Here at Plum Deluxe, any time is tea time! But did you realize there’s more to it than just the beverage? As our resident tea fanatic, I am happy to provide you with a bazillion (okay, 42) ways to use loose leaf tea, arranged in alphabetical order for your pleasure. Some are for drinking, some are for eating, and quite a few are simply for fun.
Alcohol Infusions — Put a few teaspoons of your favorite loose tea in a jar of vodka, whisky, tequila, or rum and let it steep up to two weeks. Strain out the leaves and you have delicious tea-flavored alcohol for your martini.
Art — You know watercolors? How about wateacolors? Alright, that was a bad joke, but the principle rings true: you can totally paint with tea.
Body Scrub — Exfoliate and invigorate your skin with a tea-based salt or sugar scrub.
Cakes — Substitute strongly brewed tea for the water or milk in just about any cake recipe for a delicious flavor twist.
Cat Toys — This is not a drill! Mint and catnip come from the same family, so mint tea can make a lovely stuffing for toy mice. I once knew a cat who went absolutely crazy over it.
Cheese Pairings — For your next event or cocktail hour, class things up exponentially by holding a tea and cheese pairing. Make cocktails from the teas or serve them straight-up alongside the cheese.
Chocolate — Now we’re really talking. Just like with cookies, tea can taste wonderful in your favorite chocolate recipes. Try it out with this Green Tea Chocolate Almond Bark.
Cider — Tea, especially chai, can make for a wonderful mulling spice. Place some in a tea infuser, filter bag, or cheesecloth and simmer it with fresh apple cider on the stove or in the crockpot.
Cocktails — Oh, we’ve covered this one extensively! But how could we not when tea is such a perfect cocktail ingredient? Shake up an Earl Grey libation, a vanilla marteani, or any one of these five o’clock treats.
Cookies — Tea adds both flavor and texture to your favorite cookies, and you can get all sorts of creative with your combinations! Not sure where to start? Give these Ceylon shortbreads a try.
Date Night — Stir up some romance with a little tea for two. Don’t have a sweetie? Take yourself on a date!
Dye — This is an ages-old tradition that has been around since the first time someone accidentally spilled tea on their pre-Labor Day whites. You can use it to dye yarn, fabric, or other fiber. In recent years, I’ve seen it used to give newer linens an antique look. All you really do is dip your cloth in brewed tea, let it dry, and voila!
Gifts — Not sure what to give Mom for her birthday? Need the perfect housewarming gift? Loose leaf tea (maybe paired with an adorable infuser) is easy yet elegant, and there’s always something for every taste. Put even more thought into it and make your own custom blend to give away.
Hardwood Floor Polish — That’s right, black tea can bring the luster back to your medium- to dark-stained hardwood floors. Just brew 8 teaspoons of loose leaf tea in half a gallon of water for about 10-15 minutes, let it cool, and mop it over your floors. Works well for wooden furniture, too! Don’t try this on lighter woods, though — black tea has a staining affect that might not look right.
Hot — Of course we highly recommend you drink your loose leaf tea! The quality and flavor are superb, especially compared to tea bag brands. If you aren’t sure how to brew loose tea, we’ve got you covered with this handy tutorial> as well as these ideas for brewing without an infuser.
Hot Cocoa — Tea and chocolate are a wonderful combination (especially when paired with cookies). As the nights get colder, why not stir up a cup of Mint Tea Hot Chocolate?
Ice Cream — If you’ve yet to try tea ice cream, you are in for a treat. This Sweet Tea Ice Cream only uses three ingredients and can be made without a machine. No complaints from us!
Ice Pops — Speaking of treats, we’ve made quite a few tea ice pops this summer. These two recipes use mint tea, but feel free to change out the ingredients for other fun combinations.
Iced — Our favorite way to enjoy a good summer brew is iced — and whether you cold brew or hot brew and then cool it off, iced tea is always a top choice. Enhance your bevvy even further with our tea ice cube ideas.
