With autumn upon us, shifting back to hot tea from iced is a no-brainer. But how can we explore the lesser-known uses for our favorite leaves and herbal blends? Brewing tea hot or cold and adding new flavors is about as far as we can go with traditional tea making. However, real tea transformations occur with a little extra creativity. If you don't feel like just drinking tea, you can also eat it in foods and baked goods, turn it into a makeshift natural air freshener, add it to compost to bring your garden alive, have it heal minor wounds and reduce inflammation, and even use it to scent personal products. The possibilities are endless, and they all start with that leftover tea in the corner of your cabinet (not that you should have leftover tea!).
Here are 7 ways you can get the tea party started:
1. Perfume Your Room
Who knew tea could replace that stale potpourri in your foyer or bathroom? Apartment Therapy has discovered that hanging tea bags can give your space a subtle, earthy smell. Plus, it's soothing, compact, and most of all, economical! Lifehacker notes that you can add a sweet-smelling natural oil in order to enhance the perfume:
"Tea is cheap, the scent of most tea is mild and pleasant, and you can easily refresh your little tea-bag sachet by tossing it and putting a new one in or with a drop or two of essential oil."
All you have to do is hang tea sachets or pour your favorite loose tea leaves into a pretty bowl for a feel-good, mini-home makeover!
2. Cool Down a Sunburn (or Another Burn)
To relieve the sting from a day of tanning, a rushed shave, or even a misplaced flat iron, tea might just do the trick! All you have to do is take a used, cool tea-bag and place it on the affected area for instant relief. "This works well for other types of minor burns (i.e., from a teapot or steam iron) too," writes Trish Barber of Reader's Digest. "If the sunburn is too widespread to treat this way, put some tea bags in your bath water and soak your whole body in the tub." Razor burn, be gone.
Bonus: it'll help make poison ivy rashes feel better, too!
3. Make a Gourmet Dinner
While coffee is often used in sophisticated meat marinades, tea marinades are lesser-known but equally delicious. What's great about this concoction from the Today Show is its flexibility; just about any green or black tea will do. Here, the grassy notes of raw tea combine with fresh herbs to complement the acidity and kick of Dijon mustard.
Ingredients for marinade:
- 1 1/2 cups cooled black or green tea
- 2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
"Whisk the tea, both mustards, marjoram, and oregano together in a bowl or large measuring cup. Whisk in the olive oil until the marinade has the consistency of a very loose vinaigrette.
Pour over red meat or poultry in a large, wide dish or zip-top bag and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
Remove the meat from the marinade and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade.
Grill the meat to your preference."
The organic Chun Mee Green Superior Tea from Heavenly Tea Leaves is a high-quality, neutral green tea perfect for topping beef.
4. Concoct a Divine Dessert
The earthy bergamot flavor that dominates Earl Grey teas (try Heavenly's version) is the perfect balance to the sweetness we crave in a dessert. This recipe for Earl Grey shortbread cookies from Food Network's Claire Robinson uses loose-leaf tea with only five additional ingredients, resulting in a simply satisfying confection.
"In a food processor, pulse together the flour, tea, and salt, until the tea is just spotted throughout the flour. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and butter. Pulse together just until a dough is formed. Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Tightly twist each end of the wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the log into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart (2 probably needed depending on the size of sheets). Bake until the edges are just brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature."
5. De-puff Your Eyes and De-stink Your Feet!
Give your sweaty, smelly feet a 20-minute soak in a sweet-smelling tea bath and they'll be as good as new, according to Reader's Digest. And of course, swollen eye relief is one of the most common uses for that leftover tea bag: "Revitalize tired, achy, or puffy eyes. Soak two tea bags in warm water and place them over your closed eyes for 20 minutes. The tannins in the tea act to reduce puffiness and soothe tired eyes."
6. Tea for Bath & Body
While you may not always have time to make your own personal care products, this soap from DIYer Bonnie Eng is the perfect way to get rid of those last spoons of herbal tea you have left in the cupboard.
Ingredients for tea soap bar:
- melt & pour soap base
- essential oils or tea powders
- leaf teas or herbals
- soap or silicone molds
- microwave-safe medium or large mixing bowl
- spoons for stirring
- dough cutter or knife
- tea towel
- parchment paper and twine
For step-by-step instructions, visit Thirsty for Tea.
7. In the Garden
Want to nourish your lush outdoor garden or tiny house plant? The blog Gardening Know How says you're in luck; you may have more fertilizer on-hand than you thought. If your tea bag is biodegradable, or you prefer loose tea leaves (like us), you can throw a used one directly into your compost to feed your plant and help stave off killer weeds. If not, throw loose tea into the compost instead. The use of tea, in this case, may help reduce your use of harsher, less environmentally-friendly fertilizers, and other plant foods.
And Finally, a Fun Fact!
According to LiveStrong, consuming whole tea leaves (considered here in tablet form) have in some cases been shown to contribute to weight loss and energy increases.