Tea leaves originate from the leaves of an evergreen shrub named Camellia Sinensis. The magical leaves are popular across the globe for the rich infusion it creates. The widely celebrated beverage, tea originates from these magical tea leaves.
Tea leaves are cultivated, especially in a tropical and subtropical climate. Countries such as Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Kenya and India are the primary producers of tea leaves. These tea leaves are everywhere to be found because of the magical infusion it gives. With such widespread demand for tea leaves across the globe, it is essential to know what these leaves are, and how to properly deal with them.
Such thoughts bring an intriguing question into our mind. Can tea leaves be reused? What can be done with the leaves after steeping once with those leaves? Well, let us try to answer these questions.
How to reuse tea leaves? Tea leaves can be reused for steeping more than once. The reusability of tea leaves depends upon factors like quality, texture, oxidation level of the leaf etc. It can also be used in a variety of household purposes like room freshener, pests and animal repellent or even organic fertilizer in an economical fashion.
Tea leaves are widely in demand for the infusion it gives after brewing with warm water. But what next? Tea leaves once used are generally discarded as waste. The practice of discarding tea leaves after using it once is followed mostly. But tea leaves can be much more than just trash, even after a single brew.
Can Tea Leaves Be Used For Infusion More Than Once?
In general, the answer to this question is yes. Tea leaves can be reused more than once for brewing tea. However, you must take proper care during storage to ensure that the tea leaves do not get corroded before reusing it for brewing.
The duration over which tea leaves can be reused or the infusion it creates after using it more than once depends on lots of factors. The quality of tea leaves, the oxidation level of the tea leaves being used, or for how long the tea leaves were steeped during the first time. These factors come handy when you consider the option of reusing tea leaves for steeping more than once.
Tea leaves primarily release the flavors and aroma present inside the leaves, into the water. The curled leaves open up in the warm water and release the goodness present inside the leaves, creating the infusion. Once used, the tea leaves are generally discarded by most. However, you can store the used tea leaves in an airtight container and keep it away for reusing it with your convenience.
Store the tea leaves in an airtight container away from direct sunlight for prolonged shelf life. The tea leaves are good to go for at least twenty-four hours if stored this way. Refrigerating the tea leaves will increase the shelf life even further, and the tea leaves will be usable for a much longer duration.
However, you definitely cannot expect a similar flavor, taste or aroma from the drink. The tea leaves will not smell as fresh as before or yield the same quality beverage. This has to do with the warm water being used for dipping during the first steeping. The warm water extracts out the flavors of the leaves. The freshly prepared tea leaves with lower levels of oxidation are quick to release the essence from within the leaves into the water.
The next time you prepare a drink out of the already used tea leaves, the extraction cannot be as much as before. The tea leaves give out lesser essence even in similar conditions of time and temperature. This can be partly compensated by steeping the leaves for a little longer duration.
The time of steeping can be approximately increased by three minutes each time. That is, if you steep your tea leaves for a duration of five minutes for the first time, steep the same leaves for eight minutes the next time. If you decide to steep it again, do it for eleven-twelve minutes the next time. Tea leaves can be reused for 3-4 times without any issue.
Although there is no thumb rule to decide on this, it is generally accepted that an increase of three minutes in brewing time will extract almost similar goodness from the leaves. Having said that, you should also know that the infusion will still not taste as fresh and strong as the first time. You cannot expect similar aroma, color or flavor from the used tea leaves. However, it will be good enough for you to enjoy another beautiful cup of tea!
Factors Playing A Role In Deciding Reusability Of Tea Leaves
Whether tea leaves can be reused for steeping it again depends upon lots of essential factors. Some leaves will taste as good as ever, others, well, not so much. So what exactly decides if the tea leaves can be reused more than once? Some of those factors are as follows.
Oxidation Level Of The Tea Leaves – Oxidation level of the tea leaves used is a prime factor which decides if you can reuse your tea leaves. Tea leaves with a higher oxidation level have higher reusability compared to tea leaves with lesser oxidation levels. In general, that means you can reuse your black tea more than you can do it for green tea.
Quality Of Tea Leaves – Quality of tea leaves decide upon the reusability of tea leaves. Better quality tea leaves can be reused more efficiently with consecutive steep. Better the quality of tea leaves used, more the reusability! It has to do with the goodness, and aroma tea leaves are packed with. It makes sense to expect better reusability from better quality leaves because it definitely has a higher richness packet within them.
