Fecal Matter in Tea Leaves

My mother used to make sun brew tea during the summer. One takes a glass jar and fills it with water (regular room-temperature water, not boiling) and tea, then leaves it out in the sun for a few hours. It produces some very strong tea, is energy efficient, and I’ve found it’s less likely to carry a metallic taste from the pipes with it. My mother stopped brewing tea in this manner after hearing a rumor that tea was not the most sanitary of substances and therefore anyone drinking tea that had not been prepared with boiling water was risking some form of food poisoning. At the time, I took it at face value and dealt with the boiled tea. However, I became curious and started searching around. There are a lot of websites out there with “definite proof” that there is fecal matter in tea and about as many with “definite proof” that there is not. Does anyone know the veracity of either viewpoint? I’ve considered submitting the question to Cecil, but I figured I’d see if it could be solved here first. (Not to mention I’ve found that forum searches often fail to find topics, so it’s possible this has been debated here before.)

Do the Chineese not have toilet paper?

Dammit, Grampaw! This is the kitchen. The bathroom is the next room down the hall!

I remember several years ago the news stations in this area warning people about brewing sun tea because of the possibility of contamination. Also reported were cases of tests on tea from various restaurants coming up positive for coliform (fecal) bacteria. I don’t remember where these tests were done though.
However, the presence of coliform bacteria doesn’t always mean there are pathogens also. Just that it is possible pathogens might be there. I don’t recall anyone ever actually isolating pathogens from tea leaves but I could be mistaken.

Anything coming into contact with the ground could conceivably be contaminated with fecal matter. A local orchard here makes cider from apples in the fall and has to place warning labels on any cider it sells unpasteurized. However I feel fairly safe in buying and consuming the raw cider because I am familiar with the orchard and it’s environs, which are pretty clean.

So, with regards to tea, I’d say consider the source and use your best judgement.

You canc cold-brew tea safely in the refrigerator, which may give you the taste you’re looking for.

Put 8-10 bags of tea (or 8-10 rounded teaspoons of loose tea, if you’re a tea snob) into a gallon of water. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the tea.

This method is very simple, brews a nice glass of tea, and keeps whatever bacteriums may be present at bay.

I might not make it with well water, but if the water is relatively clean, I’m sure making sun tea is safe. Your stomach is strong.

I remember that as well. KNBC-4 in L.A. After spending a few minutes fanning the flames of hysteria, they concluded the report by saying something like, “There are no reports of anyone getting sick from drinking sun tea.” The whole thing left me thinking of Chicken Little.

Ah, TV health stories. Do yourself a favour and ignore any health story you see on TV, because 9 times out of 10 the person writing it doesn’t understand the subject at all, and either got things backwards or sideways.

The world would be a better place if all my colleagues in newsrooms would just stop attempting to dispense medical advice without a license.