Feed Your Body
Re-steep Your Tea
The most obvious choice for what to do with used tea leaves is to re-steep them. It couldn’t be simpler! Just do the exact same thing you did when you made your first cup of tea. Same leaves. Same cup. New water. Done and done.
Depending on how strong you like your tea, you may want to steep it a little longer the second (or third, or fourth) time around.
Fun little aside: I may have made this up, but I swear I heard somewhere that the second steep of tea is lucky. Don’t fact-check me on that; it may not be rooted in any actual tradition. But I have it in my brain that the second steep is lucky, and if you want to, you can join me aboard this luck-fueled bandwagon! Who cares where the idea came from? As a personal ritual, any time I steep tea for the second time, I make a wish as I’m pouring water over the leaves. It’s a fun way to add a little magic to the humdrum of your daily life, and you don’t even have to wait for your birthday to come around with those once-a-year wishing candles.
Treat Yourself to a Spa Day
For a different kind of magic, you can also use those soggy leaves to harness the power of self-care. And if that doesn’t sound like magic to you, then perhaps you’ve never experienced the transformative power of an at-home spa day.
Tea, while not a miracle cure, is loaded with antioxidants and other goodies that most people’s skin and hair go nuts for! And while I may have made up the wishing thing (we may never know), I definitely didn’t make this one up. Walk down the skincare aisle of your grocery store, or read the labels on the products at any spa, and you’re sure to find tea on the list of at least one product. Science agrees with me: tea is good for your body, your mind, and your face!
If drinking tea is a relaxing experience for you, just wait until you start slathering it all over yourself; it opens up a whole new world. Used tea leaves of any variety – green, black, white, or herbal – will each provide benefits in their own special way. Please be mindful of your skin type when choosing what to include in your DIY spa oasis, especially if you have sensitive skin! But here are a few ideas to get you started.
Among other things, tea leaves can be used for:
• Face masks! Using the leaves “as-is” straight from your infuser will probably be a little too chunky, but a quick blend in a food processor or blender, or even a nice chop with your favorite kitchen knife, will take care of that in a jiff. (If you have one, a mortar and pestle would also work quite nicely.)
Depending on your skin type, you could add a teaspoon or two of honey, baking soda, egg yolks or whites, coconut or olive oil, oatmeal, a couple drops of essential oil – whatever your skin will like! Just whiz up your desired ingredients in the blender with your tea leaves or stir them into your leaves after you’ve chopped or crushed them. Apply the mixture to your face, relax for ten to twenty minutes, and rinse!
Note, you may want to follow up with a toner or moisturizer, particularly if you are using a highly caffeinated tea, as caffeine can dry out the skin. For that reason, green, white, and herbal teas work particularly well for the face.
• Sugar scrub! Adding your leaves to a couple tablespoons of sugar and a drizzle of olive or melted coconut oil makes a lovely exfoliating scrub. Not only is it great for sloughing away dead or dry skin, but it’s also good for circulation! I find it a bit abrasive for my face, but it works wonders on hands, feet, lips, elbows – anywhere that might be feeling dry or you just want to feel extra polished. It’s also awesome as a full body scrub in the shower.
• Eye treatment! Forget cucumber slices – the caffeine in tea makes it fabulous for reducing puffiness and dark circles under your eyes. Do note that since caffeine is what makes the treatment effective, using steeped leaves may not have as much of an impact as using leaves that were only moistened. Still! It will be soothing and lovely regardless.
Use two tea filter bags, muslin cloth, cheesecloth, or pieces of very thin towel to pack the tea, then moisten and place the parcels over your eyes for ten to twenty minutes. Just imagine lying back... waiting for your face mask to dry... inhaling the delightful smell of your favorite blend as the moisture from the leaves reinvigorates your skin and relaxes your mind. I feel myself getting calmer just thinking about it.
• Foot soak! There’s nothing like giving your feet a little TLC after a long day of supporting you everywhere you needed to go. Our poor feet do so much for us, and we so often take them for granted. Show them some love with a reviving tea foot soak! Just toss your used tea leaves into a soaking bowl or tub filled with very warm water, sit back, and enjoy. You could follow up with a sugar scrub, some stretches for the feet, and maybe even a foot rub with essential oils or your favorite lotion. Even better if you can get someone else to do it for you.
