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Does anyone "eat" the steeped green tea leaves?

I have been enjoying rather large tied green tea balls that open up when steeped into green tea flowers. Most of the tea leaves stay in their tie, but some of the leaves break off into the tea and float to the surface. I find that chewing on them is quite tasty. Can I safely swallow them?

Is there any reason NOT to consume these green tea leaves? Is there any benefit?

We stuffed our Thanksgiving turkey with steeped green tea leaves and it was quite good, although perhaps somewhat subtle. Are there other uses for the steeped or unsteeped leaves, aside from cooking with matcha (finely powdered ceremonial green tea)?

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  1. When the Burmese make tea salads, they use leaves that have been soaked in cool, running water for days and days. It's delicious, by the way. But other than the occasional matcha-flavored sweet, I haven't heard much else about tea leaves as food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: condiment

      Does it taste like a seaweed salad, perhaps in texture?

    2. I was told to eat my green tea leaves for added health effect. Its the equivalent of having 2 oranges, the tea expert told me, when I was buying "long jeng" green tea.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jennjen18

        Interesting...I was hoping for some information like this -- unless it is too good to be true????

        1. re: liu

          Well, if you think about it ... the tea is just water that has diluted some of the flavour from tea leaves. The leaves will still have most of its nutrients in it, and if you think the tea itself is good, the tea leaves should have more than what the tea offers.

      2. Does decaf work as well? Otherwise, I think eating tea leaves would keep me awake for the next decade.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Glencora

          Yeah, I'm not so sure with other teas.. 'coz green teas have lots of nutrients and good stuff in it, so I was told the above. Just make sure what youre eating is good for you!

          1. re: Glencora

            well, I suppose it'd be the equivalent of eating the leaves after a good steeping or two--flushing is, after all, all that producers do to "decaffeinate" a product.

            So, probably yes, but I'd hazard a guess and say it wouldn't be as beneficial as drinking and eating normal leaves.

          2. Well, there are three issues possible when eating something "weird".

            1. Is it poisonous?
            2. Is it unchewable?
            3. Is it sharp/pointy?

            So, for example, you don't want to eat toadstools because of #1; you don't eat lime leaves, even sliced, because of #2; and you don't eat whole artichoke leaves principally because of #3.

            Tea leaves have none of these issues, and in point of fact anyone who's ever been to a Chinese restaurant has had tea leaves because some of them make it through the strainer.

            I don't know that I'd chow down on them, but maybe... or you could make like coca leaf, put it in the pocket of your mouth, and chaw.

            9 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              And HELLO, Das Ubergeek!

              I love your way of looking at this...so simple and so perfect! And I wonder if it could be "chawed" like tobacco?????

              Thanks for your great response! And I will keep your litmus test of poisonous?-unchewable?-pointy? in my pocket for my future Chowing adventures!

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                I eat very thinly-sliced lime leaves all the time in certain Thai dishes in restaurants and prepared at home as well. Am I missing something here?

                1. re: allegro805

                  Me too, so far I'm fine. But they're home grown and the tender newish ones. And I also eat the thin-sliced lemon grass, which isn't really chewable. They really can't be any worse than broccoli.

                2. re: Das Ubergeek

                  I eat lime leaves, sliced in things like Thai pork lettuce wraps. I don't eat them in soup, I fish them out like bay leaves, but I don't have a problem eating them in stirfrys and stuff....

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Ok help me.. I watched No Reservations more times than anybody should... and she has him smell the Kaffir lime leaves.. So I became obbssed with making that scallop saffron sauce... My dad bought me a Kaffir lime tree....it is small.. because I could never find kaffir lime leaves... ANNNNNNNYWAY How would you cook with lime leaves? do you use them like bay leaves?

                    1. re: girloftheworld

                      I use them in Thai curries. Add them when you add the vegetables. Example recipe:
                      http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/reci...

                      1. re: Scrofula

                        YUM!
                        With the addition of these tea leaves, you get some bulk, color, texture and fragrance. I would imagine that the flavor is lost with the other strong flavors in this dish.

                        Scrofula, what type of tea leaves do you use?

                        1. re: liu

                          I was responding to girloftheworld's question about kaffir lime leaves, not tea leaves. But now that you mention it, maybe green tea leaves would work in Thai curry.

                          1. re: Scrofula

                            The kaffir lime leaves are so integral to the Thai curry, so I would not substitute...but perhaps both! I might suggest a fragrant green tea, if any.

                            Scrofula, if you do try it, please report back!

                  2. You know I eat leaves, right, A?

                    I figure it'd be, if nothing else, akin to having another leafy green in my diet ^^

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: PseudoNerd

                      Howdy and Hi, PseudoNerd!

                      I hope you are serious, because my thinking runs along the same line. It just seems like they would be healthy. I love seaweed in all its permutations, so I equate tea leaves in this same category.

