How to use spent tea leaves
We brew loose-leaf tea daily and we find ourselves with a lot of used tea leaves. You want to do more than just compost your leaves and we’ve found several reuse options… from cooking to cleaning.
First, decide if you want to reuse your leaves moist or dry. Moist leaves need only to be placed in a bowl or in reusable mesh bags for use. Moist tea leaves can be kept chilled for two days. To keep longer, strain the leaves out (and compost them) and keep the re-brewed liquid in a spray bottle for up to a week. Just make sure you haven’t added sugar or milk to your tea leaves.
To dry your used leaves, just spread them out on a cookie sheet in sunlight or the oven.
Moist leaves, straight after brewing, can be used as treatments, as cleaners and as fertilizers. Dry leaves can be added to various dishes to enhance flavors.
Dried tea leaves naturally absorb odors. Just like an open box of old baking soda in the refrigerator, use dried or wet leaves around your home to neutralize odors. You can use them to absorb smells from the refrigerator, bathroom, closet, shoes, or laundry basket. Add leaves to the bottom of your trash cans and run leaves down your garbage disposal to keep it smelling fresh.
After handling foods like garlic, onions, and fish, rub a few leaves between your hands to remove the lingering smell.
Tea leaves are a wonderful relief to tired, irritated eyes. Rest leaves on your eyes for several minutes to reduce puffiness and soothe. Massage over sunburn to cool skin and reduce inflammation. Since tea contains antioxidants, bathing in warm water steeped with pre-brewed tea is nourishing for your skin. You can have a foot bath too by soaking your feet in tea water which will soften and refresh them. (Steep two heaping tablespoons of used tea leaves in warm water for about 10 minutes.)
Also try our DIY Green Tea Bath Salts Recipes! And if you are into making soap, add dried, slightly crushed tea leaves to your mixture as a natural colorant and slight exfoliant.
Sprinkle the dried leaves on food, as you would with herbs and spices. Mix Jasmine with Flowers Green Tea into rice for extra complexity. Add a flavorful, smoky Lapsang Souchong with a spice rub or sauce. Use any re-brewed tea in place of water in soup, quinoa and couscous or as an ingredient in your homemade veggie broth.
Keep a spray bottle full of re-brewed tea to spray onto mirrors, glass and other surfaces to remove fingerprints and loosen dirt. Sprinkle slightly damp loose tea over rugs and carpet and leave them until they are totally dry. Then vacuum the dried tea leaves away and remove odor and dust.
The tannins in teas work as a cleaning agent and provide luster to wood and leather. Tea is great for enhancing wood’s natural shine; just spray on and wipe down. Use a few tablespoons of damp leaves in a mesh bag, in a circular motion over dark leather shoes to bring them to a shine.
A few tea leaves in your dishwater might even help break up grease.
Brewing tea leaves again makes a fabulous fertilizer and will help protect them from fungal infections.
The re-brewed leaves still contain minerals and other nutrients that will help create rich soil. Add two tablespoons of used leaves to your watering can and give your plants a treat. Leaves will continue to be full of nutrients even after several steepings so when you are finished with your reuse you can still add it to the compost.