Roasted/Not-roasted – Roasted tea leaves are similarly another category of tea leaves that can be reused for steeping tea more than once. Roasted tea leaves are known for its multi steeping properties over other non-roasted tea leaves. This is one of the reasons roasted tea leaves are of high commercial value! Brands are coming up with their version of the roasted tea leaves.
Nature Of Tea Leaves – Tea leaves depending upon how coarse, or smooth they are, also determine the reusability of the tea leaves. Coarse tea leaves with larger leaf pallets are more reusable than smoother tea leaves. Thicker the tea leaves, better the extraction of flavors from the tea pallets. Therefore bigger and thicker tea leaves are more reusable compared to the thinner tea leaves.
In short, you can reuse tea leaves in the most obvious manner. That is, by steeping the tea leaves more than once. Instead of discarding away your tea leaves after steeping it the first time, you can reuse it for the same purpose again.
You can re-steep your tea leaves for three to four times depending upon the tea leaf you decide to reuse. The flavor and aroma might be compromised to an extent, but the tea leaves remain usable well beyond its first use.
Other Uses Of Used Tea Grounds
Tea leaves can similarly be used for serving a variety of different purposes as well. Tea grounds are generally discarded right after use. Be it right after steeping it for the first time, or for some more times, tea grounds can be effectively used for other applications very efficiently.
Where can tea grounds be used? Here are some ways you can utilize your tea grounds instead of discarding them.
I. Tea grounds can be used as organic fertilizer. Tea grounds are known to contain Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and other compounds which are extremely beneficial to plants. Tea grounds also contains tannic acid, which promotes the growth of acid soil loving plants. Instead of discarding away your tea grounds, dry those and gently put some of it all around your crops.
Tip: To use tea grounds efficiently for crops, wash the tea grounds thoroughly after using it. After washing it away, leave it for drying. It may take up to 24-48 hours before getting completely dried up. Take these tea grounds in a bowl and put two teaspoons of it in the soil around your plants. Choose the plants wisely. Acid loving plants such as sweet corn, cucumbers, beans, broccoli, willow, oak, daffodils, rhododendrons etc. will be the best choice.
II. Tea grounds can act as an excellent odor absorbent. Tea leaves are known to be very sensitive to a strong odor. Conversely, this property can be used to absorb foul odor and replace it with a mild fragrance. Put dried tea grounds in places with a strong odor and leave it for some time. The tea leaves will absorb the foul odor. You can use this trick inside your car, or a shoe or socks, or maybe inside an almirah.
The tea leaves will absorb moisture and foul odor from the corner, and leave it dry with a pleasant mild fragrance. You can actually make your own room freshener using tea bags. After getting done with your tea bags, dry them. Next, add 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil to the sachet. Put it in the laundry room or place in your dresser drawers or anywhere you wish.
III. Tea leaves can be used to deter unwanted worms and animals from your crops. Tea grounds can be placed in your garden systematically, which will help in reducing unwanted parasites. Certain worms are phobic to the aroma of tea leaves, and tea helps get rid of them.
Wild cats are also known to hate the smell of tea leaves. As a result, placing tea grounds around your crops also prevent the cats from damaging your plants. Tea grounds are sometimes used to deter cats, who are often gladly agents of destruction for your crops!
IV. Tea grounds can be used as moisture absorbent. Tea leaves absorb the moisture around it. This often poses a problem while dealing with the storage of tea leaves. Conversely, this can be used in moisty, shanty places to absorb the moisture and render a clean, dry surrounding. Just use a spoonful of used tea grounds (preferably dried tea leaves) and put it around moist corners. That’s it!
V. Teabags can be used to reduce puffiness around your eyes. Allergies or mostly lack of sleep can leave you with puffy, swollen eyes. Take two teabags. Clean them properly with warm water and put each over your eyes for five to seven minutes. That’s it! Your eyes will be relaxed, and the puffiness reduces.
These are some household utilities of the tea grounds that you can do for yourself. Tea grounds will come handy in many such places. Instead of discarding away your used tea leaves, you can use it in several different household works without shedding a lot of your pennies! It is a very economical way of dealing with many various household applications.
Most tea leaves, including the green tea, oolong tea, black tea are reusable. Tea leaves can be used more than once depending upon various properties of the tea leaves that you use. The quality of the tea leaves, the size of each pallet or the oxidation rate decides the reusability of the tea leaves. You can reuse tea leaves for three to four times without much difference noticeable.
Tea leaves can be used in several household purposes besides being used for steeping another cup of tea using them. Tea leaves are known to be excellent organic fertilizer. You can always use it for your garden. Tea leaves also deter slugs or wild animals from your yard, which can otherwise harm your crops.