Sunshine Tea


There was no grand secret to my Mamaw’s sunshine tea. All that was required was tea bags, a gallon-sized clear glass container, half cup of sugar, and cold water. The water and sugar went into the container followed by the tea bags that would dangle over the lip of the container where she would tap dry her wooden mixing spoon and seat the lid’s metal clamp.

From that point, it was the task of finding the right spot for the sun tea to brew. A spot where an anxious little girl could watch the colors drip and dance throughout the brewing process before getting distracted by a bug or being called to finish pulling the weeds along the back shed until her brow dripped with sweat, causing her to race back to watching the tea.

Often the temptation to check on it during the brewing process was irresistible. I’d watch as the color began to permeate the liquid, first just around the tea bags and then throughout the container until it became the perfect shade of amber. A deepening color that send my dirt stained feet slapping against the kitchen linoleum and tugging at Mamaw’s skirt until she followed me from the house with her wooden mixing spoon in hand. She’d pop the lip and after a quick stir she’d hold out the spoon beneath my anxious lips.

photo by Courtney Burk

photo by Courtney Burk

Papaw would come from the kitchen the exact moment I’d shout that it was done with a tray full of ice filled clinking glasses, slices of lemon, and sprigs of mint. He’d set it on the picnic table as Mamaw gave the tea one last stir. Our family would pile around the table, all tugging sweat bands from around their heads and dabbing at their necks as Mamaw handed them full glasses of sun tea. A reward for a long day of work.

Though our recipes for iced tea later evolved to a much stronger brew in much larger batches, on a really hot day a few weeks ago, our house ran out of iced tea. One of those you-didn’t-tell-me-you-took-the-last-glass-and-put-the-empty-pitcher-back-in-the-fridge moments. I swear I could hear my Mamaw’s chuckle as I pulled out a gallon glass pitcher and wooden spoon and placed the sun tea, though mine used a few additional garden herbs, on our picnic table.

As we worked through the rest of the day, I occasionally would step away to taste test and stir the tea, until the moment my husband walked out of the house with glasses full of ice. We clinked the glasses as we sat back in our yard chairs, marveling at our own handy work – a perfect reward after a long day.


Courtney was born and raised in the restaurant industry, so it comes as no surprise that her writing and storytelling is centered around food and drink. She works full-time in Detroit’s restaurant industry and spends her free time exploring the great lakes with her husband and rescue pups.

You can follow her ramblings at her website,, and on Instagram and Twitter at @spoonfulof_ink.