turn a rich brown and the container should get warm to the touch. Once desired strength is reached, remove from sun, chill, and enjoy. Tea will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Variations: substitute 2 1/3 Tbsp agave syrup for sugar cubes. Simple syrup would work well too. If no fresh mint is available, I brew my tea with 5 black tea bags and one bag of Celestial Seasonings Candy Cane Lane green tea. It makes for a slightly different flavour, but is still very refreshing. I had high hopes for making a lemon sun tea, but discovered that brewing the lemon rind turned the tea very bitter. Next time, I'll try squeezing lemon juice into the finished product.

There you have it, an iced summer tea to take you through the Dog Days and beyond. Keep cool, my friends.

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