Saturday, April 28, 2012

Leftover Teas - What to do with them

Jini in her fabulous kitchen
A while ago, I travelled to Vancouver for a vacation and dropped in to see my friend Jini. She's been a friend since the 1980's. She has a business called, Jini's Ethic Gourmet.  I can recommend her cook book, "Ethnic Pleasures". She's a brilliant person and makes cooking look so easy. While visiting, I offered to look through her collection of teas. Like most of us, we end up with a huge collection over the years. We don't throw out the teas for any  number of reasons. Some of which are:
1) Its dry so tea will last forever.
2) My guests might want them.
3) It gives variety to serving beverages.
4) The kitchen would look empty without them.
5) I'm trying to use it up.

Now really. Do you want all that old tea hanging around. Bad feng shui !! Get rid of it. So, that's what I did with Jini's tea. I went through all her teas. I recommended that her herbal tea not be kept past 6 months if its unopened. Other black and green teas that were opened and had been around for a such a long long time, that you can't remember when you bought it, should be thrown out. They pick up odors and as they are organic material, they start to break down and crumble. You can keep the vacuum-sealed teas for up to 2 years. They lose their flavours and quality fairly fast after that. Unless pre-packaging has been handled very well by the manufacturer, you would not get much enjoyment out of them when you do decide to use them. Its best to start off with fresh teas and plan to consume them within 6 months. Mark the package when you buy it if it does not already have a Best-Until date on it. Rotate the storage of your tea so you consume the older ones first to finish them up. Re-package the teas that have been opened in a tight fitting lidded metal box. This will keep moisture, dust and odors from invading your prized tea. For delicate green teas, they can be stored in the refrigerator to prolong their freshness. However, be aware that unless wrapped well and used within a few months, the tea will take on other odors of the fridge especially through plastic wrap.

Use up at least 1 box before you buy more. If you like variety, go to a tea store and get several flavours in smaller qualities. You can even mix them together for a unique blend of your own. Herbal teas are easy to blend with other teas on hand. I use up old tea by mixing a herbal tea and a  green tea, such as Camomille and Jasmine Tea, or a Fruit or Berry tea with a black tea for a flavoured ice tea with a bit of  extra nutritional value.  Remember not to store flavoured teas too close to unflavoured teas or the flavours will be absorbed.

Tips for Left Over Tea
So, what can you do with old tea other than throw it out?
  • Use for compost. Enrich the earth.
  • I make a steeped cocktail of  organic green and black teas, sometimes re-using tea bags to make a delightful  fertilizer for watering your plants. Use this tea fertilizer once a week for flowering plants. My geraniums love it and blossom indoors throughout the winter. 
  •  Deodorize  your feet with a soak  in a foot bath of green tea to. No, it won't stain your skin.
  • Make a green tea bath for your skin. Soak a face cloth in warm green tea, place the tea-soaked cloth over your face and enjoy a few minutes refreshing your skin. The anti-oxidants and micro-nutrients soak into the skin for a youthful and radiant appearance. For the summer, dip a cloth in green tea, wring out slightly, roll up, place in a plastic bag and tuck in the refrigerator. Use the tea-soaked cloth on your face and back of neck to cool down. For pore cleansing and taming beard or shavers itch, use microwave to warm a green tea-soaked cloth. Blend green tea with fresh avocado for a super antioxidant facial pack. You can also add to hand cream.
  • For leftover matcha, a finely ground Japanese green tea, cooking is a great way to use up the tea and to get its health benefits more immediately into your system. Add to cakes, cookies, muffins, egg whites for "green eggs and ham", power drinks and cakes. Add to soups, fresh-made noodles and perogies. The green-coloured tea blends in well with other green dishes. The taste is generally mild enough to camouflage in many recipes, especially is you use a little.
  • For unflavoured black tea, use in soups, cooking beef meat, or in marinades. Its gives a brothy tannic taste.
  • There are lots of recipes for using black tea, from flavoured nuts  using powdered chai tea, jams and jellies using flavoured teas,  to using as an ingredient in gourmet recipes like marbled quail eggs. Some of the nicest recipes use Earl Grey tea. The Bergamot oil flavour of Earl Grey adds a citrus expression to cookies and cakes, not to mention making delicious iced tea!
If you have other suggestions for using up old tea, I'd like to hear from you.