Food waste is a significant problem. According to the United Nations, one-third of all food produced worldwide goes to waste each year. That's a staggering amount of food. Stop Food Waste Day is a day to raise awareness about food waste and encourage people to take action to reduce it. One way to reduce food waste is to find creative ways to use the food we already have. And that's where re-brewing tea leaves comes in.
Many types of loose-leaf tea can be re-brewed multiple times. By re-brewing your tea leaves, you can get more out of them and reduce waste. It's a win-win situation. But it's not just about reducing waste. Re-brewing your tea can also change the flavour profile of the tea. The flavours may become more subtle with each brew, but you will also discover new layers of flavour that you didn't notice before. A study on multiple infusions of green tea show that the sensory profile of loose-leaf Korean green tea was good for up to 4 brews. They found that the flavour was intense for the first two brews, while bitterness and astringency were less intense for brews three and four. Some notes, such as seaweed, were present in the first two brews, whereas other notes, like asparagus and celery, weren't pronounced until the third and fourth brews. In other words, each infusion is different and interesting in its own way. Another study analysed the antioxidant levels over multiple infusions of green tea. They found that loose-leaf teas still release antioxidants after multiple brews. To sum up, if you're not infusing your tea leaves more than once, you're missing out.
Most loose-leaf teas can infuse more than once. You can brew breakfast and flavoured teas like Earl Grey at least twice. More delicate first-flush Darjeelings can be infused twice, whereas stronger Darjeelings and Assam can be brewed more. You can infuse Good quality Chinese and Japanese green teas three or four times. Many pu'er and many Chinese oolongs can be brewed between six and ten times if using the gongfu brewing method. Most supermarket tea bags are designed to release the flavour of the tea in as little time as possible, so they aren't suitable for re-brewing. Speciality tea bags that contain high-quality tea can be re-infused in more or less the same way as loose-leaf tea.
Re-brewing your tea leaves is easy. If you're brewing in a western-style teapot, after you've finished your first cup of tea, instead of throwing away the leaves, simply add fresh hot water to the tea leaves and let it steep again for a slightly longer time. I typically increase the steeping time by one minute for the second brew and two minutes for the third. I recommend experimenting with what works for you and the tea that you're brewing.
On Stop Food Waste Day, re-brewing your tea leaves is just one small way to do your part. Not only does it allow you to get more out of your tea, but it can also be a fun way to experiment with different flavours. So next time you brew a pot of tea, don't throw away your tea leaves and give re-brewing a try!