When and How Much to Reuse Loose Leaf Tea – of all Varieties

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My friend arrived for a visit just as I was sipping my way through the last few ounces of loose-leaf tea. All that came to mind was “how do I make tea for them?” Have you ever experienced something similar?

The only thing I guess to do in situations like this is to reuse the strained Loose Leaf Tea …just one more time. So let’s find out how many times I could.

Can You Reuse Loose Leaf Tea? Yes, loose-leaf tea can be reused. On average, any tea leaf, including black tea can be reused once or many times, after its first brew. The number of times loose-leaf tea can be reused and its steeping time varies according to variety, type, size, oxidation, and processing. Let’s explore this further.

Let me explain in more detail what I mean by those terms, but here’s the quick list again.

  • The variety of tea leaves used
  • Nature of the tea (Fine/Coarse)
  • Size and shape of tea leaves
  • Oxidation levels
  • Based on roasted or non-roasted leaves

However, the significant features of tea change when reused more than the recommended number of times. It is also never highly recommended to reuse any tea the following day or a few days past its first brew.

Tea is an evergreen topic because of its endless varieties ranging from green, black, and herbal to more that are still growing. And so, several questions might be popping into your head about different varieties of loose-leaf tea and their reusability. So let me just get right into it and clear all your doubts and confusion.

How Many Times Can You Reuse Loose Tea Leaves?

On average, widely consumed black loose-leaf tea can be reused or re-steeped three to four times, after its first brew. The recommended steeping time for reusing black loose-leaf tea is 6-8 minutes. The time increases by 2-3 minutes along with the number of times reused.

But, as I said above the ability to reuse depends on many factors, including the variety of tea leaves. So to make it easy, I’ve described below the relationship between some of these factors and the number of times loose tea leaves (any variety) can be reused.

Nature/size of loose tea leaves – Coarse loose tea leaves with large leaf particles can be reused many times over finer loose tea leaves. The same goes for sizes of loose tea leaves. The ability to reuse thicker loose tea leaves is greater than thinner loose tea leaves.

Shapes of loose tea leaves – The ability to reuse wound, twisted, or balled-up loose tea leaves is more than normal, lean tea leaves. In fact, tea leaves with such shapes taste better than their first brew when reused. Because when reused or the second and following steeping gives more time for the leaves to unfurl from their shapes. Thereby helping to release more of their flavor than it did for the first brew.

Oxidation levels – The ability to reuse tea leaves that are more oxidized like black tea, more than less oxidized tea leaves such as oolong.

Roasted/Non-Roasted – Roasted tea leaves hold up their features for multiple numbers of steeping or reuse over non-roasted tea leaves

Quality of the loose tea leaves – Quality loose tea leaves can be reused many times with the same features as your first brew. By contrast, low-quality loose tea leaves cannot maintain their best features when reused.

reusing loos leaf tea depends on a number of factors
reusing loose-leaf tea depends on a number of factors

What Changes When You Reuse Loose Leaf Tea?

Nothing really. For obvious reasons when you start to compare the taste, color, and aroma of every sip with your first brew, you would feel and sense subtle changes in aroma and taste and these can add to the overall tea-drinking experience.

But in real terms, this doesn’t make any changes to your cup of tea if reused within the recommended number of times.

Tea shops and Cafes say they reuse loose tea leaves 5-6 times, giving customers a full range of features a tea can offer (taste, aroma, color, and texture). But when exceeding the recommended number of times to reuse, the tea can taste weaker and flat with less aroma.

As perhaps a strange statement, tea makers say there is no hard rule to this reusability and to continue until you feel the tea’s given everything it can offer. I mean we can TRY, certainly, there’s nothing to lose by trying!

Anyway, focusing on recommended times, I’ll take you through the re-usability of different loose tea leaf varieties and related facts.

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Can You Reuse Green Tea Leaves

Yes, you can. Green tea leaves are becoming very popular due to their many health benefits and are reusable. You can reuse them 2 to 4 times and still retain their best features. For a fun fact, Japanese green tea leaves have a stronger flavor in its following reuse/re-steep, than in their first brew.

Next up Rooibos tea leaves.

