Once More Unto the Steep, Dear Friends:
Your Guide to Reusing Tea Leaves
You’ve probably heard that you can use your tea leaves more than once.
However, what you aren't as well-versed in is the art of reusing tea leaves.
After all, there are so many questions that you may have with this practice.
For instance, is it possible to use any kind of tea leaves? Also, how many times can you use the same set of tea leaves to make a brew?
Well, these questions and more will be answered below…
The Tradition of Re-steeping Tea
If you imagine that reusing tea leaves is simply to get more out of your tea leaves, think again!
Re-steeping tea is a tradition in China – a part of the Gong Fu ceremony.
Here, the tea leaves are steeped time and time again because it is believed that each steeping offers a new and interesting flavor profile to explore.
Thus, if you enjoy tasting what your tea leaves have to offer at different strengths, then you may want to consider re-steeping your tea leaves.
What Kind of Teas Can Be Reused?
So, can you re-steep all teas?
Well, you do have to consider the flavor profiles of the true teas here.
For the purpose of re-steeping, darker, bolder teas work best. This includes black tea, oolong tea, and pu’erh tea.
Since these teas are more robust, they hold up well to being reused.
The consecutive steepings will produce diluted brews but with a noticeable taste.
Green and white teas aren't all that suited to being re-steeped, although you can certainly give them a try.
Pick Quality Tea Leaves
Selecting black, oolong, or pu’erh tea isn't enough. You also have to make certain that you are selecting premium or high-quality brews.
Keep in mind, these tea leaves tend to produce a more robust and flavorful brew. Thus, they can be re-steeped more than cheaper or lower quality leaves.
Look for Long Leafed Teas
It is unlikely that you will get all that much out of CTC tea leaves.
This is because these leaves have been cut and processed in a manner that makes them release all their flavor and aroma into the water immediately.
As such, the second steeping will result in a mild and tasteless brew.
Long leafed teas, on the other hand, have been specially prepared to contain complex and beautiful flavors and aromas.
And, as they are curled instead of cut, they release their flavors more slowly. This means that they will be good for two or more steepings.
Steer Clear of Flavored Teas
Artificially flavored teas will not hold up as well to several steepings.
You will often discover that most of the flavor is exuded with the first brew. As such, they will not be all that much left by the second or third cup.
How Many Times Can You Steep Tea Leaves?
So, how many times can you reuse your tea leaves?
Well, this depends on two things – the quality of the leaves and your tea strength preferences.
As mentioned, bolder and higher quality teas hold up well to re-steeping. Thus, with these kinds of leaves, you could get a greater number of stronger brews.
This means that you can steep them a greater number of times.
However, you do have to be mindful about your own preferences.
If you are someone who prefers a stronger cup of tea, you will only be able to re-steep the tea
leaves so many times before you stop enjoying the flavor.
In case you don’t mind a milder brew, though, then you may be able to get many more steepings out the tea leaves.
Tips for Re-Steeping Tea
There are several tips that you can take away from the Gong Fu ceremony when trying to steep tea leaves several times.
To begin with, use a smaller cup than you typically would.
Also, increase the ratio of tea leaves to water. This way, you can get a bolder cup of tea for longer.
You should decrease your steeping time. If a particular tea needs to be steeped for a minute, try cutting this time down by half.
Taste the brew and if it is still palatable, you can steep the tea once more.
If you find the resulting drink to be too weak, you may want to increase the steeping time but reduce how many times you steep the tea.
At the end of the day, some experimentation will be involved until you get the hang of re-steeping tea.
How to Store Tea Leaves for Reuse?
Now, one of the questions that you may be wondering is how long can you store your used tea leaves for.
For instance, is it possible to brew a fresh cup of tea with tea leaves that you used yesterday?
In theory, sure you could do this. However, this is something that you should avoid at all costs.
To begin with, it is possible for bacteria or mold to grow on wet tea leaves after a few hours.
Thus, if you use them to brew another cup of tea, you could be potentially putting your health in danger.
Even if there weren’t health concerns, it isn't advisable to use these tea leaves too long after you initially steeped them.
This has to do with the liquor of the tea. You will discover that the flavors and the aromas of the tea will be significantly lessened once they have been left out.
For the best results, don’t reuse the tea leaves if they have been used more than two or so hours ago.
This is what you need to know about re-steeping and reusing your tea leaves. You can now give this particular strategy a try and see if it is suitable for your palate.
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.