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 tea bag will depend on whether the tea bag contains black, oolong, green, or white tea.
So, let’s find the magic number when it comes to reusing a tea bag!
How Many Times Can I Use a Tea Bag?
Here is a breakdown of how many times you can use a tea bag:
Types of Tea
Max. Number of Steeping
As you can see, it isn’t advisable to steep black or oolong tea leaves more than once. With green and white tea blends, though, re-steeping the tea bag won’t hurt.
Why is this?
It all has to do with tea strength and taste.
With any mug of tea, the first steeping will produce the strongest flavor. After that first one, your tea will have lost a lot of the flavor.
In some cases, the second cup may have maintained a good taste, but the third mug may be way too weak for you to enjoy.
This is especially true if you are making milk tea.
To understand why this happens, you have to first appreciate what happens when you put a teabag in hot water:
What Happens When You Place a Tea Bag in Hot Water?
The process is pretty simple – as a tea bag steeps, diffusion takes place. The tannin molecules in the tea leaves 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 these components. 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.
They discovered was that the size of the tea leaf matters.
Smaller tea leaves result in an increased rate of diffusion. Essentially, they release their tannins more readily.
This is important because certain cheaper tea bags use fannings ro tea dust in their bags. Due to this, fewer of these components remain in the bag after single steeping.
Premium tea bags, though, will use larger tea leaves limiting the rate of diffusion.
Therefore, paying attention to the quality of the products that you order can help a little.
Now, why is there a difference in how many times steep black, oolong, green, or white tea? Well, this will be explained in some of the sections below…
The Impact of Re-Steeping on Caffeine Level
Now, most people use tea to give them a jolt of energy in the morning or afternoon.
Therefore, you have to wonder how multiple steepings will have an impact on the caffeine level.
Well, it turns out that the caffeine level is impacted by water temperature and steeping time much like other components of tea leaves.
This means that the overall content does decrease each time the teabags are placed in hot water.
Eventually, you won't experience too much of an energy rush at all.
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 infusion.
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 during the infusion period.
Therefore, the next time you use the tea bag, the flavor of these infusions will be greatly diminished. The third mug will have even less taste.
The Impact of Many Steepings on Skin Care
In addition to health benefits, some of the uses of tea bags are for skin care.
In particular, tea bags are placed on the eyes to help with both dark circles and inflammation.
So, will tea bags still be as effective after many infusions?
Well, probably not.
This is because these benefits are linked to caffeine.
And, as mentioned these levels reduce with every infusion of the tea bags.
How Do You Reuse Tea Bags?
Here are some rules that you should follow when reusing tea bags:
Use the Lowest Temperature Required
First things first, don't ever place the tea bags in warmer water than recommended.
This will only destroy the flavors for the future brews.
Always follow the instructions for each of the blends.
If possible use a teapot or tea kettle with a pre-programmed temperature guide.
Pay Attention to the Timing
The other rule to follow is with how long you steep the teas for.
Once again, use a timer or something keep track of the seconds or minutes that the tea bags spend in your mug.
Remove the bag when needed.
Don't Squeeze the Teabags
Is it something of a habit for you to squeeze your tea bag into your mug before throwing it in the trash?
Well, you should stop this.
See, the squeezing motion causes even more components to be removed from the tea leaves.
This leaves even less for the future brews.
Reusing Tea Bags and Safety
Dry teas have an incredible shelf life. Thus, you can leave them out for quite a while, without them going bad.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for wet tea leaves, where moisture has been introduced.
In fact, once damp, these become a breeding ground for all manner of bacteria or mold.
To avoid compromising your health, here is the information that you should pay attention to:
Store in Damp Medium
You shouldn't allow your teas to dry out at all.
Once you have used the teabag, make sure to store in a shot glass or other small container.
This should cut down on the risk of mold or bacteria growth.
At the same time, you will need to place the container with the tea bag in the refrigerator immediately.
Don't leave it out on the kitchen counter or by your side at your desk.
Most strains of bacteria can't survive in the cold. It is due to this fact that you will be able to keep the teas safer for longer.
Only Keep for a Few Hours
Even when keeping your teas in the refrigerator, don't do so for more than a few hours.
There is a limit to how much the cold can inhibit the bacteria in the tea. So, it is best not to take a chance.
However, if the smell is off at all to you throw it away immediately, don't try tasting it first.
Reheat in Hot Water
Once you take the teas out of the fridge, immediately plunge it into hot liquid.
This will help to kill any bacteria left on the teas.
Don't try this with cool or room temperature water.
In conclusion, the answer to this question isn’t all that simple. The exact number of steepings teas can undergo depends on a couple of factors such as your tea flavor and strength preference.
However, if you were to approach the problem scientifically, it is possible to use a single tea bag twice or thrice. 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.