Can You Reuse Rooibos Tea Leaves

Yes, you definitely can. Rooibos tea leaves that are free from caffeine are famous and are perhaps consumed for its red color. This color cannot be consistently expected from each brew when reusing Rooibos tea leaves. But you can reuse Rooibos tea leaves 3 to 4 times with the same significant features for a quality cup of tea with decent color.

What about White tea leaves?

Can You Reuse White Tea Leaves

Yes, you can reuse white tea leaves. White tea is known to be one of the lightest and most delicate varieties of tea because it has been so minimally processed. So the ability to reuse them with their quality features is limited to 2 to 3 times. Yet, the delicate nature of this tea can also limit its reusability to one, especially if it’s of low quality.

Then Oolong Tea Leaves?

Can You Reuse Oolong Tea Leaves

Rather than yes or no, I would say please reuse – always. Oolong tea leaves show their different facets of flavors every time you reuse them. Be surprised that you can reuse Oolong tea leaves 6-12 times with better flavors on every reuse/re-steep. But the best infusion of flavors happens in the second or fifth time of reuse/re-steep.

Next up is a moment for mint lovers.

Can You Reuse Mint Loose Leaf Tea

Yes, you can reuse them. Mint loose-leaf tea is often consumed for its refreshing flavor, aroma, and cool aftertaste. On average you can reuse mint loose tea leaves 3-4 times with an acceptable and convincing flavor. But when steeped for too long (which happens every time we reuse) the tea will taste bitter and dull.

Also, the refreshing element of reused loose mint tea leaves is not always promising and depends heavily on the quality.

And finally, let’s bring on the herbal variety.

Can You Reuse Herbal Tea Leaves?

Yes, you can reuse from 2 to 3 times, but remember we consume herbal tea for its precise flavors and health benefits. So while reusing these, their flavors or health benefits will never be promising as the first brew. In fact, reusing can cause herbal components to blend improperly with hot water. Thereby, failing to give the intended health benefit or an unpleasing taste altogether.

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It is perfectly possible to reuse any variety of loose tea leaves. The ability to reuse loose tea leaves depends on many factors ranging from nature, size, shape, oxidation levels, roasted/non-roasted, and quality.

While no real changes are felt when reused within the recommended number of times, some varieties present their best flavors with every reuse/re-steep. However, studies highly recommend reusing any tea within the day of its first brew.

I hope this has helped you in some way. Perhaps you’ve been able to drink a lot more tea because of it – I really hope so! Let me know if that’s the case in the comments below.

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Related Questions

Can You Reuse a Tea Bag? Yes, you can reuse a tea bag. Yet, the number of times you can reuse for consistent flavors and the steep time for each reuse depends. Largely on the variety of tea used it’s quality and oxidation levels.

11 Replies to “When and How Much to Reuse Loose Leaf Tea – of all Varieties”

  1. Hi why not use the leaves the next day? I only have one large mug and want to re steep the next day. Would refrigeration help? Thanks

  2. Thank you for the comment Jeremy, Glad you liked the article. I’d probably say not to double the time, but certainly, increase the infusion time with each brew. Probably near to 20-30 seconds more than the previous infusion – as an easy rule to follow.

  3. Great Article!
    Can I just ask, do you double the steeping time for Oolong?
    My tea says brew for 3 minutes, so would I rebrew for 6, and then 12!?

  4. I’d say yes is the short answer. But give it a try and see. 🙂

  5. Can I reuse my tea leaves if they have been sitting in the pot overnight? Could I dry it and the reuse it?

    Many thanks for your wonderful site!

  6. Good question Gloria, I would suggest giving it a try. I can’t see any harm in testing it. You’ll know by the results 🙂

  7. I make my tea(loose herbs) in a espresso maker. Can you reuse those herbs a second time

  8. Thank you so much! I had a feeling it was wasteful to use my tea leaves only once!

  9. You have turned my tea drinking life around. I am embarrassed to say I did not know it was worth reusing tea for a few cups. I grew up thinking, wrongly it turns out, that tea was meant for one use. We can all learn something new to appreciate our tea drinking. Thank you!

  10. Thanks for your help and support ❤️

  11. Regarding re-steeping tea bags. It would work for me, because if I fully extract the flavor out of tea bag, it would be too strong for me. I generally split the flavor extraction in 2-3 brews. So I guess it depends on how strong you want the tea to be. As for white tea, I completely agree with you, but I think it’s good to note that aged white tea can last for many steeps.

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