Reusing Tea Leaves More than Once: A Guide

Reusing Tea Leaves More than Once: A Guide
If you’re a tea drinker, you’ve probably found yourself on one occasion, at least, looking at the tea leaves in the bottom of your cup and wondering, can you reuse tea leaves? This is the ultimate guide to answer that question and everything else you ever wanted to know about reusing tea leaves.
An open mesh infuser full of used tea leaves is held open next to a red teacup full of tea. The overlay text reads: reusing tea leaves, a how-to guide.

Why Reuse Your Tea Leaves?


Tea leaves are reused for a number of reasons. Whether it’s resteeping, composting, or using in a craft, reusing tea leaves is environmentally friendly and cost-efficient.
Why just get one cup out of your loose leaf tea when you could get several? For those of us who always have tea in hand, reusing tea leaves saves on time and dollars. We like to think the more times a product is able to be reused and the range of purposes it serves, the better!
In some countries, such as China, it’s quite common to reuse tea leaves. This is because of an understanding that the first cup is usually bitter, with the flavor changing and developing the longer the tea steeps. You may find that some teas taste better on their second use. Why? For some teas, particularly those with tightly curled leaves, it takes them a while to uncurl and diffuse. Many loose leaf tea blends are made using larger ingredients that may take longer to release their flavor. By reusing your leaves, you may find that your cuppa has better flavor and taste. This strategy works particularly well for strong teas, such as pu-erh and oolong.
A white and blue floral print teacup and saucer sits on a wooden table. A rose gold metal tea infuser rests on the saucer.

Is Reusing Tea Leaves Safe?


Reusing loose leaf tea is usually safe. That being said, there are a few best practice tips to keep in mind when reusing your tea.

Be wary of mold.


The warm, moist environment of tea leaves left inside a strainer can be a breeding ground for bacteria. It’s best to reuse your leaves within three hours if leaving them in the strainer.

Store correctly.


If you’d like to reuse your tea leaves beyond three hours, store them correctly to avoid nasties developing in your leaves. Squeeze out excess moisture, spread the leaves out on a paper towel, and allow them to dry in a cool, well-ventilated room. Once the tea is completely dry, store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Don’t leave it too long.


If you’re reusing your tea leaves with the intention of drinking them, err on the side of caution and don’t leave your leaves sitting around too long. You might, with correct storage, be able to reuse them the day after their original brew. We wouldn’t recommend any longer than this, generally.

Resteep for as long as it tastes pleasant.


There are no hard and fast rules about how many times you can make a cup of tea from the same leaves. Eventually, the flavor will weaken, but as long as you’re enjoying the cup, you can keep on brewing.
An open mesh infuser full of used tea leaves is held open next to a red teacup full of tea.

How to Reuse Tea Leaves


Tea has a range of purposes that it can be used for. Here are a few of our favorite ways to reuse tea leaves:

Resteep for a cup of hot tea


Use your tea leaves again to enjoy a second, or maybe even a third, cup of tea. Be aware that each time you steep your tea, you may need to adjust the length of time the tea is in the water, depending on the strength of your brew.

Use in an iced tea


Loose leaf tea can be used to make a delicious cold brew tea. Let your leaves dry out, then put in a glass of cold water. Cover and store in the fridge overnight. Looking for more info on how to make iced tea? Don’t worry, we’ve got a recipe to help.

Spice up your recipes


Tea leaves can be reused in a range of recipes, from cookies to tea-infused alcohol (yep, you heard me right). We’ve got a bunch of different ideas for how to use your tea leaves.

Choose the right tea to reuse


Some tea blends will hold up to reuse better than others. Strong blends or those with large-cut ingredients will likely maintain their flavor for longer. If you want a tea that you can taste all day, choose your blend carefully. We recommend blends like Currant Conversation Oolong tea or the Vanilla Rose Dark Tea Hearts.
Three teaspoons resting on a wooden table each hold a different type of loose leaf tea.

Can I Reuse Bagged Tea?


You’re probably familiar with the weak and watery attempts that come from trying to reuse a tea bag. Why is this the case?
Bagged tea often is made from the offcuts or fannings of loose leaf tea. This means that, typically, it is only intended for single use. The smaller leaves within teabags diffuse quicker, meaning there is not much tastiness left over for a second or third cuppa.
If you’re looking for tea that lasts longer, loose leaf is the way to go. That being said, there are a few ways you can reuse tea that’s common across both bagged or loose leaf.
Consider these options for reusing:
  • Compost or worm farm. Old tea leaves are perfect for adding to your compost or worm farm. Both the leaves and your tea bags will break down and you’ll be able to use them to benefit your garden. The cycle of life at work!
  • Water your plants. Adding loose leaf tea to your watering can share any leftover nutrients from your tea with your plants. Dispose of the teabag, or bury in the garden to allow it to decompose. Check what material your tea bag is made of to ensure you dispose of it responsibly.
Can you reuse tea leaves? Yes. Reusing tea leaves is a wonderful way to make your tea last longer. Provided you reuse your leaves in a timely fashion, there’s no reason to stop at one cup from your leaves!

Steph Huddleston

Steph Huddleston is a freelance writer and book blogger from Australia. Her passion is for the written word, and of course, tea. If you’re looking for your next great book to read with that cup of tea you can check out her website or follow her on Instagram Back to Article

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