Upcycle Used Tea Leaves

Seven sustainable ways to upcycle used tea leaves

The life cycle of your used tea leaves doesn’t have to end at the bottom of the teapot! The Tea Centre is letting you in on seven sustainable ways to upcycle your used tea leaves.

If you’re the culprit that leaves used tea bags and filled-up infusers piled up in the kitchen sink, this Tea Journal entry is for you. Luckily, The Tea Centre has seven other solutions for your leftover tea leaves that don’t involve chucking them straight in the bin…and they’re all sustainable too!

As for the washing up? Well, that’s still for you to do! Here are seven sustainable ways to upcycle your tea leaves.

1.Chuck it in the compost

A simple yet effective change you can make is throwing your used tea leaves in the compost bin (if you have one at home) instead of your general bin! 

Your classic tea leaves (i.e. black, green, white, oolong, and pu-erh) are high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. As a result, tea leaves are great for balancing out the ph levels in your compost. Herbal teas will have a different nutrient makeup but are likely just as good for your dirt. 

Moreover, do you know our tea bags consist of 100% biodegradable materials? That means that every component of the tea bag is compostable. Whether it’s loose leaf or tea bags, simply let your tea cool after use and then pop it into the compost bin. It’s as easy as that!

2. Feed your plants


As for those who don’t have a compost bin (but own plants or a garden), we have the perfect solution. The nutrients in plain teas are potent enough that you don’t even need to wait for the leaves to break down in compost. Simply just sprinkle your damp used leaves into flower beds or mix them straight into your pot plant’s soil!

Your plants will love the organic matter and it saves you from having to pay for more soil. Talk about a win-win situation! Just remember to let the leaves cool first before sprinkling.

3. Scent your wardrobe and drawers

Are the used tea leaves in question a particularly fragrant jasmine or Earl Grey? Then we suggest saving these tea leaves as scent sachets for your car, wardrobe, and drawers!

The most important step with this sustainable solution is to fully dry out your used loose leaf before making them into scent sachets. The best way to do so is by using a radiator or good ol’ sunshine (leaving the wet leaves out in the sun on a paper towel to dry).

Once fully dried, simply pop the leaves into a muslin bag with any other ingredients you may like (essential oils and lavender petals are some go-to favourites) and leave the bag in your wardrobe or drawers for a couple of days. 

You’ll notice the pleasant aroma almost immediately! This trick works best with floral teas.

4. Make bath soaks

Did you know that leftover green or black tea can make for soothing sunburn treatments while common herbal tea ingredients (think peppermint, chamomile, and rose petals) are said to have aromatherapeutic properties? Combine those ingredients together and you’re on your way to making a beautiful tea wash or bath soak to relax in! 

For a tea wash, simply resoak your black or green tea leaves in boiling water with essential oils (peppermint or lavender). Allow the mixture to cool in the refrigerator before straining and applying it to sunburnt areas using a compress or spray bottle. 

For a bath soak, fully dry your used herbal tea leaves before tossing them into a muslin bag. We also suggest adding extra ingredients like Epsom or Himalayan pink salt, essential oils, coconut oil, and bicarb soda (softens the water to create a truly luxurious bath ritual.

5. DIY facial scrub

This aromatic solution is perfect for reusing old rooibos or chai loose leaves! To make a DIY facial scrub, you will also need an airtight container, a mortar and pestle (or coffee grinder), sugar, coconut oil, and at least 4 teaspoons worth of used tea leaves (so start saving them up).

Once fully dried, grind your used rooibos or chai leaves and combine well with two cups of sugar before adding in a ¼ cup of melted coconut oil. Make sure all ingredients are well-coated in oil before spooning everything into your container. Then your DIY facial scrub is ready to go! To be used on damp skin.

6. Refresh your carpets

As the origin stories behind Russian Caravan and Pu-erh have long proven, tea is a highly permeable product. It’s the reason why floral teas exist, and—more importantly, in terms of this life hack—continues to absorb odours long after infusion or being harvested from the tea plant.

Therefore, used tea leaves are a fantastic, low-cost way to deodourise surface areas while you clean! For example, take your damp loose leaves after they’ve cooled and sprinkle them onto rugs or carpets that are smelly.

Leave for ten minutes and then vacuum to have your carpets looking clean and smelling fresh! However, please note that it’s best to use white or green tea leaves (black tea may leave a strain if too damp). Moreover, tea will leave its own scent while absorbing the odours in the surface area.

For example, the likes of Pai Mu Tan Stockholm will have your carpet smelling wonderful (like apricots!) while Russian Caravan would leave a smoky scent. Therefore, be sure to pick your tea wisely!

7. Deodorize chopping boards & food prep areas

For much the same reasons as listed above, tea is one great method for cleaning chopping boards and food preparation benches in your kitchen (particularly if they’re wooden or plastic).

Simply take damp used tea leaves and rub them into the surface area. Leave for 10-15 minutes in order to allow the leaves to absorb any bad odours. Then, dispose of the leaves and continue cleaning as normal. 

Need to top up on tea before trying these sustainable tips? Then be sure to explore our range of 150+ loose leaf teas here.

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