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Mathochist
06-10-2006, 10:47 PM
According to this article on Snopes (http://snopes.com/food/prepare/suntea.asp) sun tea can lead to bacterial infections. In particular it mentions Alcaligenes viscolactis, "a bacteria commonly found in water".

The question is this: if this bacteria that solar heating isn't enough to kill is already in the water, why am I not dead many times over from drinking tap water?

toadspittle
06-10-2006, 11:05 PM
According to this article on Snopes (http://snopes.com/food/prepare/suntea.asp) sun tea can lead to bacterial infections. In particular it mentions Alcaligenes viscolactis, "a bacteria commonly found in water".

The question is this: if this bacteria that solar heating isn't enough to kill is already in the water, why am I not dead many times over from drinking tap water?


Quick guess--you're giving the bacteria a nice, warm incubator in which to proliferate.

Fear Itself
06-10-2006, 11:05 PM
The question is this: if this bacteria that solar heating isn't enough to kill is already in the water, why am I not dead many times over from drinking tap water?Because the bacteria levels in the water are so low, your immune system has no problem fighting them off. But when you warm the water in the sun, and add a food source (the tea decoction), the bacteria begin to multiply, and soon you have a bacteria colony that is far larger than anything that would occur in tap water alone. That's why you get sick.

Zabali_Clawbane
06-10-2006, 11:11 PM
Right, so boil the water to kill of the bacteria before using it to make sun tea? Would boiling kill them off, and would the water remain safe if you let it cool enough to use for sun tea?

Fear Itself
06-10-2006, 11:18 PM
Right, so boil the water to kill of the bacteria before using it to make sun tea? Would boiling kill them off, and would the water remain safe if you let it cool enough to use for sun tea?Unless there is bacteria in the teabags.

Johanna
06-11-2006, 12:14 AM
I am a great fan of taking bottled tea with me wherever I go, and the other day I was in Whole Foods loading up on Tazo, Tea's Tea, and Honest Tea. Next to these I saw something called Kombucha. Hmm, I guess it's a Japanese tea variety because it ends in -cha. I thought of bancha, genmaicha, kukicha. Sounded good.

Then, sitting at my desk, I started to read the label. First it said Kombucha is a cultured tea product and claimed various health benefits from it. Then it said there may appear "threads" of bacteria in the drink. I looked closely inside the bottle. There they were. Drifting scum. Eeeew I opened it and it fizzed. The aroma was sour, yeasty, like something was left out and spoiled. Hey, I'm all for health food, but aesthetically this stuff was just wrong.

So yeah, tell me about bacteria in tea. <shudder>

groman
06-11-2006, 01:52 AM
Johanna you should see the "tea mushroom" (Kombucha) jar I had when I was a kid. It was a growing blob of culture probably the size of a dinner plate and at least 1.5" thick floating inside a giant jar of brown liquid of threads. It's the only self-replicating soft drink that's also a pet. :rolleyes: I don't know why I didn't think it was gross to just tip the jar into a cup and drink the swill as a kid. It's kind of icking me out right now.

Johnny L.A.
06-11-2006, 02:04 AM
KNBC-4LA had a story on this a few years ago (and I posted about it here a few times). They spent like five minutes trying to scare the hell out of everybody, and then said something like 'There are no reports of anybody becoming seriously ill from drinking sun tea.' :rolleyes:

When I lived in the desert I drank a gallon of sun tea every day. I never felt any ill effects. Ever.

Incidentally, the Channel 4 story said the bacteria was on the tea leaves; not the water.

LouisB
06-11-2006, 05:33 AM
I've been drinking sun tea all my life with no ill effects.

Derleth
06-11-2006, 07:14 AM
I've been drinking sun tea all my life with no ill effects.It's also possible to smoke your whole life with no ill effects.

You're not wrong. You're also not particularly relevant.

Szlater
06-11-2006, 08:43 AM
What's the point of 'Sun tea'?

Colophon
06-11-2006, 08:56 AM
More to the point, what is it? As far as I can tell by reading it, it's tepid/warm tea made by leaving tea bags in water out in the sun. Why on earth would anyone want to do this?

xbuckeye
06-11-2006, 09:53 AM
Why? Sun tea is not as bitter as tea brewed by boiling or almost boiling water. The sun is involved to warm the brew for a day or so.

