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Can you reuse tea leaves? Get the most flavour out of your favourite tea

Have you ever looked at the bottom of your teapot and wonder how to get more out of your tea? I know I have.

So then the real question is can you reuse tea leaves?

I’m excited to share with you that the simple answer to that question is YES! All loose tea leaves can be reused at least once, while some several times. 

However, there are some considerations you should keep in mind, like the type of tea, storage in between brewings, etc.

Some reasons why to reuse Your Tea Leaves?

Tea leaves don’t release their flavour all at once

The main reason is simple: Thus, discarding your tea after one brew would be absolutely a waste. Why get one cup out of your favourite loose leaf tea when you could get several? 

Additionally, for many artisan teas, the first cup generally isn’t the best for different reasons. For example, some teas are tightly rolled and often don’t fully unfurled after one steep. Therefore you’ll miss out if you only go for a single brew.

For instance, some teas may have unpleasant smoky notes due to specific processing methods. For this reason, you might end up discarding the tea, but you should not give up.  These teas oftentimes have wonderful layers of aroma beneath them!

This is because the strong flavours are often flushed away during the first steep. Furthermore, if you continue brewing, you’ll find out that the taste will become softer and smoother starting from the 2nd or 3rd brew.

Reusing tea leaves saves time and dollars. 

I don’t know about you, but I like to think that the more times I can reuse a product and the longer it serves its purpose, the better!

In some countries, such as China, it’s quite common to reuse tea leaves. Chinese people commonly pour one cup and then throw it away and drink the second cup from the same leaves. The next day, however, they will not reuse the tea.

Is it safe to reuse loose leaf tea?

The quick answer is yes. However, DO NOT let your tea leaves sit for more than a few hours since the hot wet leaves’ heat and humidity are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

The tea company, Golden Moon Teas, suggests that drying out the tea leaves will dramatically increase their remaining life. They recommend removing as much moisture as possible and then spreading the leaves out in a well-ventilated room to dry; You could try using a clean towel to press them and then placing a different towel below them while drying.

How to reuse tea leaves?

  1. Add a bit more leaves if you want to get the stronger flavour
  2. Use fresh spring water
  3. Avoid leaving  wet tea leaves for more than a few hours
  4. Increase the temperature for those last few infusions to allow you to get more flavour from the leaves.

How many times can you reuse tea leaves?

You first learned why to reuse tea & the factors that affect the tea’s ability to be brewed multiple times. By now, you probably agree that it is a sad thing to throw away leaves of a good tea that could have been infused multiple times.

But when is enough?

Well some teas you can’t resteep at all; while some can keep going for 30 infusions. It’s all about what tastes good to you. One way to start is to try resteeping your leaves until it stops tasting delicious.

If you add more leaves, then you can resteep the same teapot or infuser full of leaves more times. There’s no point in being stingy with your leaves!

That beign said, there are some suggestions and guidelines from industry experts & other tea afficionados.

For instance, Michael Chamberlain, the guy behind teahow.com, suggests that, on average, a black loose leaf tea can be re-steeped three to four times after the first one. He recommends a steeping time for reusing black loose leaf tea of  6-8 minutes.  Increasing the time by 2-3 minutes along with the number of times reused.

What about tea bags?

Teabags that you generally buy at the supermarket consist of a grade called fannings also known as tea dust. For this reason, tea bags are not always suitable for gentle brewing and also or brewing multiple times.

Factors Affecting the Ability to Reuse Loose Leaf Tea

Different teas brew different numbers of infusions, in other words, the end result will be different they transition through multiple infusions of changing length. 

You could say –To a limited degree, that better quality tea brews more infusions.

However, it’s important to note that as with every generalization there are limits to it.

Because who cares if tea leaves can keep producing flavour through infusion if as a result the flavours of your drink are not very tasty, won’t want to keep brewing it.

Here are some common factors to asse if you can actually reuse your tea leaves.

Grade of tea by size

Some tea is the grade of machine-made teas. However, if you go for much more fine and high-quality teas, consisting only of the best buds, they are perfect for multiple brewing.

Shape

Twisted or rolled up loose tea leaves are commonly used multiple times. In fact, tea leaves with those shapes taste better than when you first brew them. This is Because when reused, the leaves have more time to unfurl fully. Therefore releasing more flavour than it did for the first time.

Roasted vs Non-Roasted

Roasted tea leaves tend to hold up better for multiple steeping over non-roasted tea leaves

Preference

It’s also possible to prefer tea brewed very lightly, which would extend several potential infusions, and different tea types seem best suited for different infusion strengths to me.

A final note

One more thing, please do not throw your leaves away after the final steep. When you feel your tea won’t give much flavour anymore, you can still use it in many ways, but we are leaving that subject for another post 😉

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