How rich those loose tea leaves are when it comes to their flavor and aroma makes it hard to simply throw them away after the first brew. And that’s why we may look out to get the most out of those tea leaves. Before reusing the tea leaves successfully, it’s essential to find out which leaves can be reused and how?
Here’s a complete guide that lets you know can you reuse loose leaf tea or not, which tea can be re-steeped, how many times can different varieties be reused, what are the factors that influence the reuse and more!
Can You Reuse Loose Leaf Tea?
Yes, almost all loose tea leaves can be reused at least once, while some can be reused several times. The number of times you can use loose leaf tea, as well as the duration of steeping, varies with numerous factors. Most tea leaves can be steeped 2-3 times on average. While some varieties lose much of their flavor after the first brew, others develop a stronger taste when reused.
How Long Can you Keep Tea Leaves Between Steeps?
When it comes to the duration for which you can keep loose leaf tea between steeps, it’s advised to keep it limited within a span of three hours. The spot where you keep the tea leaves, the temperature at which they remain, as well as the rate at which the bacteria grow are crucial to the same.
In case you drained the water out of the leaves that you used to brew tea in the morning, it is advised to throw the tea leaves if you didn’t reuse them until the evening. Otherwise, the leaves will become oxidized and undergo bacterial growth.
Tea leaves fail to retain their taste if they aren’t reused in a few hours. Additionally, they will yield a very dark colored blend due to oxidation when exposed to the air and moisture which ends up ruining the leaves.
Factors Affecting the Ability to Reuse Loose Leaf Tea
A number of factors play a key role in defining the ability to reuse loos leaf tea. The factors include :
1. Nature and Size
While finer loose tea leaves can be reused fewer times, coarse leaves with large leaf particles come with increased reusability. In terms of the size, thicker loose tea leaves can be reused more than the thin ones.
The shape of the loose tea leaves alters the ability to reuse them. Twisted, wound, or balled up leaves can be reused more as compared to regular, lean leaves. The former shapes also bring out a better flavor in the following steeps than the taste of the first brew. The reason behind the same is that the leaves get more time to unfurl from their shape when they are reused or re-steeped.
3. Oxidation Levels
The loose tea leaves that undergo more oxidization like black tea leaves come with less reusability, while the ones that are less oxidized like oolong tea can be reused several times.
4. Roasted or Non-Roasted
Roasted tea leaves retain their benefits and other features for several times of steeping as compared to the non-roasted ones.
If the loose tea leaves are of great quality, you can reuse them several times, yet cherish the same features as in the first brew. On the other hand, low-quality tea leaves gradually lose their features on reusing them.
Changes Brought by Reusing Loose Leaf Tea
Reusing loose leaf tea doesn’t really bring out major changes to the cup of beverage if reused within the recommended number of times. However, when you pay close attention to the texture, flavor, color, and aroma of every sip with the first brew, you would find subtle variations in the taste and aroma of the blend, which adds to the experience of the tea session.
How Infusion Styles Affect the Reuse of Loose Leaf Tea?
Different infusion styles affect how and when you can reuse the tea leaves. The classic teapot, i.e. the Western infusion style calls for resuing the leaves within an hour at a time. Prepare a lighter tea with larger water to tea ratio, further steeping and serving. Sometimes, Western infusion tea is made to serve 4-8 cups at once, and that’s why the time gap between the first and second brew is too much to reuse the leaves safely.
In case of Gongfu or Eastern style, you go for steeping large amount of tea leaves very few minutes with less hot water, thereby making many small cups of tea. The cups can be as strong or light as you wish, and they aren’t usually steeped for more than a minute at once. How long you wait for each steep depends on you while making sure not to extend the time gap for more than an hour.
Making several tiny cups of brew round the day, the Gongfu style of steeping allows you to cherish the tea for several hours. Pu-erh tea yields the most wonderful results when prepared in the Easter style. Slowly releasing a great flavor with each steep, pu-erh loose leaves can yield 8-10 delicious steeps.
Does Drying the Used Loose Tea Leaves Helps?
Drying the loose tea leaves doesn’t really increase their reusability. Instead, it ruins them by allowing a major part of their aroma to evaporate when they are set to dry. Additionally, to dry out the leaves completely, you need to squeeze the water out, further laying them out on a towel to dry otherwise the moisture trapped between the leaves can turn out to be harmful.
Drying the leaves makes the tea a weak brew, so a recommended option is to brew a smaller quantity of tea leaves, further throwing them away when used. Drying the leaves should be avoided even for strong teas that can be reused several times.
How Many Times Can You Reuse Loose Leaf Tea?
The answer to this question varies with the variety of the tea as well as the quality of the leaves. Below is a quick overview of the reusability of different types of loose leaf tea.
Oolong Tea Leaves
Oolong tea tops the list when it comes to showcasing some unique flavors each time you reuse the leaves. Also, you can reuse leaves 6-12 times, cherishing great flavor with every reuse or steep. However, the tea is known for exhibiting the best blend of flavors in the second or fifth time.
White Tea Leaves
White tea doesn’t undergo lots of processing, and that’s why you can reuse white tea leaves. It’s one of the most delicate and lightest tea varieties out there, allowing you to reuse the tea leaves with all their quality features about 2-3 times. However, if the tea leaves are of low quality, the delicate character of the tea can also limit the reusability.
Green Tea Leaves
The fact that green tea leaves are reusable makes it very popular around the world. The leaves can be reused 2-4 times and sport the best flavors and benefits. In fact, Japanese green tea leaves get a stronger taste in the second steep as compared to the first brew.
Herbal Tea Leaves
Herbal loose tea leaves can surely be used about 2 or 3 times. But one thing to keep in mind is that the flavors or health benefits of herbal tea will never be as prominent as the first brew. Also, reusing the same can lead to improper mixing of the herbal components with hot water.
Becoming better with age, pu-erh is a fermented tea that can be steeped up to 10 times. A single serving of pu-erh leaves can brew several pots of tea, and it’s the only tea that can undergo so many times of steeping. The flavor becomes more nuanced and deeper the more times you steep pu-erh tea. In fact, some flavors are exhibited only after it’s steeped for a few times.
Rooibos Tea Leaves
Free from caffeine and sporting a rich red color, rooibos tea leaves can be reused quite easily. However, the rich color doesn’t stay consistent in each brew when you reuse the loose leaf tea. But, the tea leaves can be used for 3-4 times, each time cherishing the same benefits and nice development of the color.
Black tea doesn’t yield more than 2 flavorful brews as it’s an already oxidized and processed tea. While the first brew comes with the best flavors when prepared with the usual method, the second steep needs 2-3 extra minutes. The temperature of the tea doesn’t necessarily have to be 194 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the leaves will release their aroma much easily during the second steep as they are already open. You need to steep longer the second time only because there isn’t much flavor left after the first steep.
Mint Loose Leaf Tea
Mint loose leaf tea can be reused 3-4 times with a decent flavor. But if you steep the leaves for too long the tea loses its cool aftertaste and aroma, sporting a dull and bitter flavor. One thing to remember here is that the refreshing touch of reused leaves is largely dependent on the quality of the tea.
Although it depends on the kind of loose tea leaf you choose, reusing them brings out a whole new experience to those tea-time moments. If not more, but at least a nice second cup of brew is something that most teas will let you cherish.