By Mariah Bourne & Lauren Danson
You've just brewed the last of your sencha, and your next order won't be in until tomorrow. Then the question arises – can you reuse loose-leaf tea? Wish you could enjoy another cup in the afternoon? We have lovely news – high-quality Japanese green tea can and should be steeped multiple times!
Reusing (or re-brewing) tea leaves is common and appreciated in Japanese tea culture. Distinct flavors and aromas are released with each subsequent brew. Some tea styles taste better on the second, third, or even fourth brew. But there are some critical best practices for reusing tea leaves. In this article, we’ll explain how to properly rebrew tea leaves and some creative ways to reuse them beyond brewing.
The term chagara, which translates to “used tea leaves”, is a household term in Japan. Japanese green teas are perfect for multiple infusions since their leaves can hold up very well when steeped more than once. The flavor and aroma of Japanese green teas, like sencha and gyokuro, change and develop with every brew.
Let's take Mizuba’s gyokuro, for example. The first brew can reveal sweet, light citrus notes and layers of syrupy pear and peach flavors. By the third brew, you might experience more pronounced savory umami and a seaweed-like aroma. Some teas may also take a couple of steeps for their leaves to uncurl and diffuse completely (which reveals more surface area of the leaf to extract) resulting in a more prominent, in-depth flavor.
Steeping loose-leaf tea multiple times doesn't only highlight different unique characteristics, but it's also cost and time efficient. Using the same tea leaves helps you further enjoy your tea while saving money. You’ll also save time when you reuse tea leaves – especially if you enjoy having multiple cups daily.
Brewed gyokuro leaves
Many Japanese green teas can be brewed about two to three times. Using different temperatures and brewing times on subsequent brews brings out distinct density in flavors and aroma. For a second infusion or nisenme, you may use hotter water and a shorter brewing time if the leaves have already unrolled enough from the first brew. Still, you can experiment with different ways to reuse tea leaves and decide what tastes best to you. Just remember that the variables of time and temperature will always be the dominant factors in being able to mitigate your desired flavor profile. If we use our gyokuro example again, our tea producers recommend using 10º hotter water, 10 more ml of water, and about 30 seconds longer for each subsequent brew. Different Japanese tea styles have different guidelines for second or third steeps, so get to know your tea and how it tastes from steep to steep and see what variables you enjoy!
There are a few best practices when reusing tea leaves. Tea needs to be re-steeped within an hour of its first brew. The moist environment produced after brewing is a breeding ground for bacteria. Reusing green tea as soon as possible reduces the likelihood of mold or bacteria growing on your tea leaves. We *do not* recommend letting your tea leaves dry out and then attempting re-steep. The best practice is to only do subsequent steeps of leaves you’ve recently brewed, preferably within the hour.
A favorite way to extend the value of our tea leaves at the Mizuba office is to let the 3rd steep sit for a long period of time (1-2 hours), and then pour it over ice for iced tea! That way we can enjoy every ounce of flavor our tea leaves have to offer. If you’d like to read more about iced tea, we have a great article here.
Genmaicha to be brewed in Mizuba's Tokoname kyusu
Tea bags can be super convenient when on the go or in a rush. With all the benefits of reusing tea leaves, you may be wondering, can you reuse tea bags as well? We do not recommend re-steeping tea bags because, by design, leaves in tea bags are meant to be extracted quickly and generally have little flavor left once you remove the bag from your initial brew. Average tea bags contain leaf fragments and stems in bags meant for one-time use.
You won't likely experience strong flavors and aromas on your second brew with most tea bags. You also may risk the tea bag ripping if used more than once.
You can reuse tea leaves in many creative ways once you've enjoyed the benefits of brewing them a couple of times. Here are some of our favorites:
There are so many ways to get every ounce of goodness from your Japanese green tea. Japanese tea culture encourages brewing high-quality teas multiple times to experience the range of unique flavors and aromatics each style has to offer. Reusing tea leaves is an easy way to ensure these valuable, antioxidant-rich leaves don't go to waste.
Pouring Mizuba organic Chamomile Hojicha
Even at the end of their journey, you don’t have to dispose of the tea leaves. Adding them to compost, using them in cooking, or utilizing their amazing properties for skin care are just some of the countless ways you can get the most out of your tea. Our high-quality Japanese green teas at Mizuba make enjoying every second of your tea time simple and intentional.
Comments will be approved before showing up.