• Tea bath! If soaking your feet in tea sounds like a perfect way to unwind, why not try a full-body soak? Tea baths are amazing for decompressing after a long day or reveling in the luxury of a quiet day to yourself. You could really lean into the experience by whipping up some tea bath salts before you turn on the taps. Then light some candles, put on some soft music, and let the world wash away.
Super Simple Exfoliating Face Mask
- 1 serving used tea leaves of choice, preferably green, white, or herbal
- 1 teaspoon honey
Blend or chop your tea leaves until they are a workable consistency for smoothing on the face. Small chunks are fine, as they will aid the exfoliating process, but large chunks will not stick well to your face.
Combine tea leaves with honey.
Spread onto face. Let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse over sink or in shower.
Enjoy your glowing skin!
Super Simple Sugar Scrub
- 1 serving used tea leaves of choice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Drizzle of olive oil
Combine all ingredients.
Use scrub on any non-sensitive area of your body that you want to buff and polish!
Rinse after exfoliating, and enjoy your newly soft skin.
Feed Your Friends
Tea is not just for humans. You can enjoy a cuppa with your favorite furry friend, dogs and cats alike. And when the whole gang has finished their teatime, you can use the leftover leaves to revive your houseplants, your herbs, and your garden.
I must tell you, I’m getting this information second-hand. I can experiment with self-care for humans all day long, but I am a plant killer. I always have been. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to keep a plant alive for more than a few months. Which is why most of mine are now plastic. (I wish that were a joke. Sadly, it’s not.)
But maybe the thing I was missing all along was that I never dumped my used tea leaves from the teapot to the planter when I was done with them. It is possible that if only I had emptied the contents of my infuser at the base of my poor little rosebush, she would still be alive and flourishing today. (RIP, Katherine Elizabeth. You were beautiful while you lasted.)
According to people who know a lot more than I do about keeping plants alive, tea leaves make for excellent fertilizer, mulch, and compost. I’m not surprised; there’s a lot of good stuff in tea. If humans can benefit from all that good stuff both by drinking it and by slathering it on their skin and in their hair, then why shouldn’t plants get in on that goodness?
Do your leafy friends a favor and add some tea leaves to their diet. If it perks them up, share your pictures with us on social media and tag us @plumdeluxe! Maybe I’ll be inspired by your success and adopt another rosebush.
Feed Your Imagination
Tea can be a great way to boost creativity. Not only that, but you can use the tea itself in your creative endeavors! In your quest to find fresh ideas for what to do with used tea leaves, consider these artistic alternatives:
• Use them for an art project! Branch out from watercolors and oils – try painting with tea! Or use the leaves to cast creative shapes on the page and see what it sparks in your imagination. You can scatter your tea leaves on a piece of paper, stare at it “ink-blot” style, and see what speaks to you. It’s a lot like looking for constellations in the stars or shapes in clouds – only you get to make it come to life!
Once you’ve identified the shapes in your smattering of leaves, you can use them to create one-of-a-kind works of art. I, myself clearly saw a Pegasus in my tea leaf “constellation,” and did a kind of dot-to-dot drawing worthy of any elementary school classroom wall. Who knows what masterpiece you might create? Again, share it with us on social media! We’d love to see it.
• Stain things! You may have noticed: tea is good at staining things. Mugs. Teeth. Furniture. Not always ideal. But why not put that naturally tenacious pigmentation to good use? Try staining things on purpose! Using the leaves as well as the liquid will give your tea-stained materials extra visual texture. You can use tea to stain paper, giving it a beautifully antique look for letters, collages, invitations, or whatever paper projects your heart desires. Or use it to stain clothes for a new take on tie-dye. (Tea-dye, anyone?)
• Read them to tell your future! Who needs a horoscope when you have tea leaves? With the proper perspective, that lumpy mess at the bottom of your cup isn’t just a lumpy mess – it’s insight into your life. A message about your future, advice about a pressing problem... stare into their moistened depths and let them reveal their mysteries.
With so many uses for tea leaves, you need never throw them in the garbage or toss them down the disposal again. Whether you’re using them to feed your body, your plants, or your imagination, there are plenty of creative ways to reuse your tea leaves. Have fun, everyone!