                      Soooo, J, how do you eat them...as a salad, with a little soy dressing or sesame oil, a little grated ginger and some sesame seeds, perhaps? I might then squeeze a fresh orange over the entire dish.

                      1. re: liu

                        Am I J? :)

                        I just eat the leaves just straight out when I'm done my tea, really. Eat them in its purist form to get the most nutrients out of it. But I've heard of Chinese dishes using tea leaves to make. I cant recall any off the top of my head, maybe the home cooking board can help you out on that one.

                        1. re: jennjen18

                          nah, I'm the abovementioned J ^^

                          I eat it the same way as jennjen does, without any additions, after finishing my tea.

                    2. In the book, "New Tastes in Green Tea," by Mutsuko Tokunaga, she refers to eating steeped leaves several times. She suggests using them as you would use any parboiled green vegetable; also to add them to rice pilafs and salads, or mix into the batter of deep-fried dishes.

                      In fact, when you drink matcha, you are actually "eating" tea, as matcha is from the full leaves (minus stem and veins), ground to powder.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LBeff

                        LBeff - You have offered some good ideas...thanks! I have heard about this book before, and I love the idea of adding some pieces of green tea to any rice dish.

                        Regarding the matcha, the bottom of the cup with the matcha-mud is my favorite part! In fact, when I am being served really good green tea (usually matcha) in a sushi bar, I ask for them to swirl the pot before they pour it so that I can get the powdered pieces of leaves. The servers who love tea themselves really "get" it; and the ones who don't probably just think I am strange with this request!

                      2. I'm still getting used to matcha myself. What I like about this tea book is that it gives "permission" to try different ways of drinking green tea. She shows recipes for floats, shakes and coffee-type drinks. I like playing with tea this way, as I've always been more of a purist.

                        Have fun eating your tea!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: LBeff

                          would I get the same health benefits if I just ate the leaves raw as opposed to steeped?

                          1. re: CeLph

                            I've no idea but I'm wondering -- is tea anything like bay leaves? Why are bay leaves considered to be inedible but still good for flavor? I guess lemon grass and cinnamon fall into this category, eh, or is tea different? What about coffee?

                            1. re: misohungrychewlow

                              AFAIK, there's no relation. Bay leaves fall under Das Ubergeek's "unchewable", otherwise they're harmless. That's also why we grind cinnamon and shred lemon grass.

                              Coffee beans can certainly be chewed, but that's more fun if they're wrapped in chocolate -- chocolate-covered coffee beans can be found in coffee or candy shops, and even many supermarkets. But be careful, it's easy to get really WiiiiRRrreD on those things.... :-)

                          2. re: LBeff

                            Often when I reconstitute dried shrooms I'll use left over tea. Also you can smoke fish with tea. I totally add Jasmine tea to rice as it's being cooked. Nummy.

                          3. I will give you the strongest and most accurate answer because I am a food scientist and I have studied such things. The answer is that you will probably not notice any added health benefits from eating tea leaves because the flavinoids in tea that give you the positive antioxidents only need to be taken in moderation to be effective and taking more than normal through consumption of tea leaves will not make it anymore likely you will be healthier. It is sort of like Linus Pauling and his mass consumption of Vitamen C. I will however point out one obvious and proven - possible side effect of consuming tea leaves: that being diarhea and upset stomach. The compounds in tea are a effective diurectic and consuming tea leaves in significant quantities can give you the runs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: timothysliao

                              flavinoids are not the only beneficial compounds present in the leaves... although they tend to get most of the attention in terms of health benefits. The leaves contain fiber which is protective for colon cancer and cardiovascualr disease due to the metabolism of the fiber by colon flora producing small chain fatty acids(SCFA). These SCFA's prevent aberrant proliferation and increase apoptosis thru action at the mitochondria. I personally eat the leaves for this reason and the many others pointed out above(minerals, bvitamins, etc). So unless you''re steeping more than a few grams of tea, then I think you're missing out on some added health benefits, diarrhea notwithstanding. :)

                              1. re: timothysliao

                                Wow- you may have just hit on one of my life's big mysteries. Thank you for that.

                                Fortunately I don't have an upset stomach.

                              2. Also an answer to your second part of the question about uses. The Chinese do love to cook using tea leaves and brown sugar. They create a smoke using tea leaves and brown sugar and indirectly smoke meats. There could be some issues with carcinogens but that happens whenever you eat smoked meat or cook anything on a direct heat source that caused the chemical compisition of the food to mutate.

                                1. I put green tea in my green smoothies. I don't know what it taste like on it's own... never tried it, but it's yummy with kale, bananas and pears.

                                  1. There's a delicious dish of shrimp with green tea leaves (using the brewed tea as well)in Jiangzhe cuisine (the area around Suzhou/Shanghai/Hangzhou). The slight bitterness of the leaves with the sweet shrimp is lovely. Typical recipe: http://chinesefood.about.com/od/shrim...

