black&white #26: 8 ways to reuse your old tea leaves

black&white #26: 8 ways to reuse your old tea leaves

3 min steep

The 7th March marked the start of this year’s Food Waste Action Week, a weeklong campaign to raise awareness about the dizzying impacts of food waste on our climate – and to help businesses and consumers reduce the amount of food they waste. The statistics on food waste are astounding. Around a third of the food produced globally is lost or wasted and it’s contributing 8–10% of total manmade greenhouse gas emissions each year. That means if food waste were a country, it would have the third biggest carbon footprint after the USA and China.

Tea doesn’t really fall into the category of food waste as it’s non-perishable before brewed, which means there’s little to no waste happening in our supply chains or at home. But in the spirit of reducing waste in all forms, we’ve put together a short guide on the best ways to recycle your old tea leaves. Of course, this is nothing new – used tea leaves (called “chagra” in Japan) have been used by people all over the world for thousands of years. Below are some of our favourites.

1. Reinfuse the leaves

Samadoyo Portable Tea Bottle Infuser

Reinfuse your tea leaves on-the-go or at home in our Samadoyo Portable Tea Bottle.

High grade, whole leaf teas like ours can be brewed up to two or three times. Just make sure you drain out all of the tea liquor from each infusion before steeping again.

2. Compost and natural fertiliser

Using Canton Botanical Calm Leaves in Compost

Brewed tea leaves can be used as compost and placed directly onto flower beds.

Probably one of the easiest ways to recycle your old tea leaves is to compost them or use them as a fertiliser. Add straight into your compost heap, mix them with soil before planting, or sprinkle the nutrient-rich tea leaves straight onto your flower beds.

3. Freshener bags

Dry your favourite aromatic tea leaves on a radiator, in the sun or on a very low heat in the oven. Once dried out, you can put the leaves in muslin bags to scent drawers.

4. Bath scents

Canton Rosebuds in Bath

Tea leaves and herbals can be used as aromatic bath scents.

You can also use your muslin-wrapped tea leaves in the bath for a scented, aromatic soak. The flower teas – like rosebuds or chamomile – are particularly good, but they will disintegrate if they go uncontained in the tub.

5. Room scents 

In both China and Japan dried, used tea leaves are often placed on top of small burners (like the ones usually used to burn essential oils). The gentle flame of the candle will slowly heat the tea leaves, producing a gorgeous, roasted tea leaf scent. 

6. Cooking and baking

Matcha White Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Matcha white chocolate sugar cookies.

There are already lots of recipes for cooking and baking with tea – some of which you can find here. But try getting experimental with your used tea leaves in cakes, bakes or savoury dishes. For example, the Japanese traditionally add just-brewed, tender young green tea leaves to salads or even mixed in with rice.

7. Face and body exfoliant

Woman Applying Face Cream

Use crushed tea leaves to make a gorgeous face or body scrub.

As it's packed with health-giving antioxidants and caffeine, tea (and lots of herbals) can make a fantastic, rejuvenating scrub for your skin. Just crush used tea leaves into fine grains in a pestle and mortar and use as an exfoliant when washing. You can also mix the crushed leaves with a facial or body wash – or make your own using one of the hundreds of recipes online (just google tea face scrub).

8. Eye masks

Used green and white tea leaves work particularly well as a homemade eye mask because catechins have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. Fill cotton bags with your used leaves and rehydrate in warm water. Then when cool enough, place over your eyes for 5-10 minutes.

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