Yes, you can reuse a tea bag. However, there are some limitations.
First is a matter of safety. Tea bags need to be stored properly after their first use to avoid bacteria growth. Ideally, you should only use a tea bag twice within 24 hours as the best safety practice.
You can hold onto a tea bag for longer than 24 hours and more infusions with the right safety precautions, but the change in flavor after the first infusion may not be worth the extra effort.
While you can rebrew any kind of tea, some factors make a massive difference in the quality of that second cup. First and foremost, it’s important to store the tea correctly to avoid bacteria growth. Beyond that, the type of tea you’re brewing impacts how well it will hold up to a second infusion.
The warm, wet environment inside a tea bag is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. It’s best to use your tea for its second infusion within a few hours of your first use. The longer you wait, the more effort you’ll need to put into storing your used tea leaves to prevent bacteria.
When storing a tea bag for a second infusion, you’ll want to be careful of potential bacteria. Keeping the tea bag in the fridge in an airtight container is a surefire way to keep it fresh.
If you choose to leave your tea bag out to dry, you can soak it in some hot water before your second infusion to kill any bacteria that may have grown.
The ability to reuse tea depends on the kind of tea you are brewing. Oxidation levels, roasting, and coarseness of the tea can all play a role in how intense the flavor of your tea is and how ideal it is for multiple infusions. The most telling difference when it comes to reusing your tea is the state of the leaf.
Tea bags usually contain lower-quality tea, mainly small, broken pieces and powdered tea. The state of the tea leaves, combined with the processing tea bags go through, means typical tea bags bought at the grocery store are not going to pack a punch for their second round.
Loose–leaf tea, however, is made of whole leaves with less processing. These elements make it the best candidate for multiple infusions. The tea leaves release tannin at a more even rate per infusion rather than a quick release like the tea bags, allowing the tea to maintain its original flavor for more infusions.
The best way to use your tea for additional infusions is to cold brew the tea. Let the tea leaves dry out, then put them in a container with cold water in the fridge for 24 hours.
Here’s what to look out for when selecting loose leaf teas for multiple brews
- Size of the leaves: The larger the leaf size, the more times you can infuse it.
- The shape of the leaves: Loose leaf teas that have been twisted or wound are perfect for multiple brews. With each infusion, the tea leaves unfurl a little bit more, releasing fresh flavors every time.
- Oxidation levels: The higher the oxidation level, the better it works for additional infusions. Black tea has the highest oxidation level, while herbal tea doesn’t have any oxidation.
- Roasted or unroasted: Roasted leaves hold up much better for multiple brews than unroasted tea.
Brewing a second cup of tea is just one method of reusing a tea bag. Tea is a versatile ingredient that can be useful in every area of your house.
Cook with tea. There are countless recipes out there that use tea as a flavoring. Reuse your tea bags in baked goods, smoked meats, and grains boiled in water, such as rice or pasta for a unique twist on the traditional flavor profiles. Cooking with tea is popular in Chinese, English, and Indian food, so you can look to those cuisines for inspiration.
Bring your tea outside. Keep your kitchen low-waste by using your leftover food scraps, including tea bags, out in the garden. Mixing tea leaves into your soil can help with nitrogen levels and help lower the pH. They also make a great addition to any ongoing compost piles. Just make sure to remove any metal staples or tea bags that may contain microplastics.
Use your tea leaves to clean. Tea leaves are the perfect aromatic addition to your homemade cleaners. Even if you aren’t making your cleaners, tea bags can help dispel odors in the fridge, remove stubborn stains on dishes, and help your glass windows stay streak-free. All you need is your old tea bag.
Help yourself heal. Minor injuries such as sunburn, bruises, cold sores, or mosquito bites can be treated with old tea bags. Tea contains an anti-inflammatory called epigallocatechin-3-gallate or ECGC as well as polyphenols that reduce redness and theobromine which reduces pain. Just place the wet tea bag on the injured area and leave it until it dries. Re-wet and repeat if you feel your injury needs a little extra care.
Add it to your beauty routine.Tea always makes for an attractive addition to any beauty routine. The same anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help heal wounds can make your skin radiant. The caffeine makes used tea bags the perfect choice for a DIY eye mask. Just place refrigerated tea bags on your eyes for 20 minutes and let the caffeine and tannins depuff your eyes while improving circulation and reducing dark circles. Add herbal teas to baths, face steams, and foot soaks for added benefits to your at-home spa routine.