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Help! What do I do with all the loose-leaf tea that I have that I don't LOVE?

  • liu Jan 25, 2007 12:05 PM
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I have been passionately searching for the perfect cup of tea! In my quest, I have ordered a lot of tea from various sources. I don't LOVE all of it, and a mediocre cup of tea -- to my tastes -- is not worth brewing.

I have many packets of loose-leaf teas that I now ignore because they are not on my list of "Top 5 Favorites of-the-Moment!" Seriously, most of it is of good-to-fine quality, but just not for me. So, now, what do I do with all of this tea?

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  1. Package in baskets w/ cups, cookies and chocolates as gifts for your friends.

    Or use for tea-smoked chicken, duck, etc. in your grill or smoker.

    It's also fun to mix them up with spices, dried fruits and zest for creating your own blends.

    1. brew them and use as the cooking liquid for braised meats, sauces, rices, etc

      1. You know, Liu, I share that problem too! I try to buy only sample sizes from Upton, so at least I only have small silver packets lying about for months. Usually, there's only enough for a cup or two left, if that. Maybe we should trade?!?

        1. Check out the article on indoor smoking in the New York Times yesterday ( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/24/din... ). There's a great-sounding recipe for Tea-Smoked Chicken Thighs with Pomegranate Glaze.

          1. I offer them to friends to try...I also sometimes mix teas that I think might blend well together...sometimes I'm right, sometimes not but it's fun to do.

            What are your top 5 favorites?

            1 Reply
            1. re: fauchon

              Hi, fauchon! Right now I am enjoying the greener oolong teas that I have ordered from Teance. However, if you would go to the Cookware Board and check under the post that asks about using a mesh basket, "will 47" has taken tea to another level and opened up an entire world of Taiwanese purveyors. Oh, I am overwhelmed...I just don't know if I have enough years left to try all these new teas!

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/360379

            2. Throw then out. Face it; you aren't going to drink them, you woud have given them away by now if that was possible (Christmas is over) and the chances of you doing somethig smoking chicken with it are slim to none, and even if you do it once, you will still ahve tea left over.

              You have permission, Throw it out.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Quine

                You made me laugh. I really hate throwing away tea, and I have a LOT that I don't drink. It takes me years to get around to actually letting go. Thanks for the permission. :-)

                1. re: Quine

                  Quine - You are right on! I laughed, but there is so much truth in what you say! Thanks!!!

                  1. re: Quine

                    Hey- Valentine's Day. Dollar store mug and a few tea bags and bang - people think you are the sweetheart of all time.

                  2. Depending on the type of tea, you can use it in bath water. If it's green tea or herbal like chamomile, lavender, peppermint, you can use them for a relaxing bath. (Try it drinking a cup of great tea at the same time! :) ) You can mix them with epsom salts, too.

                    I like the idea of mixing them with other spices, fruits, etc., to create your own blends. I would buy some nice tea infusers, bag up (in wax bags and then put the wax bags in muslin or other fabric to protect from light) your own blends, put them in a basket or open-top tin with other goodies (a few cookies and maybe a tea towel), and use for gifts to clergy, secretaries, postman, etc.

                    1. I seriously cannot wait to try the Tea-Smoked Chicken Thighs from Wed Dining In/Dining Out. I had no idea indoor smoking was that simple.

                      1. Can't you just put them out on the kitchen at your work place to see if there are any takers?

                        1. One person mentioned tea smoked fowl. I second that. You can do great stove-top smoked fish, chicken, meat, hard cheese by: placing handfulls of uncooked rice, tea leaf, and brown sugar in a pot lined with Al foil; put what you want to smoke on a small rack; seal that pot and lid w/ the Al foil, turn up the heat until first smoke, turn down w/ cover sealed til smoked.

                          1. ...if it's black tea you could always use it as a stain!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: deannak

                              Yep - brewed black tea makes a great fabric dye. Turns white curtains a lovely antique ivory or tan.

                              Anne

                            2. If you store it properly (seal out air and light), most teas will keep for a pretty long time... except for really delicate greens, often a year or more. Get some really small metal containers to keep the sample packets in, and drink them when you're in the mood for them, bored, or sick of the stuff you do love (side note - since you're in the area, Bamboo Tea House in Pasadena has some decent small, cheap, tight sealing containers). specialtybottle.com also has a selection of very cheap tins in various sizes, though I'm not convinced the seals are that great on most of them.

