“While there is tea, there is hope”
— Sir Arthur Pinero
We all are guilty of this. Stashed in the deepest, darkest corner of our pantry, is a box of tea that someone gave us years ago. Tea has some amazing health benefits when drunk fresh, but what can you do with tea that is old, gone stale or just lost its flavour? Good news! Tea, beyond being a flavourful health beverage, has some properties that make it useful around the home and in everyday life. The tannin in tea makes it a powerful cleanser. Tea’s nature to absorb odour is a superpower. (That’s why it is important to store tea away from items like spices). Here are some amazing hacks you can do based on the superpower of teas.
In the Kitchen
- Make it part of your food
You can steep tea in any cooking liquids like broth or milk or even water to infuse the tea into any dish. For milder flavour, you can use leaves or teabags which have been previously brewed. The concentration of tannins in tea also make it a great tenderizer for meat – marinate the meat in strongly brewed tea overnight before cooking. Dry black or tea leaves could also be used as a smoking agent. Directly incorporate steeped tea as a spice or a filling in noodles or if you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand making Lahpet, Myanmar’s famous tea leaf salad.
- Use it to clean stubborn dishes
It is common knowledge that soaking dishes in warm water helps to loosen stuck food. Power up your dishwashing routine by adding tea to the water to break up any grease. The astringent property of tea, caused by tannins, breaks down the grease without hours of scrubbing.
In the Bath
- Bathe in tea
Tea leaves contain antioxidants which are obviously great for your skin. Drop them into the bath to reap their benefits while relaxing. For an added experience, use a fragrant tea like jasmine or chamomile for a relaxing, therapeutic experience.
- Clean your toilets
A fuss-free and easy way to clean your toilets! Throw a few tea bags into the toilet bowl, leave them for at least an hour. Remove and discard them before scrubbing down with a brush and flushing.
- Have a clean smelling fridge
If you’re low on baking soda, use dried tea leaves as a substitute to soak up those weird fridge smells. Make sure to use leaves that you don’t want to brew.
Around the house
- Remove lingering odours
Tea’s ability to absorb is legendary and while it is a pain to store in the pantry, it is great for absorbing nasty smells. Both tea leaves or tea bags can be used for this purpose. Sprinkle pre-brewed tea at the bottom of your trash bins to neutralise any strong smells or keep tea in the fridge to keep it smelling fresh. They are also great for removing smells from your rugs – keep storing pre-brewed tea leaves/bags in the fridge until you have enough and sprinkle damp (not wet!) leaves over rugs and carpets until they are totally dry. Then sweep up the dry leaves!
- Freshen your air
Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to dry used leaves to create air fresheners. This is much easier with teabags because you can hang the bags. Once the oil fades off, add a few more drops to refresh. Alternatively, you can use them as potpourri and place the dry scented leaves in small decorative bowls.
- Polish your wood
Use weak tea made from pre-brewed bags to clean and shine hardwood floors and polish wood furniture.
- Polish your Glass
Brew weak tea and spray onto windows, mirrors, and other such glass surfaces to loosen up dirt and clean grime and fingerprints. Wipe away with a clean, lint-free cloth to minimize streaks.
In the Garden
- Water with tea
Use weak tea to water your plants such as ferns and any other acid-loving houseplants to protect them from fungal infections. When on vacation, lace a handful of tea leaves or tea bags into the drainage layer of the pot; the tea will absorb water and will slowly release it back into the plant.
- Fertilise with tea
It’s simple – mix tea leaves into the topsoil as fertiliser. Mix them into the topsoil for a lush visual. Tea is highly acidic and full of nutrients that can help plants thrive. You can also throw them into the compost pile.
For your health
- Draw out infections
Warm, moist pre-brewed tea bags are great for drawing out infections and reducing pain. Apply one over the affected area, whether pinkeye, canker sores or even boils, to soothe and heal.
- Soothe skin irritations
Instead of warm, use cool and moist tea bags to soothe skin irritations. Place them over sore, tired eyes to ease discomfort or massage over sunburn to reduce redness. Place against bruises to ease discomfort and help speed healing.
Just remember, if you plan to use already brewed tea leaves or tea bags, it is important to keep them in the fridge, especially if you are accumulating them, to prevent mold. If it does smell weird, it’s best to throw them instead.