The Truth About Steeping: How Many Times Can You Use a Tea Bag?
You can use a teabag 1-2 times.
The number of times you can re-steep a teabag will depend on whether the teabag contains black, oolong, green, or white tea.
So, let’s find the magic number when it comes to reusing a teabag!
How Many Times Can I Use a Tea Bag?
Here is a breakdown of how many times you can use a teabag:
Types of Tea
Max. Number of Steeping
As you can see, it isn’t advisable to steep black or oolong tea more than once. With green and white tea, though, re-steeping the teabag won’t hurt.
Why is this?
It all has to do with tea strength.
With any cup of tea, the first steeping will produce the strongest brew. After that first cup of tea, your tea will get progressively weaker.
In some cases, the second steeping will create a drinkable brew, but the third one may be way too weak for you to enjoy.
To understand why this happens, you have to first appreciate what happens when you put a teabag in water:
What Happens When You Place a Tea Bag in Water?
The process is pretty simple – as a tea bag steeps, diffusion takes place. The tannin molecules within the tea bag move from an area of higher concentration to a lower one.
This means that when you remove your tea bag from the cup after the first steeping, it has lost a certain amount of tannins.
Nevertheless, it still contains a certain percentage of tannins. As such, it is capable of adding more color and flavor to future cups of water.
Believe it or not, scientists experimented on the rate of diffusion among loose leaf teas and tea bags.
One thing they discovered was that the size of the tea leaf matters.
Smaller tea bags result in an increased rate of diffusion. Essentially, they release their tannins more readily.
This is important because certain cheaper tea bags use fannings in their bags. Due to this, fewer tannins remain in the bag after single steeping.
Now, why is there a difference in how many times you can steep black, oolong, green, or white tea? Well, this will be explained in the next section…
How Does Diffusion Rate Change According to the Type of Tea?
As you may be aware, each kind of tea needs to be steeped for different periods of time. You can find more about this in the post How to Steep Tea.
The steeping time for each individual type of tea is as follows:
- White tea: 30 to 60 seconds
- Green tea: 1 to 3 minutes
- Black tea: 3 to 5 minutes
- Oolong tea: 5 minutes
Since white and green teas are left to steep for a shorter period of time, there is a lower rate of diffusion.
Thus, fewer tannins are released into the water, leaving high levels of flavor in the tea bag.
Due to this, re-steeping these teabags will result in stronger consecutive brews, allowing for a more pleasant flavor.
Black and oolong teas, on the other hand, must be steeped for far longer, allowing more tannins to escape.
Therefore, the next time you use the teabag, the flavor will be greatly diminished. The third one will be even more so.
In conclusion, the answer to how many times can you use a tea bag isn’t all that simple. The exact number of times you can reuse a tea bag depends on a couple of factors such as your tea strength preference.
However, if you were to approach the problem scientifically, it is possible to use a single tea bag around two, perhaps even three times. After this, it would completely lose its potency and you’d be unable to brew any more cups of tea with it.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.