So you just unearthed some ancient tea that had been shoved to the back of your cupboard, or you hate the tea that sounded so good when you bought it. Don’t toss it just yet!
There are Other Ways to Drink It!
For loose leaf tea that has been sitting around for awhile and whose flavor has faded, try using a larger amount of tea when you brew it (rather than a longer brewing time). And always use good water! It truly does make a difference.
But if you just don’t like the flavor of a tea, try it iced, as many teas taste surprisingly different as ice tea vs hot tea.
Also, be sure to check the recommended amount (tea/water), brewing temperature, and steeping time—the wrong ones may yield a bitter cup or not bring out the optimal flavors. Conversely, you may prefer the taste of a particular tea brewed at a different temperature or for a different amount of time, so some experimentation may be worthwhile.
Keep in mind that large tea leaves brewed in a tiny tea ball will not properly unfurl and your flavor will definitely suffer.
Sometimes you may prefer the second or even third infusion to the first because every infusion has its unique flavor. See World of Tea’s post for tips on re-steeping.
If it still isn’t your favorite tea but you hate to waste it, try it with lemonade or with a combination of herbs (in summer, I like to make a strong brew of green tea with fresh mint and lemon verbena leaves, then pour it over ice). Or especially in these cold months, add your favorite spices, some sweetened condensed milk, and honey for a cozy cup.
Or Eat It
If none of that worked, use it for baking and cooking. I use hot black tea rather than hot water when I make gingerbread. Many tea flavors make wonderful poached fruit! Matcha can be added to about anything (see my August post).
Grind the tea and use it for seasoning—to flavor shortbread, fruit breads, soups, meat (the smoky China Lapsang Souchong may not be your favorite to drink but you may love it brewed in a sauce or used as a dry rub), anything you can think of essentially.
But if That Didn’t Work, Think Outside the Kitchen
I have used tea to dye paper when I wanted to “age” it (different teas result in different hues). A friend saved a stained vintage tablecloth by dyeing it with black tea, and in art school, my daughter dyed fabric with various teas.
The current issue of This Old House (p. 22) says, “For spotty mirrors, try black tea. Tannic acid in the tea helps remove water spots. Pour room-temperature tea into a spray bottle, and wipe with a lint-free cloth.”
There are some teas—like those with beautiful mixtures of dried fruits, nut pieces, colorful blossoms, and bits of spices—that make pretty and lightly scented potpourri.
And if All Else Fails, Sprinkle It on a Plant!
In your garden, acid-loving plants will appreciate a sprinkling of tea leaves worked into the soil. The tea will break down and naturally supply vital nutrients such as nitrogen and potassium. As for houseplants, let used tea leaves steep in water for a day or two, strain them out, and water your plants as usual.