                              Surely there are times when you're drinking tea and maybe not devoting your full attention to it... those are good times to drink something you don't totally love.

                              Or, if they weren't that expensive, throw them away as suggested above. Or put them in a nice container and give them away as gifts.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: will47

                                You make a good point, will47, that sometimes -- rarely, perhaps! -- it just doesn't matter what's in the cup, as long as it is hot. And each tea brewing has its individual personality, so what I don't love one time I might like a little better at a different time and place. This makes me not want to toss any of it...the "save-it-for-a-rainy-day" philosophy.

                                HOWEVER, I do think I need to narrow my field to the ones that I cherish the most and perhaps put all the others together in ONE huge can for a mixed brew -- as some here have suggested.

                              2. In the quest to find teas I've liked, I've bought 8oz or more pkgs of teas I haven't LOVED but also haven't HATED (like you said, mediocre)... given that I drink tea every day and don't want to throw the money down the drain, I just drink it till it's gone, maybe every other day (the alternate day using my fave blend). But if you're really not going to drink it, yeah, throw it out, or....

                                Serve it to guests?

                                1. This happens to me, too! With black or darker oolong leaves I like to make tea eggs. Green tea leaves absorb odors really well, so I end up using them to clean out nasty smelling stuff. Not the most cost-efficient deodorizer, but if I'm not going to enjoy the tea anyway...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: nonaggie

                                    nonaggie - This is good to know! If I place an open bowl of UN-brewed green tea leaves in the fridge, might this work? Do they absorb more brewed?

                                    1. re: liu

                                      I always use the un-brewed leaves. I've never tried it in the refrigerator, but I don't see why it wouldn't work. (Usually I'm trying to get rid of some smell from my Tupperware or other container, so I stick some dry green tea leaves in and shake it around a bit -- works remarkably well!)

                                  2. Try them as iced tea. Some that you don't enjoy hot are completely different cold. The smokey flavors can be interesting pairings for some meats.
                                    And you can drink iced tea year round as we do in the South. After all, you drink other cold beverages in the winter, don't you?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      This is a good idea!

                                    2. Yes - I was going to mention iced tea as one of the ways I get rid of my non-favorites. Also, I play around with blending teas that don't appeal to me straight. I can't drink caffeinated tea after dinner, so I've tried a lot of crappy decaf, including non-tea stuff like rooibos. If I blend them, I can sometimes come up with a pot I can stand to finish. Although there are some items I cannot stand and will never, ever use- like Chamomille. Egyptian or not, it tastes like bazooka bubble gum to me. I never blend the good stuff - unless I'm down to the last 2 teaspoons and need to add 2 more to make the pot... and then I might add something, knowing that the Upton order I put in on line this morning is already in the mail and I'll be back to my normal quality tomorrow!

                                      1. Brew all the spare tea you have in a 50 gallon drum, then taste it,the combination might be the next Earl Grey and you'd be a billionaire.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: billjriv

                                          Love it!

                                        2. This thread has just given me the inspiration and courage to throw out all the tea taking up space in my pantry that I bought and didn't like.

                                          I know I will never drink it again. I would never drink tea I didn't like . Tea is a wonderful indulgence and a daily pleasure . Note to self : buy more carefully.

                                          1. put the brewed leaves in your plant soil. plants love it!

                                            1. Similar to the idea of iced tea, what about suntea? I love the "green" aspect of the project, and I loved the mellow flavor of the tea when I was a kid. It might be better this way, as less tannins would make it into the water..

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kayonyc

                                                I like this simple idea. I am in Southern California, so I have plenty of sun and plenty of tea. Then, add ice and a lemon off the tree, and hydrate all day! This just might work!

                                              2. brew a weak cup and drink it with bourbon or rum and a squeeze of lemon on a cold night.

                                                1. Cook the tea into a basic brine recipe, then brine a nice piece of pork and roast or grill it. If you dont love any of the teas, throw a few different ones in there with citrus rinds, onion, garlic, fenel, or whatever aromatics you have on hand. Be sure to cool the brine before you add meat.

                                                  1. Great ideas. Do coffee drinkers have these situations too? For me, tea taste is very subjective and delicate. I've received tea as gifts from well-meaning coffee drinkers who think tea is tea. I'm going see if my plants like the tiny little tea leaves better than I do.

