What are you doing with your used tea leaves? If you're simply tossing them in the trash, you're throwing away a valuable resource that can beautify your home. Instead of tossing your tea, dry them into what is known as chagra.
Tea contains a surprising amount of nutrients and the majority of those are left over after your tea is brewed. You'll find chagra useful throughout your home and it's a great way to make more out of your favorite beverage.
What Is Chagra?
Chagra is, quite simply, used tea leaves that have been dried after they are steeped. Tea is a natural antiseptic and, when dry, it readily absorbs odor and moisture. It also retains many of the oils that make up tea's pleasant aroma. These traits enhance the efficacy of dried tea leaves in many uses in your home, garden, and even your beauty treatments.
The word 'chagra' comes from Japan, where the word 'cha' means 'tea'. You will see the suffix -cha at the end of many teas, such as matcha and Sencha.
How to Dry Tea Leaves
It is very important that you thoroughly dry used tea leaves before using them in your home. If there is even the smallest amount of moisture left in the chagra, you risk mold growth and they can stain fabrics and surfaces.
Making chagra is extremely simple and there are two approaches you can take. With either method, it is important that you remove as much moisture as possible from the leaves. Do this by squeezing the tea with your fingers. Pressing them with a spoon or in a French press works as well.
The easiest way to make chagra is to set the tea leaves in the sun and wait.
- Place wet tea leaves on a tray covered with a clean, dry cloth or brown paper (with no printing).
- Set the tray in a sunny place, flipping them regularly to ensure even drying.
- Continue checking on them regularly until the leaves are completely dry.
You can also bake tea leaves in the oven until they're dry. It's much faster and your kitchen will smell like tea, but that's not such a bad thing.
- Pre-heat your oven to a temperature below 200 F.
- Spread the tea leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Place the trays in the oven and leave the oven door cracked open. (This allows the humidity to escape and speeds the drying process.)
- Bake until the leaves are dry, flipping them regularly to promote even drying.
Once dry, store your chagra in a container with a tight-sealing lid so it's ready when you need it.
Using Chagra Around Your Home
Now that your chagra is ready, it's time to put it to use. It's very common in Japan to use chagra throughout the home and it is catching on among tea drinkers worldwide.
- Aromatic Sachets: Make an herbal bath or place sachets in dressers, drawers, closets, or anywhere else that needs a little fresh scent on a regular basis. This is a perfect use for herbal tisanes and herbal tea blends.
- Herbal Pillows: Include chagra in an herbal blend with dried lavender and other calming herbs to help you get a better night's sleep. Chagra has long been used in Chinese folk medicine to fight insomnia.
- Puffy Eyes: Do you use tea bags? Dry the entire bag and when your eyes need a little refreshing lift, rewet it and use it as you would a cucumber eye treatment. Loose-leaf teas can be packed in thin cotton bags or paper tea filters.
- Herbal Fertilizer: Spread chagra in the garden and allow your plants to reap the benefits of those leftover nutrients to grow fast and strong (you'll be surprised). Wet tea leaves are also great compost fodder.
- Remove Icky Odors: Use dried chagra to absorb odors and moisture in your garbage can, refrigerator, bathroom, or anywhere else they tend to linger.
- Stinky Feet: Chagra can be used in a foot bath to eliminate smelly feet and help heal the issues causing the smell. It might also help to put a mix of chagra and baking soda into smelly shoes (knock out the shoes before putting them on).
- Carpet Deodorizer: This is where dried chagra is very important because the tea can stain your flooring, but it can work. Sprinkle chagra over your carpets a few minutes before running the vacuum. It works great with a little baking soda as well.