Updated: Apr 23, 2019
All information given below is of a general nature and should be taken as such.
What do you do with your used tea leaves? Do you put them in the bin? Throw them on the lawn? Feed them to your plants? Compost them?
It might surprise you to know there are lots of uses for these gorgeous leaves after they have given you the "ahh" moment, or even before.
GARDENING - The one most people know about is that tea is a great fertiliser. Left over cold tea can just be poured on houseplants to water them on occasion. Don't over do this as a little goes a long way. Infused tea leaves can be spread around your flower garden for a nutrient boost. Roses, Hydrangeas and Azaleas all love the high acidity that spent tea leaves give them.
When you pot out a new plant, you can put a handful of tea leaves or a couple of tea bags (dried or steeped) in the drainage layer at the bottom of the pot. The tea, being highly absorbent, will help absorb water that will then get released slowly back to the plant.
AROUND THE HOME - Tea is also great for eliminating odours. Tea leaves will absorb the scents of their surroundings, which is great if you want to get rid of bad smells but not so good if you're not storing your teas correctly. So, before you throw away those old stinky trainers, place a new (or steeped and dried) tea bag inside each trainer and see if you can’t remove a bit of the odour to get a little more life out of them.
You can sprinkle dried or steeped tea leaves to remove odour from carpet. Important note:- if you are using steeped tea leaves, make sure they've dried out as you don't want them wet or they may stain the carpet. Sprinkle the leaves across a smelly carpet and let them sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then simply just run the vacuum over them. If you use a flavoured tea, you'll get a lovely scent left behind. The same can be done for the cat litter try. Sprinkle dried tea leaves into the litter tray and just add some more whenever you change the litter.
Tea can definitely soak up those horrible fridge smells just like the good old baking soda trick. Place dried out tea leaves in the fridge in an uncovered container and they'll soak up the smells in a day or two. Another important note: Don't ever store dry tea you plan to drink in the fridge because it will soak up smells and the moisture will cause the tea to deteriorate quickly.
For those Masterchefs and wannabes - you can rub stinky fish, onion or garlic hands with brewed tea or wet steeped tea leaves to remove those pongs from your hands. This also works on cutting boards.
Many tea companies use natural or artificial flavouring to infuse their teas - scents such as vanilla, lemon, cinnamon, mint to name but a few. Tea leaves can be used as great air fresheners. Place dry, scented tea leaves in small, decorative bowls in key locations around the house to infuse your home with the scent of your favourite teas. Fill homemade eye pillows with dry, flavoured tea leaves scented with relaxing rose, lavender or chamomile for a peaceful, calming rest. Spruce up the scent of your socks or knickers drawer with a few flavoured tea bags or muslin bags filled with scented tea leaves. (Note: Make sure the tea leaves and the tea bags are dry). You can even give your car’s interior a fresh new smell by filling a muslin bag with scented tea leaves and stashing it in the centre console.
ART & DECORATION - Tea is also a great natural dying agent. Depending on the type of tea, it can impart a red, brown, amber, yellow or green hue to many different items it comes in contact with. Think outside the square of the usual green and black teas for dying. For a bright, dark red colour try Hibiscus flowers brewed up, whilst more of a nice, light rose colour can be achieved using Rooibos. Matcha, the powdered green tea, gives a strong bright green colour.
Did you ever have an art class at school where you used tea leaves to dye the paper for an antique look? Or to make greeting cards or fill journals. Dip a heavyweight paper stock into a cooled, brewed tea and let it dry. Repeat the process if you want a more intense colour. You can also brush brewed tea onto the paper with a paintbrush, or use a steeped tea bag to dab some tea onto the paper.
A bit late but for Easter now - but next year have fun with the children by dying eggs with different types of tea. Place hard-boiled eggs in bowls of strong brewed tea with a splash of vinegar. Make sure the eggs have plenty of room to be surrounded by the tea liquid. It’ll take about an hour for the tea to dye the eggs. Use different teas for different hues. You can even mix and match colours by placing eggs in one tea for part of the time and then another tea for the rest of the time.
You can use a paintbrush, spray bottle or brewed tea bag to stroke, spatter or dab strong brewed tea onto the various materials you use in your arts and crafts projects. Dye lace, cotton, muslin or other fabrics to give that vintage look. Make a strong brewed tea, cool it to room temperature, then soak the fabric in the tea until it has the desired colour. (Note: Tea is not a permanent dye, so it will fade if you plan to wash the fabric.)
Don’t dump out those old tea leaves if you’ll be doing some entertaining in the near future. Tea leaves in vases can add interesting and theme-appropriate decoration to your next party. This photo is of our Green Oasis which are so amazing to see the almost whole leaves after they have steeped. For party decorations, using large glass vases filled with tea leaves that bloom are not only clever but also inexpensive - from our range at Brackendale we have Sleeping Beauty, Rising Lotus and the Panda Pearls that you can use as decorations in this way. The Sleeping Beauty in particular, looks stunning when used as a decoration in a clear vase. If keeping these for a number of days remember to change the steeping water after a day or so or it will get a bit smelly and murky looking but with a freshen up can look amazing for quite a few days.
So there you have it - some ways to use your tea leaves! If you would like to share any of the tricks you know about tea leaves then please feel free to "leaf" a comment.