                                                    1. Try using unwanted tea or coffee beans as candle holders, in a glass vase or jar or bowl, pour in tea leaves or beans then inset non scented candles and the gentle warmth will release some pleasant aromas. looks cool too.

                                                      8 Replies
                                                      1. re: Carmelizedbunions

                                                        Funny, as I just posted on another thread, I had never thought of this, but there is a website -- www.greentealovers.com -- that sells an incense burner (Cha-kouro) for green tea. According to the site, green tea makes an exceptionally light, all natural, aromatic incense.

                                                        http://greentealovers.com/images/teap...

                                                        http://greentealovers.com/greenteapro...

                                                        I just ordered one and will report back.

                                                        1. re: omotosando

                                                          Have not received my incense burner yet, but I have my first candidate for the tea. I ordered Ume Shiso tea from Rishi. It's a combination of houjicha and red shiso leaves. Sounded intriguing. But I don't love it. The flavor of shiso overwhelms the tea.

                                                          So into the incense burner it goes. Or it might be intriguing to cook with it.

                                                          1. re: omotosando

                                                            I might be getting a little carried away here, but how about rolling a spliff or joint with the loose tea, stick it n a holder that supports sticks upright, ok I am getting carried away, cool idea though. speaking of papers, im pretty sure you can stain paper with tea to give it an ancient, dead sea scroll look. Does anyone make soap, maybe there is a way to tea infuse into it, jus a thought.

                                                            1. re: omotosando

                                                              omotodando - I know, I know...I get so excited with my new tea order, and then most of them are quite disappointing. I just haven't been able to find very many that I really like.

                                                              I recently ordered several Mariage Frere from The Cultured Cup because I had read of many Hounds (almost a cult!) that really raved about it. I tried, yes I really tried to like it, but I just don't.

                                                              Then, I ordered several Gong Fu teas along with my ingenuiTEA pot...nope! I don't like any of them, either.

                                                              To date, the Teance teas are among my favorites, but there are only a couple that I really love. So, if you run out of Ume Shiso tea for your incense burner, call on me for my supply! By the way, did you receive any jasmine tea that you like? If so, where is it from...Red Blossom? I have ordered from them and actually liked some of their teas...as I remember.

                                                              I am exhausted! This tea search is wearing me down! I just want to find a few that I can call my own!

                                                              1. re: liu

                                                                I suspect Mariage Freres is better for black tea than green tea and even as to black tea, they seem to specialize in flavored teas that some people seem to love, rather than just say a straight up second flush Darjeeling or whatever.

                                                                I am awaiting my jasmine order from Red Blossom. I have high hopes. I am also going to start filtering my tea water as I suspect that will make everything taste better. I just can't get into that ume shiso tea, however.

                                                                I guess we can console ourselves that it's a cheaper habit than wine. Virtually every bottle of wine that I have bought at that supermarket I love to hate -- Gelsons -- has been mediocre, and I have always paid a lot more for even a mid-range wine than I have for any tea I have ever ordered since I always start with the smallest tea order possible. I've thrown a lot of wine from Gelson's down the sink, but that's another thread about why you can't buy decent wine at the supermarket.

                                                            2. re: omotosando

                                                              I received my incense burner from www.greentealovers.com and really liked it. I threw in some sweet flowery oolong that I ordered from Teance but didn't like drinking and it gave off a fine scent and the glass incense burner with the burning flame was pretty to look at. I definitely will be cleaning out my closets of all that unwanted tea.

                                                              1. re: omotosando

                                                                How did you feel when you threw that first handful into the flame?

                                                                How much do you burn in a day? Does the room get smoky? Aren't you worried about inhaling the fumes and then, over time, not being able to differentiate between a high mountain oolong dark and a high mountain oolong light?

                                                                I am partially joking, but in truth I hope that it is my tastebuds and sense of smell that are the last to go! Oh, for the simple pleasures -- I just want to be able to enjoy that cup of tea in my 90s!

                                                                1. re: liu

                                                                  You don't actually throw the tea into the flame. The way it works is that there is a candle at the bottom of the incense burner and then the tea is on a little tray above the flame. So the tea doesn't actually burn. It just gets heated and gives off an aroma. I didn't notice any smoke.

                                                          2. Alright, I cant stop thnking about tea and im acoffee drnker. Anyway, how about freezing brewed tea into cubes and then adding them to drinks like lemonade or iced tea or citrus vodka and orangina.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Carmelizedbunions

                                                              Oh, how we obsess!

