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What to do With Used Tea Leaves: Chagra and the Concept of Mottainai

Posted by Path of Cha on

Once the rich favorable flavor of your tea begins to fade we immediately think it is time to toss it as it is of no use to us any longer. Yet there are actually plenty of uses for used tea leaves!



Japan is immersed in the concept of mottainai. Mottainai is when nothing gets wasted and gets used in one way or another. It is best translated as “What a waste!” and portrays pity over something being wasted or not used to its fullest extent.  The concept comes through in every part of the culture, tea not excluded.



The truth is even though the tea leaves no longer have flavor, they still have nutrients. These nutrients can still serve their purpose in many ways.



In Japan, the dried used tea leaves are referred to as chagra, and there are many ways to use them after-brew.

 



First, squeeze out as much moisture out of them as you can. The most important step is to dry them efficiently so they won’t risk getting moldy. Sun drying works best, but of course, not all of us have easy access to a place we can sun-dry our tea leaves.

You can also use an oven to dry your used leaves. Just spread them on a tray and put them in an oven not exceeding 200 F. Flip them from time to time and remove when efficiently dry. Store the tea leaves in a tight-sealed container.

Now here are some ways you can use your chagra:

  • Fill small sachets with the tea leaves and hang around your house: in the closets, fridge, bathrooms, next to garbage cans. The tea leaves can easily absorb unwanted smells and in turn, give out the pleasant smell of the tea leaves. 
  • Use the chagra sachets during baths or foot baths. The antimicrobial qualities of the tea leaves are great for it. The scent may also help relax.
  • You can mix the chagra with other good smelling herbs, put into sachets and place near your pillow. It is known to promote good sleep!
  • In both China and Japan the chagra is often placed on top of small burners (for example the ones used to burn essential oils). The soft flame of the candle will help gently heat the tea leaves, producing a steady, pleasant scent of the now roasted tea leaf.
  • Put the tea leaves in your plant soil. The nutrients will get absorbed by the soil and work as a natural fertilizer. This one can be done without drying the tea leaves beforehand. Just use your fresh after-brew tea leaf!

 

 

If you are using the leaves for aromatic purposes you may want to use a tea that has a prominent scent. Some of our personal favorites are our Award Winning Jasmine Dragon Pearls Green Tea, Ya Shi Xiang Dan Cong Oolong, Organic Jinhao Black Tea. We especially enjoy the scent of some Genmaicha chagra on an oil burner! 

Have you ever used chagra before? Leave a comment below with your favorite uses for the used tea leaves and which teas you prefer the most for the purpose. 

 


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