Inducing Sleep — Herbs such as chamomile, valerian root, and lavender are a natural way to help the body and mind relax. Enjoy a cup of tea made with any of these herbs as part of your nighttime ritual and you’ll find yourself drifting off peacefully.
Meat — You think I’m joking, don’t you? Tea with meat?! I would have had the same reaction before I made these Sweet Tea Ribs that my husband devoured. He almost forgot to leave me any, so you know they were good. Works well with chicken or pork.
Milk Infusions — We do a lot of infusions in our Plum Deluxe test kitchens because it’s such a simple way to enhance the flavor of nearly any dish or beverage. Infused milk or cream is a wonderful way to add panache to your cuppa, and it’s sure to impress tea guests, too.
Mindfulness — One of the things we love the most about tea — aside from its flavor, history, and myriad culinary possibilities — is the way it inherently fits our mission of making moments matter. To make and sip a cup of tea is to set aside a few minutes for mindfulness, a concept best embodied by the Japanese tea ceremony and easily replicated in your own home or office.
Movie Night — Set up a big screen in the back yard, invite the neighbors over, brew a big pot of tea, and get the popcorn popping for a tea-themed movie night.
Party — Tea parties are classic and can be held in any size space. Go super fancy or make it a casual gathering, but above all have fun!
Potpurri — Have you ever opened a package of particularly fragrant tea and thought, “Wow, I wish my everything smelled this good!”? Now it can! Put some of your favorite-smelling loose leaf tea in a small dish on your night stand, or tie it up in a sachet to toss into your drawer or closet. You can even hang it from the rearview mirror of your car if you feel so inclined.
Quinoa — Quinoa is an ancient and delicious grain that has recently gained quite a bit of popularity in the United States. Our three “teanoia” recipes are a delicious upgrade that combine quinoa and tea.
Salt Infusions — Tea and salt can make for a wonderfully relaxing bath soak to ease sore muscles and relieve tension.
Sangria — Oh, hey, more alcohol! Tea sangria is at the top of our Plum Deluxe Summer Beverage List because it’s cold, refreshing, and perfect for relaxation. Of course, we have our warm winter versions, too!
Skin Toner — Tired skin revives with this refreshing tea toner, perfect for daily use.
Smoothies — Have you been adding water or milk to your post-workout smoothies? Try using tea instead and add a little extra sunshine to your cup!
Soup — We’ve put it in our cake and in our quinoa, so why not our soup? This Chamomile Corn Chowder fits the bill for comfort food.
Sugar Infusions — Similarly to infused milk, tea-infused sugar is an easy and creative way to add flavors to your baked goods or your daily cuppa.
Syllabub — Syllabubs were the dessert-time rage in the 17th and 18th centuries. You can revive this tasty treat with a modern tea-time twist.
Tea Infuser — Once upon a time, all you could find for tea-making were little metal strainer balls on a chain. Today, however, there are whimsical tea infusers for every style and interest! Over in our special Facebook group for tea club members, we’re constantly sharing the most adorable infusers (including a flower pot and a manatee). For on-to-go folks, making up your own tea bags ahead of time can be the perfect solution for travel or the office.
Tea Leaf Readings — This time-honored tradition — which hit mainstream recognition after the third “Harry Potter” film — can only be done with loose leaf tea and a little intuition. (Our monthly tea club members get an encouraging group reading every month!)
Tea Pot — Tea pots and other tea ware have long been a way to show off personality and wealth while pouring afternoon tea, and like tea infusers there is now quite a range to choose from.
Tea Station — Frequent tea drinkers will appreciate a dedicated space for making a cup or pot. It’s a must-have for our office, too!
Waking Up — The caffeine in black tea is comparable to the amount of caffeine found in coffee — and yet many people find that tea feels better on their body than espresso. If you prefer the herbal route, here are five herbs that will get you all fired up.
Photo Credits: author, author, author, Andy Hayes, Krista Bjorn, author, Krista Bjorn, author, author, and author.