Question: What is the best way to dry a tea before consecutive steepings for storage until the tea is used again
- Elizabeth from Fulton, MO
This question is, by far, the most common one I have received in the past couple of weeks. I think the problem people are having is that there is a serious lack of information concerning this topic on the internet and I can understand why. The problem with answering this is there are some sticky health issues involved with it. So I am going to give you our official stance on the subject and then I will tell you what I personally do with my used tea leaves.
Our Official Stance
Golden Moon Tea’s official position is that tea must be discarded 3 hours after it has been steeped. This means that once your wet tea leaves have been exposed to water you have a maximum of 3 hours to use those tea leaves before you throw them away. The combinations of water with the hot tea leaves can cause bacteria to grow that can make you feel pretty terrible.
What I Personally Do
With that being said, I personally reuse my tea leaves all the time. I often leave them overnight as well, especially if I have a particularly delicious Oolong. I know I am not supposed to, but sometimes things get a bit hectic and I lose my beloved tea time where I can sit down and actually relax. In these instances, I have developed a bit of a system to help minimize the risk of bacteria for teas I leave overnight.
The Key is Avoiding Moisture
I have learned that leaving wet tea leaves in a teapot or Gaiwan for extended periods of time is a very bad thing. Bacteria thrives on both moisture and heat, both of which teapots help to contain. By keeping your tea in an enclosed space, you are actually helping your tea become a mini vacation spot for all things microscopic. To prevent this, you need an environment that is opposite of a teapot - an environment that is cool and dry with lots of circulation.
Allowing Wet Tea Leaves Out to Dry is Crucial
To allow your leaves to dry out as fast as possible, without jumping through a million hoops, I recommend the following:
Squeeze all excess moisture out of the tea leaves
Spread them out in as thin of a layer as possible on a flat surface. A small plate works well here.
Place the tea leaves in a room that has a lot of circulation, my kitchen happens to be an open kitchen so this works well for me. Avoid things like cupboards or cabinets and especially refrigerators since they will slow the drying process.
By the morning, your tea leaves should be fully dry. I would try and use the tea that day though. Anything longer than that is really rolling the dice!
Only you can decide if you want to reuse tea leaves the next day. The one thing I ask a lot of people is, “Do you throw away leftover dinners after 3 days?” That is essentially the same issue here. If you are willing to eat leftovers after their “expiration date,” then you may be willing to use your tea leaves a day later.
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