The Japanese have been dealing with used tea leaves for so long that they even have a name for them: chagara (茶殻). If you brew loose-leaf tea daily you’ll also find yourself discarding a lot of steeped leaves.
Did you know that steeped tea leaves can be reused? I’m not talking about resteeping (which you should already be doing in order to fully make use of your tea leaves), but rather finding other uses for tea leaves that you would otherwise throw away.
There are two general ways to start reusing tea leaves:
- Using them right after steeping them
- Drying them first
In this post we’ll explore the drying method.
Dried tea leaves last longer and are easy to use. After you finish reading this article, you’ll be drying tea leaves effortlessly!
The main ways to dry tea leaves are by drying them under the sun (slowest), drying in an oven (faster) and using a microwave (fastest).
Place the leaves on a flat surface, preferably with a paper towel/cloth under them. It’s easy but it could take a lot of time depending on the temperature and weather.
Drying in an oven
Place the tea leaves on a cookie sheet and use the lowest temperature possible. Keep checking to make sure that you don’t accidentally burn the leaves. In my case it took about an hour.
This is the fastest method and the one I always use.
First put a paper towel on top of a plate, then spread the tea leaves as evenly as possible.
In the picture I used a small amount of steeped tea leaves (about a third of leftover leaves for a cup of sencha, I ate the rest 🙂 ) but you can use much more.
Place another paper towel on top of the leaves and put the plate inside your microwave. The paper towels will absorb the moisture that’s evaporated from the tea leaves.
Use the microwave for 1 minute and then check if the leaves are dry or not. Repeat this procedure for 30-second increments until the leaves become dry. If you overdo it you’ll burn the leaves so be careful.
The dry leaves will crumble easily, but that’s ok. You can also store your dried leaves in a container if you won’t be using them the same day.
How to use your dried tea leaves
Dried tea leaves have two main uses:
As seasoning for food
Sprinkle the dried leaves on to food as you would with herbs and spices. It adds a nice touch plus it’s low in calories!
Dried tea leaves naturally absorb odors. Like baking soda, you can place the leaves in a small bowl and they will deodorize on their own. For example, you could use them to absorb smells from the refrigerator, bathroom and even the oven after cooking.
Put dried tea leaves on an ash tray, your cat’s litter box or inside your shoes. Also, try sprinkling the leaves on the rug, let them deodorize for a while, and vacuum them.
There are endless ways to use your dried tea leaves. How will you be using them?