Don’t throw away green tea leaves after brewing.

Have you ever heard the term “mottainai”? It is said that it is difficult to find a word in other languages that exactly matches this word, because it is rooted in the Japanese cultural background. Mottainai is used to express a sense of regret when something that could still be used is not, or when something is thrown away or otherwise wasted.

In this article, I will introduce some tips for recycling used tea leaves based on this mottainai spirit.

We can consider three different uses for green tea leaves after you have completed brewing them for tea. 

  1. Eat the spent leaf. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
  2. Deodorize using the remaining beneficial elements in the leaf around the house. 
  3. Fertilize – share the spent leaf with your plants. We can consider various ways to use the leaf for houseplants and in the garden.
Green tea leaves after brewing. Save them to use in many different ways


Green tea leaves after brewed contain rich nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Various recipes using tea leaves have been available in Japan, and I would like to introduce a few of them that may be of interest to people overseas. Be sure to use first harvest green teas, which have softer leaves. The leaves of second harvest tea are harder and more bitter, so it is not suitable for eating. The simplest way to identify if a tea is the first harvest is to check the harvest time; if the tea is harvested in March or April, it is definitely the first harvest.


The tea leaves after brewing can be used for omelets. Beat the eggs in a bowl, add tea leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Then, make an omelet in a pan in the same way as usual!

Make a sauce like genovese.

Blend tea leaves, olive oil, salt, and garlic in a blender in the same way you make genovese sauce. You can use it as a sauce for pasta, pizza, or for meat or fish food!

Kakiage – vegetable tempura

Kakiage is a popular kind of tempura dish in Japan. At home, we use various vegetable ingredients in the fridge, mixed together in tempura batter and then fry the mixture into crispy fritters. The recipe is simple. Mix eggs, flour, and cold water into a batter, add tea leaves and other vegetables of your choice, and deep fry in oil.

To achieve a crispy texture, use cold water instead of room temperature water, sift the flour before mixing it with the other ingredients, and use cake flour with less gluten instead of bread flour. It is delicious with salt!


Catechins in green tea have the ability to eliminate bad smells. This is because catechins in tea combine with and neutralize odor-causing components, and sterilize bacteria that cause putrid odors, thereby eliminating unpleasant smells. In Japan, green tea is used as an ingredient in some commercial deodorizers. If you use wet tea leaves it will cause mold, so be sure to dry them before use. Roast in a pan or let dry naturally.

Deodorizing a room after cooking

Do you ever have a problem with the smell in the kitchen after cooking a dish of grilled fish or meat? In such cases, put a handful of dried tea leaves in the pan or grill where you cooked the food and roast them. The smell of meat and fish in the room will be relieved by the fresh aroma of the tea leaves.

Deodorizing shoes

First, dry the tea leaves after brewing using the same procedure as above. Then fill two tea bags with the dried tea leaves and put them in the shoes. Or you can make several tea bags and place them in the shoe rack.

As a deodorizer for closets

Similar to the shoe deodorizer described above, make tea bags of dried tea leaves and use them as a closet deodorizer.


Tea leaves can also be used as fertilizer. The proteins and fibers left in the tea leaves become a natural fertilizer. However, since high moisture content can cause spoilage, it is best to dry the brewed tea leaves before use. You can either let them dry naturally or dry them in a microwave oven. Drying in a microwave oven also deodorizes the microwave itself, so it’s serving two ends!


As I have introduced above, there are many nutrients and active components left in tea leaves. The tea we usually brew and drink is only a part of the components extracted from tea leaves. Not every time, but sometimes recycling tea leaves in this way can make you healthier and more earth friendly. Give it a try!