LIVE

Got tea? Try one (or all nine) of these clever uses for both new and used tea leaves.

By Tiffany Stevens
March 15, 2021
Advertisement

As tea lovers can affirm, humans have cultivated an endless barrage of methods for brewing potable delights from leaves. Sweetened or spicy, brewed or bubbled, most of us enjoy at least some variation on a good cup of tea. But tea has value in your kitchen beyond its drinkability. A true tea fanatic can find ways to incorporate a bit of tea into every bit of their cooking. And while we'll understand if you don't quite want to go that far, we do have a few ideas on how you can incorporate tea into other areas of your culinary routine. 

To help jumpstart your experiments with tea, we've rounded up five alternate ways that tea bags can be used in the kitchen. We've also provided a few suggestions on how to make use of the used tea bags you've generated (once you've finished your current pot, of course). 

Alternate Uses for New Tea Bags

Tea Brines and Marinades

If you're planning on making a brine, it's common sense to reach for salt, water, and on occasion, sugar. But there's no reason to use plain water when pre-made tea will do just as well, and impart plenty of flavor besides. By adding tea in with your salt and other spices, you're able to impart even more flavor into your protein without sacrificing the moist texture that brining is best known for.Tea leaves and pre-steeped tea can also make for an excellent addition in marinades. Just use less liquid when making your tea to ensure a more concentrated liquid. And, it's worth mentioning that it's not just meat that will benefit from a tea-based marinade. Chinese tea eggs, which are made by gently cracking the shells of boiled eggs and steeping them in tea, go wonderfully with a nice bowl of ramen or as a twist on your usual morning egg routine.

Tea Ice Cream

You might remember mention of tea-based ice cream from our round up of alternate chai mix uses, but chai isn't the only flavor that can be successfully mixed into a dreamy, creamy concoction. A nice homemade pint of earl grey or rooibos ice cream will give you a chance to try out some unique dessert blends at home, as well as allow you to wow your family members with newfound ingenuity. 

Tea-Infused Bread

What's better than tea cakes? Cakes made with tea! And since tea is already a dry ingredient (and yields a wet ingredient, to boot) you can easily make a versatile array of tea-infused breads. For example, you could add powdered tea or tea leaves to your dry ingredients for a more herbal, fragrant bread. Or, if you're so inclined, you could substitute any water called for in the recipe for tea. And if you really want to bring something special to the table, try soaking fruit in tea before adding it to your bread to create a delicious, flavorful treat. 

Tea-Based Stock

Sure, remnants of chicken, beef, pork or even veggies tend to be more conventional choices when it comes to making stocks. But using your favorite teas (along with vegetable trimmings and a few bones, if you like) can be a fun way to create light, flavorful broths that will help enhance your favorite soups. For example, you could kick your chicken soup up a notch by adding jasmine tea, or you could bring out more sweet notes in a beef broth by adding in a fruit-based tea. By experimenting with your stocks, you'll be able to find new favorite soup flavors and make good use of your tea stash at the same time. 

Tea-Based Spice Rubs

A tea-based rub might seem like a strange idea at first, but when you think about it, tea bags are not that different pre-portioned spice packets. Ripping open a bag or two of your favorite blend and mixing it with some salt, chili powder, and other favorite spices can make for a delicious rub that will have everyone asking for your barbecue recipe. As Woman's Day points out, you can use powdered tea for an even simpler version of a tea-infused rub mix — no mortar and pestle required. 

Ideas for Used Tea Bags:

Tea-Based Dish Degreaser 

If you're dealing with a particularly stubborn grease spot while doing the dishes, try calming down with a cup of tea, then use the tea bag to help cut through the trouble spot. Allowing the pan to soak in hot water and some tea bags for a moment releases tannins, which are what help loosen stuck-on food and grease, according to Bob Vila's website

Tea-Based Fertilizer

Used teabags are also an excellent addition to the compost pile for gardening enthusiasts and houseplant owners alike, especially for plants that prefer more acidic soil composition, according to Bangor Daily News. Used tea bags contain nitrates, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which are needed for a healthy garden. And it's also a great re-use of what would otherwise likely end up a landfill. If you don't have a compost pile, you can also just open the tea bags and sprinkle them around any potted plants.

Tea-Based Wood Cleaner

If you have laminated wood floors, this trick won't work. But cleaning hardwood floors with black tea is an age-old trick. In addition to dusting hardwood, it tends to add shine, courtesy of the tannic acid in the black tea, according to The Spruce. You could also use tea water to shine up any other unlaminated wooden furniture you might have. However, before mopping an entire area or furniture piece with a tea-based solution, you should test a small corner. That way, you can ensure the tea doesn't add a stain along with an extra shine. 

Tea-Based Deodorizer

Baking soda isn't the only ingredient you can use to keep unwanted smells out of your refrigerator. A bowl of dry tea leaves, used or not, can also absorb plenty of odor in your fridge. Or, if you'd rather, you could always use dried tea leaves as an alternative or addition to potpourri. Once they're done soaking up unwanted odors, you can always just throw those leaves out with the satisfaction of knowing they got at least one more use.