Is it safe? As a food scientist, I have to say that sun tea is dangerous because there is no guaranteed way to make it safely. We look for a definitive step that will guarantee safety, such as retorting a can of food to kill any bacteria that may have made it into the can. If you are going to make sun tea, and want to minimize your risk, follow these simple steps:

1) boil your water for 3 to 5 minutes then cool in the covered pan.
2) sterilize your jar, either with bleach or peroxide (or Quat if you have access) or by boiling it (and the lid and valve, and gaskets) in water for 10 minutes. This makes quart-sized Nalgene bottles or canning jars good places for tea brewing.
3) do not brew for longer than a few hours, refrigerate thereafter
4) do not store tea for more than a day or two, max.
5) do not drink any tea that is slimy, foamy, smells bad, or has sediment.
6) do not (not NOT!!!) add sugar before brewing.

I don't make sun tea, but I have been known to put a tea bag in a Nalgene bottle and fill it with warm tap water and refrigerate for a day. It is tasty and simple, and most of all, safe.

Johnny L.A.
06-11-2006, 09:57 AM
6) do not (not NOT!!!) add sugar before brewing.
Nor after.

Fear Itself
06-11-2006, 11:07 AM
I don't make sun tea, but I have been known to put a tea bag in a Nalgene bottle and fill it with warm tap water and refrigerate for a day. It is tasty and simple, and most of all, safe.As a food scientist, does this method have a definitive step to kill the bacteria contained in the tea bag?

Mathochist
06-11-2006, 12:44 PM
Why? Sun tea is not as bitter as tea brewed by boiling or almost boiling water. The sun is involved to warm the brew for a day or so.

What I think Szlater and Colophon miss is that it's a version of iced tea rather than hot tea. You brew it in the sun, then refrigerate it.

Mathochist
06-11-2006, 12:56 PM
It's also possible to smoke your whole life with no ill effects.

You're not wrong. You're also not particularly relevant.

I think what it comes down to is this: no, sun tea is not completely safe. If I were selling it I'd be in for a whole mess of liability. However, I can take risks on my own should I want to. So, given that sun tea can be dangerous, how dangerous can it be?

The usual procedure I learned from my mother has a well-cleaned (but not bleached or boiled) large jar (I'll guess 1-1.5 gal). No sugar added, of course (we don't mind a bit of tannin). Left with tap water (unboiled) to brew for 4-6h in the sun, then stuck in the fridge. It's taken up to a week to go through it, and I've never seen these "slimy/foamy/stinky/gritty" effects both xbuckeye and the original Snopes piece mention.

Assuming this procedure, and that I'd throw out the remnant if it did turn slimy/foamy/stinky/gritty, how dangerous is it? Let's get some real statistics out here and not scaremongering "couldas".

don't ask
06-11-2006, 01:01 PM
I notice that nothing mentions any incidents of people becoming ill, and the Snopes article has no link to anything on the CDC site and I can't find any such article on the CDC site. So what is going on?

Johnny L.A.
06-11-2006, 01:04 PM
I notice that nothing mentions any incidents of people becoming ill, and the Snopes article has no link to anything on the CDC site and I can't find any such article on the CDC site. So what is going on?
As I mentioned, the news report I saw said that there were no reports of illness. IMO they were just going for the ratings. 'Sun tea can kill you! Stay tuned!'

stuyguy
06-11-2006, 01:22 PM
Ha! All this talk of microbial contamination is just a distraction by the corporate mind-f*ckers to keep us from dwelling on the real danger of sun tea: it's a fire hazard!

At least according to the instructions on the box of name brand tea bags I read several years ago. (I don't know if they print this warning on the box anymore.) The directions told the user to set the jar in the sun away from flammable objects. I theorized that the water-filled jar could act like a magnifying glass and set the tablecloth or something on fire.

Who cares if some tainted sun tea has given a few hapless souls a bout of the runs? I want to know if anyone's mansion has gone up in flames because of the stuff.

