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.
Drying tea leaves
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).
Drying with sunlight
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.
Drying in a microwave
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.
This time it took me 2 minutes. You’ll find that the required time changes depending on the power of your microwave and the amount of tea leaves.
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?
December 4, 2012
This is very informational for using tea leaves after drying them…as spices and deodorizer. So many uses from just one plant known as Camellia sinensis. Amazing!
Thank you for sharing.
May 2, 2015
Hope people see your next page on eating tea leaves in various ways!!! Thks
May 4, 2015
Thank you for the comment Mike.
Just in case, here’s the link for the other article about the subject: https://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/eating-spent-tea-leaves
January 2, 2016
When I make cold process soap, for a light speckled effect I have been adding dried crumbled leaves of nettle or parsley or mint, or dried chamomile. I will try using dried tea. Thanks for the information about how to dry it quickly.
February 22, 2018
I have used “Corelle” flat plates in the microwave with no paper towels. After drying, just use a piece of cloth to wipe out any water.
May 24, 2019
Once I have used brewed tea bags i.e. in the refrigerator, is there something else I can do with them? Can I still use them in my garden?
May 25, 2019
Not all teabags are biodegradable, you would have to look at the package.
If you’re still unsure, just use the contents of the teabag in your garden and not the teabag itself.
Used tea leaves can definitely be composted as well.
August 1, 2020
If the tea bag feels slippery, then they are non-biodegradable, otherwise fine for using in garden.
April 16, 2020
I have a Japanese tea burner, which I love. I generally use fresh tea leaves in it but now I will try with my used and dried tea leaves.
Has anyone else tried this?