Twelve (Little-known) Uses for Tea and Tea Leaves

So far on my blog, I’ve given some advice about where tea comes from, why loose tea is better than bagged tea, how to store and steep tea, and even how to fight cold and flu season with tea. Today, we’re taking a fun look at some slightly less common facts about, and uses for, tea leaves.

  1. Freshen up that lingerie drawer. With Valentine’s day on our doorstep, why not start with a little fun?! Place loose (unsteeped) tea leaves in a muslin bag in your lingerie drawer to add a subtle spice to your unmentionables. Try Earl Grey, which contains perfumy bergamot, jasmine with flowers, or a lavender-based tea, like Provence.
  2. Feed houseplants. Use cooled, steeped tea once per week instead of water to feed ferns and other houseplants that thrive in an acidic soil (most plants that bloom).
  3. Fertilize roses. Once the spring arrives, roses will need lots of TLC. Put used black or green tea leaves around rosebushes, then add mulch and water.
  4. Use as a conditioner for parched hair. Steep a strong black or green tea, apply to wet, just-shampooed hair and allow to dry.  Rinse with water once hair is dry. This simple rinse will leave hair softer and with more shine.
  5. Soothe pink eye itch. Conjunctivitis can be quite a nuisance. Use a warm, wet tea bag (try camomile, rooibos, green or black tea) as a compress to soothe the itching and pain of pinkeye.
  6. Jazz up a rice dish. Place some loose masala chai or vanilla chai in an infuser and add to rice while cooking for flavor. Use this rice to make a delicious rice pudding!
  7. Polish wood. Steeped black or green tea leaves can help clean and shine wood furniture. Dip a soft, clean cloth into freshly steeped and cooled teaand use to wipe down tables, chairs and other wood furniture.
  8. Freshen your fridge. Rather than baking soda, place dried, used green tea leaves in a small open bowl in your refrigerator to help absorb odors.
  9. Get rid of fishy or garlicky smells. Rinse your hands with cooled tea after eating or preparing fish (or other stinky foods) to eliminate odors.
  10. Cure acne breakouts. Cleanse affected areas with cooled green tea to cure or reduce acne.
  11. Tenderize meat. Marinate tough meat in black tea to make it more tender. The tannins in tea are a natural tenderizer. Make a cup or two of strong black tea, allow it to cool and then use to marinate.
  12. Soothe yourself to sleep. Stuff dried tea leaves into your pillow! According to Chinese folk medicine, sleeping on tea leaves helps reduce blood pressure, relieve insomnia and soothe headache. Place a sachet of dried tea leaves inside your pillow (use a tea with lavender, camomile or bergamot) and replace regularly.

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Kimberly Orlic
, co-founder and chief operating officer of A New Leaf, LLC is a new entrepreneur, with over 25 years’ experience in the workforce. The mother of three daughters, she is an avid tea lover and developed the idea for A New Leaf along with her husband over 15 years ago while obtaining her master of business administration degree. She holds bachelor of arts and master of business administration degrees from Hofstra University. 
Kimberly has over 15 years of management experience and significant experience in process improvement, systems implementation and enhancements. While at Hofstra University she demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing environments and learn different operations. In every role, she left a better organized and more efficient department. In her most recent role as the University Bulletin Editor, she recognized the potential of digital media and migrated a labor-intensive, print-only process to an efficient print, online, and mobile app product full of previously unavailable features. As a member of Hofstra’s public relations department, she was an integral part of the team that hosted the 2008 Presidential Debate and worked extensively on the program. A New Leaf is her first business venture. As COO, Kimberly’s responsibilities focus on running the retail operation, marketing, and promotion. 

Steeping the Perfect Cup of Tea

Quite frequently I’m asked if it really matters that people steep their tea properly. My answer is a resounding yes. Without a doubt.

I’ve seen many customers amazed at how precise we tend to be at A New Leaf with the measurement of the proper amount of tea for both our in-store and to-go cups, our proper water temperature, and even the rinsing of our oolong leaves. We also be sure to let our tea drinkers know how long the tea they will be drinking should steep. I can’t stress enough my belief that taking the couple of extra steps certainly makes a difference in your enjoyment of tea.

1. Tea amounts

ImageDifferent types of teas have different densities which can greatly affect the taste of the tea when using the wrong proportions. A leafy white tea is very different from a black tea when it comes to density. One tablespoon of our White Champagne Raspberry weighs 1.5 grams, the same measurement of our Keemun Panda weighs 9 grams. Black teas typically fit better into a tea- or tablespoon, but white teas, like Pai Mu Tan are difficult to measure in a spoon. We realize that not everyone has a gram scale at home, so A New Leaf measures approximately 6 grams of tea for each 12 oz. cup. Keep in mind that high quality loose-leaf teas infuse at a slower rate, as the leaves unfurl and release their flavor into the water.

2. Water Temperature
oggi_red_KettleThere are varying opinions on tea and water temperature. A New Leaf has calibrated filtered water dispensers to steep your tea at the proper temperature. Many of our customers tell us our tea is very hot; however you’re tea would not be as delicious if it were steeped improperly! We recommend:

  • White teas and mate: 170-175 degrees F (let water sit approx. 10 min. in the open kettle)
  • Green teas: 180-185 degrees F (let water sit approx. 5 min. in the open kettle)
  • Oolong teas: 190 degrees F (let water sit approx. 3 min. in the open kettle)
  • Black teas: 205 degrees F (let water sit 1 min. in the open kettle)
  • Herbal tisanes and pu-erh: 212 F (boiling water)

If the water is too cool, no tannins in the tea leaves will be released, resulting in an incomplete flavor. Too hot a temperature, too much tannin is released, often resulting in a metallic or bitter taste.

Never use water that has been boiled previously or that has been sitting around. Always use filtered water when possible.

3. Steep Time
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If you usually leave your tea in your cup for a lot longer than recommended (or until your cup is empty), I would encourage you to follow our recommended steep times;  the taste of your tea will certainly improve. Different teas require different steep times. In general, 5-7 minutes for herbal tisanes and mate, 3-5 minutes for black teas, 3 minutes for green teas, 1-3 minutes for white teas and many oolongs, and as little as 30 seconds for pu-erh. By combining the perfect steep time with the proper water temperature, you’re sure to notice a difference in your cup.

To take the guessing out of water temperatures and steep times, I would recommend the Breville tea maker. This wonderful piece of equipment is the most prized possession in my home kitchen. After measuring your tea, the Breville makes it for you! It’s the best $249 I’ve spent (and use a Bed Bath and Beyond coupon to save!)

IMG_0620Kimberly Orlic, co-founder and chief operating officer of A New Leaf, LLC is a new entrepreneur, with over 25 years’ experience in the workforce. The mother of three daughters, she is an avid tea lover and developed the idea for A New Leaf along with her husband over 15 years ago while obtaining her master of business administration degree. She holds bachelor of arts and master of business administration degrees from Hofstra University. Kimberly has over 15 years of management experience and significant experience in process improvement, systems implementation and enhancements. While at Hofstra University she demonstrated the ability to adapt to changing environments and learn different operations. In every role, she left a better organized and more efficient department. In her most recent role as the University Bulletin Editor, she recognized the potential of digital media and migrated a labor-intensive, print-only process to an efficient print, online, and mobile app product full of previously unavailable features. As a member of Hofstra’s Public Relations department, she was a member of the team that hosted the 2008 Presidential Debate and worked extensively on the program. A New Leaf is her first business venture. As owner, co-founder, and COO, Kimberly’s responsibilities focus on running the retail operation, marketing, and promotion.