Derleth
06-11-2006, 02:01 PM
Mathochist: Point taken. I thought my point deserved consideration as well. ;)

stuyguy: The person capable of setting his house on fire in the course of making sun tea is precisely the kind of person who falls into a mudpot at Yellowstone: Misfortune that severe either proves a deep, abiding Stupid or the direct intervention of a devious and malicious Great Force.Nor afterIf you don't understand the Southern mania for 'sweet tea', you'll never know the simple joy of sucking chilled honey through a straw. (Tea leaves were used in that concoction. They gave their all to provide color.)

MLS
06-11-2006, 02:11 PM
Sun tea also has the miniscule advantage of requiring no fossil fuel and as such is considered more environmentally friendly. Of course, the amount of energy expended in boiling one teapot of water is probably so small as to amount to nothing.

don't ask
06-11-2006, 02:32 PM
As I mentioned, the news report I saw said that there were no reports of illness. IMO they were just going for the ratings. 'Sun tea can kill you! Stay tuned!'

No, what intrigues me is I can find references in blogs and other online media but no reference at the CDC, or any other primary source, to the milk contaminant Alcaligenes viscolactis being a problem in Sun Tea. It would just be nice to see Snopes hoist by their own petard.

FluffyBob
06-11-2006, 03:10 PM
You can make "sun tea" in the fridge, I do it all the time. It really only takes a couple of hours for the tea to brew. I do it because it seems like an unecessary waste of energy to boil and then cool something. Caveat: I try to drink it within a couple of days at the very most.

If anyone is really that worried about bacterial dangers of sun tea you better start rethinking kool-aid, frozen concentrate, or any other beverage or food that you prepare with tap water and do not cook or boil.

Really.

CrankyAsAnOldMan
06-11-2006, 03:39 PM
Indeed, I thought the whole energy thing was an argument for making the sun tea. I don't want to boil a gallon of water for tea steeping on a hot day. And boiling it before putting it into the sun to brew? Seems a little duplicative. If I were going to boil water for sun tea, I'd blow off the "sun" part and just used the boiled water to brew it.

Carnac the Magnificent!
06-11-2006, 04:42 PM
From Colorado State U website:

"Using the natural rays of the sun to make tea is fun and popular in the summer. However, using such a method to make tea is highly discouraged. Sun tea is the perfect medium for bacteria to grow. If the sun tea has a thick or syrupy appearance, it may be due to the presence of a ropy bacteria called Alcaligenes viscolactis. Ropy bacteria are commonly found in soil and water.

Several years ago in Ohio and Washington, several people became ill after drinking tainted ice tea. In Washington it was determined that the tea had been made with tap water only heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and left to sit at room temperature for more than 24 hours. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Tea Association recommend the following when making tea.

* Brew tea bags at 195 degrees F for three to five minutes.
* Brew only enough tea that can be consumed within a few hours... SNIP ...


Adapted from "Bacteria-filled iced tea can cause illness," Fort Collins Coloradoan, June 12, 1996, Pat Kendall.


http://colostate.edu/orgs/safefood/NEWSLTR/v3n2s06.html

Mathochist
06-12-2006, 04:01 AM
Mathochist: Point taken. I thought my point deserved consideration as well. ;)

Oh, it did. I didn't mean to slight you, but also didn't want to go through an exhaustive list of everyone's points in my post.

As I understand it, your point is that whatever the probabilities are, it's entirely possible to dodge every single bullet. This is true, but almost vacuous. What I want to know now is what the real danger level is associated with the specific preparation method I described.

xbuckeye
06-12-2006, 10:37 PM
As a food scientist, does this method have a definitive step to kill the bacteria contained in the tea bag?
There is no definitive kill step, but there is also no chance for rapid bacterial multiplication. Bacteria like to grow between 40 and 140F so most of them don't grow at all in the fridge and those that do do so verrrrrYYY yy sllloooooowwllllYYY y.

The thing to remember about most foodborne illnesses is that they aren't reported. You have to be really ill to seek medical attention. Otherwise, you stay home and frequent the ceramic altar. Saying it can kill you is probably a bit exaggerated, but all foodborne illnesses have that potential to kill, especially if you are young, old, pregnant, or immunocompromised. If your grandmother is ailing away in her sickbed, and is begging you for suntea, you should reconsider. Make it in the fridge...it'll be OK and grandma won't know the difference.

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