Don’t throw away your tea after steeping it! You might have a lot of flavor left in those tea leaves. Many teas are renowned for their ability to retain flavor after re-steeping. In fact, in China, many times the first infusion is dumped out! It’s the second infusion they are after.
What Teas Can Be Re-steeped?
So what teas can be resteeped? The short answer is that any tea can be resteeped. It’s a matter of preference really. If you taste the second steeping and like it, then let no one stand between you and your favorite cuppa.
Pu-Erh Tea: Pu-erh teas are fermented for years like a fine wine to get their distinct flavor. In general, the older the tea, the more times it can be resteeped. In fact, some pu-erhs hold their flavor after 10 re-steepings!
Oolong Tea: Some oolong teas have a very complex flavor that changes from steep to steep. You should be able to get at least 2-3 steepings, if not more from a decent quality oolong.
Green Tea: Most green teas re-steep very well. You should be able to get 2-3 steepings from a good quality green tea.
White Tea: While not generally known for a strong flavor, white teas have a spring-like clean, smooth flavor that is resilient to multiple infusions. Like green teas, you should get 2-3 steepings.
Black Tea: Known for their strength and robustness, black teas hold up less well to multiple infusions. In general, your first infusion is going to be strong, full-bodied. A second and third infusion will still hold pleasant, distinct notes, but will not be as full-bodied. If you like your black teas strong, go ahead and leave the tea leaves in for up to ten minutes for your second infusion. most black teas won’t get bitter. You might be able to squeeze out a second good cup.
Flavored Tea: Flavored teas tend to lose a lot of potency after the first steeping, but it’s worth a try to see if your tea holds up well.
Herbal Tea: So many herbs encompass the herbal tea category. Some herbs perform better than others with multiple infusions. Stronger flavors perform better, but any herbal tea is worth a second steeping, you’re only wasting some hot water if it tastes bad!
How to Resteep Tea
Every tea has its own steeping instructions. It’s important to use the right temperature water and length of time for each tea. Follow our tea brewing guide for a reference.
After your first steeping, paying attention to temperature is not as important, as the bitter tannins are mostly gone in the first steeping.
When resteeping tea add 1-2 minutes to the original steeping time. For each additional steep, continue to add 1-2 additional minutes until the flavor is exhausted.
How Long Between Steepings?
The biggest enemy to tea is moisture and oxidation. Once you steep your tea, it begins to break down much faster. Most teas should be re-steeped in the span of a couple of hours. After that, teas just won’t taste the same. In case you were wondering, refrigeration doesn’t help either. Better to make less tea to avoid waste.
White teas are especially sensitive. They should be re-steeped ASAP. While normally a clear color infusion, a white tea infusion can actually turn black from oxidation in a short period.
Should I Rinse My Tea Leaves?
For certain teas, rinsing is highly recommended. Pu-erh teas tend to have a harsh flavor in the first steeping. Also, teas that tend to have an unpleasant astringency can be rinsed. A quick rinse will cut unpleasant flavors.
To rinse tea, dispense your tea leaves into your infuser. Pour hot water over the leaves inside the infuser. You can do this inside your teapot or mug so the hot water heats it up. No need to fill the pot all the way, just a cup will do. Don’t let the tea leaves sit in the water too long, or it will release all its flavor. Dump the water immediately after rinse.
My Flavor is Exhausted! What Now?
Tea leaves make great compost. You can also clean with tea leaves. Let your tea serve you well!