If you are an avid tea drinker like me, you might have come across a certain question in the past before. The teapot you made is empty again and you want to make more. But can you just reuse the leaves you used an hour ago? Will they even still taste good? Basically, you ask yourself:
New Tea Or Not New Tea - That Is The Question
And it is a good question, indeed! Because it isn’t so easy to answer. Different types of tea have different ways of behaving. And then there is also the risk of when the tea can become bad for your health!
I looked through the internet and tried to find as many professional sources as I could. For some areas, I took the information from blogs or forums but still cross-checked with other sources to make sure it’s not just one-sided, false information.
How Long Can I Still Reuse My Tea?
The general consensus agrees that you shouldn’t be reusing tea after a day has passed. And the safest time period is the first three hours after you used your tea leaves first. After that, bacteria can grow and evolve and you might get sick with a handful of different things, depending on which tea you’ve been drinking (I won’t go into detail – just know that it’s less safe after a day). Also pay attention that your tea water has always been boiling before you use it, because then everything is being sterilized a little.
Teas That Definitely Still Taste Good After A Second Infusion
The best tea to reuse and at the same time save some packaging, is loose tea. Additionally, it is said that the higher the quality of the tea, the more often you can infuse it again. But overall, these types of tea lend themselves best for multiple infusions:
Lo and behold! Because Oolong tea is even made to be used again. These tea leaves show their different facets over multiple infusions and become mellower and more floral over time. So make sure you are reusing this one multiple times! With a professional technique it’s possible to even use Oolong up to 8 times in a row! But we tea-hobbyists with our normal tea pots might reach our limit with 3 to 4 infusions. Still – that’s quite the tea leaves saved, if you would normally use new ones every time. This tea prefers a water temperature of 90 to 100 °C.
Just like Oolong tea, green tea can be used around 2-3 times as well. And with every new infusion, you can make the water a little bit hotter. In case you didn’t know – the hot water for the first infusion of green tea should be around 70 °C, so that it doesn’t become too bitter. Then, for the second infusion, you can increase the temperature a bit, to around 75°C.
White tea is very delicate and the least processed. You can infuse it again as well, but the taste might be a little softer than with the other teas. Better quality white tea should get in touch with 70°C water, while the water for lesser quality tea can be around 80-90°C.
Black tea is said to taste almost watery after the second infusion. So I bought some of it to check if that’s actually true!
I made a little personal experiment and brewed some green tea and black tea to experience these infusion-rules about flavor myself.
The result: Even after the third infusion of the black tea that I had at home, it still tasted strong enough to be enjoyed! The flavor of my Sencha green tea on the other hand already seemed a little sad after the second infusion. This was pretty surprising to me, because my tea reacted the opposite from what it should – at least after what the professional opinion is. The reason for my green tea tasting pretty stale after the second infusion might also come from the tea filter I put my tea leaves into. It is always better to give your leaves enough space so they can properly unfold. I just don’t have the possibility for that yet – but I’m planning to get a nice, wide strainer for my tea pot soon.
This really shows again, that most things are better tried out than just read about.
To answer the question: Yes! You can reuse basically any of your tea. Multiple times, even. Loose tea leaves lend themselves better to it, but it’s always worth it to try and experiment yourself! You just need to make sure that you restrict your multiple infusions to the same day.
Roy, Souvik, Roy, Lopamudra & Das, Nilanjan (2019). Peeping into The Kettle. A Review on the Microbiology of ‘Made Tea’. International Journal of Pharmacy and Biological Sciences, 9(1), 842-849.