Tea Leaf Experiments
By Amanda Schwarz
Will the plants like it?
"First Peek at Amanda
Tea as Art
Is there life after infusion for the beloved tealeaf? At my place of work, in an attempt to avoid clogged drains and moldy garbage pails, used tealeaves are flushed down the toilet. Although my rational self is fine with this, the insane tea lady inside feels it is a bit of an insult to the lovely leaf that flavors my hot water. But what other fate can a used tealeaf meet? Apparently, there are plenty - some nicer than others. According to many different on-line articles and sites, used tealeaves (also known as chagra) can be utilized for a variety of purposes. To honor my fallen leaves, I decided to attempt some of these suggestions. Kids, feel free to try this at home - but I refuse to take responsibility for the consequences.
Tea Leaves for Fertilizer
Claim: Tealeaves, as well as coffee grounds, are supposed to be fantastic for plants. For example, it is said they add acid to the soil to perk up the color in hydrangeas.
I live in an apartment, with no front yard or bushes to test on. So I decided to try my used green and oolong leaves in my houseplants.
My philodendron seems to be doing better having had jasmine pearl leaves added to her water. The plant's leaves look hardier and darker, but this may be because the plant is living in a bottle of water, with no soil, and has craved nutrients. The water is now a murky shade of yellow, but I'll deal.
My spider plant was initially no so happy, and developed a lovely layer of mold on the top of the soil. After a couple of days the mold wore off, and now the plant looks greener than it has in months. It appears that using tealeaves for fertilizer has been beneficial for my houseplants. If you try it, please dry the leaves first to avoid the mold.
Leaves end up: With the plants.
Green Tea leaves to clean off cutting boards
Claim: It is often difficult to get rid of the smell left behind after using a cutting board. After washing your cutting board, spread wet chagra on it and leave the chagra to sit for several minutes. Rub the board with the chagra and rinse thoroughly.
I took a clump of used sencha leaves, and mashed them into my white plastic cutting board. It made a bit of a mess of my sink, and I didn't see or smell any real difference between this and the cleanings I had given the board with soap and sponge in the past. Not so impressed. The mashed up wet leaves left in my sink afterward gave me incentive to clean the kitchen though. At least something ended up cleaner.
Leaves end up: Some in trash, some down the drain.
Tealeaves for tired eyes
Claim: Used tea bags or old unused ones (wet and cool enough) can be placed on your eyelids to soothe and refresh your tired eyes.
My own homemade "Genmai Cha-bags" were used for this experiment. The 2-day-old leaves were wrapped in some muslin fabric scraps, and tied with silver elastic gift-wrap strings (glad to use them for something!). I used the strings to tie the bags to each other, so they wouldn't roll down my face. They were soaked in cool water, then worn on my face for about 5 minutes. My eyes, though maybe not noticeably different, felt cool and refreshed for quite a while afterward.
Leaves end up: In the trash.
Claim: Bedsores and skin disease can be prevented or healed with a green tea baths. Put old tealeaves into a thin cotton bag, tie it securely and soak it into a hot bath.
Luckily, I have no bedsores or skin disease to speak to, but I'm always up for tub time. A similar sachet to the "Cha-bags" was made with the sencha leaves once used to make a pitcher of iced tea. The prospect of a bath inspired me to scrub out my "luxurious" apartment tub. I added the sachet to a bath of hot water and rose petals. The water turned green, which was nice, but I didn't smell the tea very strongly while soaking. After the bath, I drained the water, and once again had to scrub the tub - this time for green tea and flower petal remnants. There was nothing that made this bath any more remarkable than other baths, other than my tub was super, super clean afterward.
Leaves end up: In the trash and down the drain. Some stuck to my back.
Claim: Tea absorbs odors around it. Chagra can be used as a deodorizer and antibacterial cleaner when you vacuum your carpet. Before you vacuum, sprinkle some dried chagra, leave for several minutes. Then vacuum up the chagra. Green tea's clean smell will refresh your room as well as clean the carpet.
I tried this on a yellow bath mat/rug, with a mixture of spiced green decaf and apricot black tealeaves. They were not completely dry; as I found out from the mold smell half way through application. I don't use a vacuum, and usually shake out my rugs out on the porch. Half way through the shake, I realized this mix of chagra stained the rug and made it smell like moldy spices. The rug is soaking in the tub now, heavily saturated in detergent. Next time, unflavored tea and dry leaves!
Ps. I now have to scrub the tub. Again.
Leaves end up: Outside my door, and down the tub drain.
Green Tea Leaves to make mouthwash
Claim: Cleanliness is maintained in the mouth after drinking tea by protecting against cavities and halitosis. Use green tea's second infusion as a mouthwash.
I don't have enough time to really test the tooth decay part, but I can test for breath freshness. My husband is a coffee drinker, and Japanese green teas are far from his taste. He thought my sencha mouthwash, used after brushing, made me taste like "a minty swamp". On the flip side, I know my breath is not as "inspired" after sushi if I enjoy a cup of green tea with the meal. So yes to Green Tea for "mouth cleansing" if I'm eating raw fish, but not so much as a mouthwash, especially if I'm planning a romantic interlude.
Leaves end up: In the trash.
Claim: No claim - just inspired by the crop art I saw at the Minnesota State Fair last year.
I know its no comparison to a portrait of Johnny Cash made entirely of black beans, but I think my dried tea Adagio logo is pretty good. If you should try this, please dry the leaves first. You can see why by checking out my oolong wreath, made with wet leaves, which shriveled into something fit for "A Nightmare Before Christmas" set prop.
Leaves end up: immortalized in Elmer's Glue
What did I learn? My plants like tealeaves but dislike mold. My rugs absorb scents quite readily. Tea experimentation unexpectedly affected my married life: inspiring domestic cleanliness, yet deterring romance. The most apparent lesson - the best thing to come out of a tealeaf is the liquor in my cup!