If you are like many tea drinkers, you may have a hard time tossing your precious tea leaves after just one steep. This leads to the question – is it okay to steep my teas leaves again? The answer is mostly yes, but it does depend on the tea. Generally speaking, loose leaf teas are the best for re-steeping, since there is a lot of leaf left to release more flavor. Bagged teas can be harder to brew again since they are often made up of finely ground tea particles that release a lot of their flavor in one shot.
As far as types of teas go, white, green, oolong and pu’erh teas tend to do well with multiple infusions. These teas often taste even better on the second steep, especially if the leaves are wound, twisted or balled up, since it provides them with more time to unfurl and release more of their flavor. Black, flavored or herbal teas don’t always do as well on the second steep, as they often either become bitter or lose their flavor. However, some people do claim they’ve had success with blacks.
To determine which teas you can re-steep, and which you can’t, experiment on your own and try re-steeping your tea the next time you have a cup. If the tea is still to your liking after a second cup, keep steeping the tea until the flavor is gone or you’ve had your fill. Try this method out with your other favorite teas and keep track of how many times you can infuse each type or at what point the tea reaches the stage where it isn’t drinkable any more. As you experiment with more and more teas, you will quickly learn what your go-to teas are for multiple infusions.
Things get a little hazier when it comes to how long you can save leaves that have been steeped at least once. Some resources say to only save teas for a couple of hours, while others claim that you’re safe saving tea for up to a day. However, if you are concerned about encountering adverse side effects from saving your tea, there are a number of other ways to reuse your spent tea without consuming it.
One of the powers of tea (green tea in particular) is that the chemical compound catechin found in it makes an excellent natural deodorizer. In fact, you can use spent dried green tea leaves to remove stinky smells from just about anything. Rub some green tea on your hands after cooking with garlic or onion to remove any residual odors, put some down the drain while running the garbage disposal to have a sweeter smelling sink or replace the baking soda in your fridge with tea in an open container – it will absorb odors just as well. You can even refresh and clean your carpets with green tea. Just sprinkle some nearly dried leaves on your carpet or rug, and then sweep or vacuum them away after a few minutes.
Sparkle and Shine
If you are looking to spruce up your belongings, skip the usual toxic smelling household cleaners and try tea! The tannins found in teas work as cleaning agents, and can provide luster to wood and leather products. To keep your wood furniture and floors shiny, try giving them a tea bath. According to Huffington Post, all you need to do is save ten bags (or the equivalent in loose tea) of used tea, boil it for five to ten minutes in a gallon of water and then wash your floors or furniture as usual.
Spent tea leaves can also be used to shine dark leather. Just gather some loose leaves in a cloth (or use a tea bag) and rub it in a circular motion over the surface of the shoe. Not only will this process clean your shoes, but it will also keep them moisturized and prevent cracks. In addition to shining your shoes, tea can make your pans sparkle. Soak dirty pots and pans in warm water and tea overnight, and you will wake up to find the grease comes right off them.
While just drinking tea can help you relax after a long day, you can double its benefits by putting the spent leaves to work after you’ve enjoyed your cup. Put two cooled (throw them in the fridge for a few minutes) tea bags on tired eyes for ten minutes to reduce puffiness and feel more refreshed. You can give your feet a break too by soaking them in tea water (steep a tablespoon or two of used tea leaves in warm water for about 10 minutes), which will deodorize and soften them.
The nutrients in tea are not only beneficial to humans, but they can also be helpful for your plants! Water your plants with a “tea fertilizer” by adding one tablespoon of used tea leaves to your watering can or put left over tea leaves in the garden as compost. If you have a plant that is looking particularly under the weather, steep two tablespoons of tea in boiling water and treat your plant to some twice brewed tea.
Keep in mind that when reusing tea leaves to deodorize, clean and revitalize around your home that it is best to use true teas that contain compounds like catechin and tannin. Since herbal teas, tea infusions and artificially flavored teas are often made up of a variety of ingredients, they may not produce the same (or the desired) results.
Clearly, there are more benefits and uses for tea than just drinking it, many of which may surprise you. Thus, the next time you sit down for a cup of tea, don’t just throw the spent tea leaves in the trash (unless you want it to smell better!) when you are done. Think about how you can reuse the leaves to do something positive. Whether it is brewing another cup, cleaning your house or caring for your plants – the environment will thank you.
Brenna Ciummo is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee and tea. An avid tea drinker, she is always on the hunt for new teas to try.
Images courtesy of the author