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      That's long2 jing3 xia1 ren2 aka Dragon Well shrimp. It uses Dragon Well/long2 jing3 tea which has a lovely nutty and sweet flavour.

                                      1. re: limster

                                        And in Suzhou they often make it with local Biluochun tea that's even more tasty than Longjing in my opinion.

                                    2. The best way to prepare tea is to use loose leaves which you can purchase through either a health food market or some other merchant that sells whole leaves. Pre-cut teas placed in bags are significantly less healthy and some companies bleach their bags which is not good for your body. For each cup of tea place three whole leaves directly into the cup and pour in the hot water which should always be below the boiling point. Even one loose tea leaf can be used as much as three times meaning you can drink three cups of tea from each leaf which is beneficial if you are trying to save money. Do not eat the leaves until you have had that third cup because by then the caffeine will have been sufficiently diluted that consuming the leaves will not cause you too much stimulation. Also, when it comes to caffeinated beverages (whether teas, coffees, or sodas) it is best to consume them with a little bit of food. The food absorb some of the caffeine and facilitates its entering the bloodstream more slowly. Finally, never add milk or sugar to your tea because the milk actually binds with the molecules and significantly reduces the health benefits and can in fact make it unhealthy. The use of sugar counteracts the benefits for the pancreas and spleen. But one thing that you MUST add to your tea is a little bit of lemon juice - between 1/4 [one-quarter] and 1/2 [one-half] of a teaspoon per 6 ounce cup (which is the average sized tea cup). Why? Because the catechins in the tea cannot be entirely absorbed by the body, in fact the majority never even make it into the blood stream for this reason, even if eating the whole leaves. To facilitate complete absorption of the catechins you MUST increase the acidity and adding lemon juice (or other natural citrus) will do that. The most healthful teas are the "White tea" followed by the "Green tea".

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: dovdov

                                        Great info dovdov. However, at the end of your reply you recommend adding lemon juice for its acidity. Lemon juice is actually alkaline, not acidic -- even though it tastes acidic.

                                        1. re: wyndham

                                          With a pH of 2, lemon juice is most definitely not alkaline.

                                      2. It's safe to eat tea leaves. The leaves of certain Japanese green teas, e.g. gyokuro, can be eaten with soy sauce post infusion. Tea leaf salad is a common Burmese dish.

                                        Green tea leaves can contain a lot of caffeine, so if one is sensitive to caffeine, that would be a reason.

                                        1. A small percentage of the people in China still eat fresh tea leaves but the vast majority of Chinese have learned not to. The reason is that fresh tea leaf eaters quadruple their risk of developing esophageal cancer because of cancer-causing tannins contained in tea (Camellia sinensis). However, the big picture is that consuming green tea is extremely, extremely healthy for us, whether it is eaten or swallowed hot-brewed. Varieties of tea that are higher in cancer-causing tannins will irritate your throat with a burning sensation. Most important: Drinking any beverage at a temperature hotter than 60 degrees Celsius will quadruple your risk of developing esophageal cancer. Drinking beverages below 50 degrees Celsius is safe: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19...

                                          1. i always eat my tea leaves from my tea; it's good medicine; if it wasn't edible; u wouldn't be able to drink it either:) so eat up; want not waste not.

                                            1. I have made chicken salad with steeped green tea leaves ...
                                              soooo I would say yes

                                              1. Liu: I have will get a high speed Blendtec blender for Christmas. I love green tea and I simply must try blending my high quality Taiwanese green teas into my smoothies. I dont mean just the unfused tea water, I mean taking p a teaspoon of raw green tea and putting it right into the blender. With one of these professinal style blenders you can turn this into a powder. Mixed with raw vegetables and fruits I would think I would have a high energy anti cancer breakfast smoothie.
                                                I will let you know how it goes.
                                                Paul

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Pauls

                                                  Oooh, it sounds like a plan, Paul!
                                                  Are you going to use the steeped greens or the dry leaves? Might you also try some Japanese greens?

                                                  Please do report back about exactly what you did and how it turned out.

                                                2. I've been told that in Japan, steeped tea leaves are sometimes dipped in ponzu sauce and eaten. So obviously there is no harm in consuming them. If anything, you'll get even more of the health benefits of green tea that way. While sencha and gyokuro tea leaves smell wonderful after infusing, I don't really care for the taste or texture. Must be an acquired taste..

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Chi_Guy

                                                    Hello, Chi_Guy.

                                                    My post is from 7 years ago; since, I have learned that the steeped leaves can be and are consumed in various ways.
                                                    I do thank you for this information.

                                                    You have mentioned that you do not care for some of the Japanese greens, but perhaps you would like some of the Chinese greens, such as a jasmine leaf or a longjing or pi lo chun. I love bao zhong, a greenish oolong, so that might appeal to me.