Every passionate tea drinker feels a certain kind of sadness when throwing away delicious high quality tea leaves after the first and only infusion.
Once you learn how to re-steep them, you will not only save money while drinking more tea, but extract as much goodness as possible. And you will never need to throw them away after the first cup.
How many times can you brew loose leaf tea?
You can brew almost any loose leaf tea at least twice. However, this is true only for real teas. Many herbal teas may not offer multiple infusions. Re-steeping is not only a great way to get more cups of tea, it’s important for understanding the flavors and extract as much beneficial compounds as possible. It’s also a basic principle of the Chinese gong fu brewing and Japanese sencha and gyokuro tea ceremony, and they all focus on tea flavor. Re-steeping doesn’t only work with eastern brewing techniques. You can use a regular mug and infuser and still get at least 2-3 infusions from the same tea leaves. The biggest difference in eastern and western brewing technique is that the eastern one usually uses much more tea leaves and much less water.
The benefits of re-steeping are:
- getting a better value for the price you pay,
- experiencing different flavors with each infusion
- extracting more antioxidants and caffeine.
All high quality loose leaf teas can be re-steeped–especially those with unbroken leaves. Loose leaf tea with broken leaves can be re-steeped, but it won’t offer much complexity or rich flavor. The amounts of time you can use the same leaves will depend on many factors–how long was the first infusion, what type of tea you are using, what shape are the leaves, etc.
White tea can be re-steeped at least 2 or 3 times in a mug, and more than 5 times when using eastern brewing technique.
Green tea is good for 3-6 infusions if you brew it in the eastern style, or 2-3 when using regular western brewing technique. Steep for 1-2 minute, then increase the time.
Some oolong teas can be re-steeped for at least 10 times. Chinese oolong tea and Taiwanese are especially good for re-steeping. Rolled oolongs such as Ti Kwan Yin may give at least 5-10 great infusions or until the leaves unfurl. When brewed in a mug, it can give 3-4 great infusions. A good example is Orange Blossom, a tea that may give more of the orange flavor in the first cup, and oolong flavors in following infusions.
Black teas are great for at least 2-3 western-style infusions or 3-10 made in the eastern style.
Pu’erh tea is one of the most generous teas. Depending on which type you are using, it can give over 20 infusions. If you are brewing it the regular way in a mug, you should get anywhere from 3 to 6 great cups.
Herbal tea is generally not suitable for re-steeping. But, since there are hundreds of different herbal teas, some may offer more than just one infusion. For example, you can re-steep Yerba Mate at least 3-10 times, depending on which type you are using. Rooibos may be good for two infusions and mint tea for 2-4 times.
Flavored tea is usually good for only one infusion. However, most of them will give at least two good cups. Added flavors may be much weaker in the second cup, but the base flavor of tea should still be noticeable.
Do’s and don’t when re-steeping tea
- Do add a bit more leaves if you want to get the stronger flavor
Adding more leaves than you would usually use will let you experience all the flavor notes and get a stronger infusion. In that case, reduce the steeping time a bit.
- Don’t re-steep tea bags
Tea bags contain tea powder, which may sometimes be superior in caffeine content, but inferior in flavor. They are intended for one use only, unless they contain unbroken leaves.
- Do use fresh spring water
Which water you will use is very important if you want to experience every note hidden in your tea leaves.
- Don’t leave wet tea leaves for more than a few hours
Even though you can leave the tea leaves in your teapot or infuser after steeping, never leave them wet for more than a couple of hours.
- Do use a smaller tea pot
Re-steeping can sometimes give you more than 10 cups of tea from the same tea leaves. Use a smaller teapot if you want to enjoy all of them at the same time. Tea pot for re-steeping shouldn’t be bigger than 150ml. However, using a regular mug and steeping in your usual way is perfectly fine too–as long as you don’t leave the leaves waiting for a full day.
- Don’t throw the leaves away after the final steep
When you feel your tea won’t give much flavor anymore, you can still use it in many ways.
- Do mix all infusions if you can’t drink it immediately
If you re-steep the same leaves for more than 3 times, it’s possible that sometimes you won’t be able to drink all that tea, especially if you are using a bigger teapot. In that case, try every infusion, but pour the rest of the brewed tea into a larger teapot. You can store it in the fridge and enjoy iced later.
- Don’t ignore the water temperature
How you make the first infusion is important. Over-steeping the leaves and using boiling water will ruin most of the leaves and giving a bitter cup. Every following cup will be bitter too.
- Do increase the temperature for those last few infusions
Increasing the temperature will allow you to get more flavor from the leaves.
What can you do with tea after steeping?
Once the flavor is gone, you can still use the tea leaves in many ways:
- Put them into a larger pitcher and add water. Cold brew in the fridge for at least 4-6 hours.
- Dry the leaves as use them for DIY bath sachets
- You can eat some of them in salads–for example gyokuro or Japanese sencha
- Use them as a compost for your garden or plants
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Every person is different and may react to different herbs and teas differently. Never use teas or herbs to treat serious medical conditions on your own. Always seek professional medical advice before choosing home remedies.