                                                              Thanks for your suggestions, and I like the idea of freezing cubes for a sunny day and then adding them to something citrus-y. This sounds really good to me - thanks!

                                                            2. I like poaching pears in tea. The stronger you brew the tea, the more flavor the pear has.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: septocaine_queen

                                                                Do you think it would work with apples as well?

                                                                1. re: omotosando

                                                                  I haven't tried it with apples, but I am sure any firm textured apple would work. My favorite so far is a d'anjou pear poached in earl grey. You could try granny smith with morrocan mint (my favorite is from the republic of tea) where the peach undertones of the tea might go well with the green tart flavor of the apple.

                                                              2. I agree with throw it out! If you don't like them why give them to a friend. If you don,t want to waste tea.Brew the tea and water your house plants the caffine is great boost to the plants energy and fertilizer.

                                                                1. Maryanne is quite correct about the plant thing. My mom used to do that and her plants were twice as big as their non tead up companions.

                                                                  1. Why don't you donate the unopened packets to a food bank/homeless shelter? That's what I've done before, when I get stuff in gift baskets such as coffee I don't like. If they don't want them, they can do something else with it.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: sillyrabbit

                                                                      sillyrabbit - This is a most respectable idea, and I absolutely would consider doing just this IF I had some unopened packets. However, most of what I don't like is the remains of a package that I ordered, opened, and didn't like. So, I have a lot of partially depleted, opened bags, boxes, tins and cannisters.

                                                                      Nevertheless, I appreciate your reminding me of what to do with an occasional tea gift that I pretty much know I will not like...before I open it! Thanks!

                                                                    2. I've been wondering about whether you could make tea-flavoured sweetmeats, like Turkish Delight. I have a lot of tea that isn't going anywhere, and a firm, gelatin-based candy might be tasty.

                                                                      1. You could make ice cream -- steep the tea in the custard base before refrigerating overnight. I bet you could find tea-flavored ice cream recipes on the home cooking board. The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinberg has an Earl Grey ice cream recipe and I've adapted it to make chai ice cream. Other custardy desserts would work too.

                                                                        1. Liu....I use up my teas I no longer care for by adding 2-4 jasmine balls. Gives it a floral aroma and taste that can mask those teas that aren't up to par. Also provides a change of pace to my normal tea drinking habits, mostly Oolongs, by drinking a "flavored" tea.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: 25dob

                                                                            Hi, 25dob! I LOVE this idea!
                                                                            One of the best little ball jasmine teas that I know is from Rishi. Whole Foods has just begun to carry it, but I have also ordered it directly from Rishi.
                                                                            As an aside: Whole Foods has begun to carry quite a few of the Rishi teas. Many of them are flavored, so I haven't tried them, but Rishi does make a quality tea.

                                                                            1. re: liu

                                                                              what teas do u have --that u don't like

                                                                              1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                Hi, jpr54 1! I hesitate to list some of the teas that I have that I don't love -- for fear of "dis-ing" someone else's favorite, but I will give you an idea of what is in my "teas I don't love" cabinet!

                                                                                *Herbal teas, including some of the floral teas (nothing Celestial Seasoning)
                                                                                *Flavored teas, such as Golden Moon Vanilla Jasmine
                                                                                *Black teas because they are generally better with add-ins, and I like pure tea
                                                                                *White teas -- I bought many because I wanted to like them, but I don't.
                                                                                *Mass produced supermarket teas that have been sitting on the shelves way too long, such as Bigelow and Lipton.
                                                                                *I didn't care for anything I ordered from Cultured Cup (Mariage Freres teas - I know there are many 'Hounds who love these, but I didn't like any of them.)
                                                                                *Gong Fu teas - they sent me a Wuyi Shan Red Cape tea that I don't like.
                                                                                *Rishi Lotus Green, Rishi Orange Blossom. I like most of the Rishi teas, but these are still in my bin for many months.
                                                                                *Silk Road Buddhist Tea and Phoenix Bird Oolong - both disappointing to my tastes.

                                                                                Note that this list is incomplete because I have already tossed many others.

                                                                                While some of these teas that I don't like are just not of very high quality, many are; in that latter group, it is just a matter of individual tastes. I pretty much exclusively purchase from select purveyors now, and it is these that I just don't know what to do with when I don't like them.