The Wonderful Practice of Re-steeping Tea

The Wonderful Practice of Re-steeping Tea

I recently began a journey into the world of loose leaf tea. Anyone who follows me on Tumblr, knows that I’m a huge tea nerd. I have a tea for every mood. And I’ve done a lot of experimenting with how best to make it. But always using teabags. Until recently, loose leaf tea just didn’t fit into my budget.

But my lovely mother-in-law got me some loose leaf tea for Christmas and more for my birthday. In fact, she also got me an awesome tea infuser that I’d been eyeing up for awhile. And with the discovery that you can re-steep most loose leaf teas, suddenly it fits into the budget.

I never would have guessed you could use the same tea leaves a second time. My husband and I have toyed with squeezing two cups out of one teabag. It worked for awhile because he likes his tea much weaker than I do. But it never worked well, and we ultimately abandoned the idea, in part because he’s acquired more of a taste for tea. But teabags are made up of left over material. They don’t have the potency to infuse twice (although I suppose you could try to steep it extra long). I never would have thought to google it either, if my mother-in-law hadn’t mentioned that the ladies at the tea shop told her she could brew each set of leaves twice.

It turns out tea re-steeping is a long standing tradition in China, where people tend to drink several cups of the same tea throughout the day. As soon as they finish one cup of tea, they pour more hot water into the vessel and leave the leaves in the infuser in between. At the end of the day they toss them out. Apparently Chinese tradition states that you shouldn’t keep tea leaves overnight, you should start with a new set each day. But from what I’ve read, plenty of people keep tea overnight and re-use it the next day. From my minimal experiments, I haven’t experienced a drop in quality or flavor by storing my tea overnight as long as the tea still has enough flavor to infuse.

For the best re-steeping results, use slightly more leaves than you would normally and start with a shorter steep time. If you start with the same amount you usually use, you’ll simply get less cups. With each subsequent steep, you will need to let the water sit with the leaves longer, especially if you want the same strength of flavor. Eventually, the leaves won’t be able to impart as much flavor and your tea will get weaker. But depending on the type of tea, you can steep it anywhere between 3 and 30 times before it runs thin. How’s that for stretching the tea in your cupboard?

Different types of tea hold up better to re-steeping. Black and green teas re-steep fabulously, especially if you drink several cups throughout the same day. I’ve read that rooibos and honeybush can be too delicate for proper re-steeping, but thus far I haven’t experienced issues re-steeping my rooibos teas, they simply don’t stretch for as many cups. Herbals don’t seem to re-steep well. They lose most of their potency after the first infusion.

For teas that don’t re-steep well, you can fill your infuser and leave it in the fridge overnight for iced tea. My initial attempt bore mixed results; the tea was too weak to drink on its own, even iced, but when mixed with a splash of lemonade it was fantastic! I even read one post where a woman described baking her used tea leaves and herbals dry and using them on linens and furniture to make them smell nice, simply vacuum them up when you’re finished!

I’m looking forward to playing more with the new teas in my cupboard. What are you’re favorite teas and steeping methods?

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