Drinks & Eats

Tea, Composting, and Your Garden

Your garden is the perfect place for everyone’s pleasure, the joy of tea drinking.
Your garden is the perfect place for everyone’s pleasure, the joy of tea drinking.

Those of you lucky to have backyards big enough to have a flower or vegetable garden, can take advantage of tea as an aid to growing better, more beautiful produce, flowers, and plants and know that you’re recycling, reusing, and replenishing at the same time.

If your garden space is large enough for a compost, toss your spent tea leaves onto the pile. Worms LOVE tea and, together, tea and worms will make a nutritious, nitrogen-rich compost to feed anything you want to grow.


With or without a compost, you can re-use your spent leaves onto any plants, trees, flowers, of vegetables to help them grow. They work on indoor plants, too. Here’s how to do it:

Keep a counter-top compost bin or a small bucket available and toss your spent tea leaves and compostable teabags into it after you’ve had tea. Use the bucket to carry out to the compost and toss the leaves onto it.

Also, if you have leftover tea that you will not be drinking, add that to indoor or outdoor plants instead of plain water. Waste not, get gorgeous plants!


The keyword here is compostable. In general, most commercial teabags are a no-go for fertilizers unless they are plain, undyed paper. Even then, most paper teabags have staples to remove, commercial inks or dyes in the tags or envelopes, and other materials that may, or may not, be natural much less organic. Paper, silk or muslin teabags are perfect as they decompose easily, but most other fabrics (nylon and polypropylene in particular) will not.

When in doubt, touch the bags. If they feel slippery and, especially if they have a heat-sealed edge, do not use them in the compost. Instead, cut them open and use the tea leaves for composting or fertilizing and toss the bags into the trash. (You can also use fabric teabags in collage, to make doll clothes, or many different crafts so recycling is possible.)

To put spent undyed compostable teabags on plants, use a three-tined cultivator or small spade, and dig a shallow moat around the plants and place the tea bags around the root system. This encourages plant growth, helps drainage, and increases oxygen levels. If using tea leaves, sprinkle the leaves into the dug-out area. With either method, cover up the leaves or bags with dirt, water, and allow them to work their magic.

Tea is a natural plant that adds nitrogen to carbon-rich composts, and when applied directly to plants, nourishes the soil and plants in a natural way. Tea also helps to deter weed growth by maintaining strong, healthy soil structure.


Your garden is the perfect place for everyone’s pleasure, the joy of tea drinking. Invite one friend or the whole family and take advantage of the times your garden is flourishing so that your guests can enjoy your company, the tea, and the beautiful flowers or vegetables. If you’ve had a bountiful season, share some veggies or flowers with guests to take away at the end of the tea hour.


Only have a tiny balcony space or a small patio? You can still enjoy tea drinking with a view. Even with space constraints, you can relax, refresh, replenish. Just add a chair and a table big enough to hold a teapot, teacup, and a plate of cookies or whatever you’d like with your tea. Change the pot, plate, and cup with each tea time. Mix up patterns and style. Make it fun so that you look forward to this experience daily or once a week.

This is your time, so bring out those cloth napkins or the most decorative paper ones; spread out a colorful tablecloth or use your favorite placemat. Heirlooms or thrift store finds, these fabric napkins and cloths will add touches of pretty to enhance your experience.

Savor your tea, inhale its scent along with the balm of fresh air, the warmth of the sun, and the fragrance and visual delight of nearby blossoms in the air reminding us that spring is here.

You could also write in your journal, read the newspaper or a favored book, listen to music, or just be at peace with the quiet sounds of nature, recognizing we live in a time of access to fine Masters Teas, and time to enjoy them.