Non-Traditional Uses of the Tea Plant

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Non-Traditional Uses of the Tea Plant

Tea is more than just a delicious beverage; it’s a versatile tool. This has been common knowledge for millennia. Across 5000 years of the rich history we’ve been exploring various ways to steep, blend, and dry this plant to improve our lives. However, there are non-traditional uses of the tea plant not many are aware of.

A diverse range of cultures; have primarily used the tea plant for health purposes. It’s known to have antioxidant qualities, not to mention that different plants blended with tea can produce effects that boost energy or calm our nerves. That said, it’s not without risks. The average cup of black tea contains 47mg of caffeine — and unless we take time to regulate our intake, this has the potential to negatively affect our sleep patterns. Not to mention that tannins in tea can affect our body’s ability to absorb calcium, zinc, and iron.

This consumption is just one traditional use for tea, though. Let’s face it, the health applications of tea are pretty well documented. So why not take a closer look at some of the more unusual uses of the tea plant? What subtle qualities do its leaves offer? What aspects of our domestic activities can they make a little easier? 


One of the most effective uses for tea outside of consumption is household cleaning. It can seem sometimes that commercial chemicals might be most effective in making sure that our home achieves a certain degree of sanitization, however, experts advise that natural cleaning products can be better for our health and for the environment. As stated in the resource above, “natural options are also typically less harsh on furniture and surfaces, which can protect your investment and save you quite a bit of money in the long run. Gentler cleaning methods such as these help preserve the integrity of home furnishings, so they last longer and look better.” 

Some cleaning applications using tea are: 

  • For Degreasing Pots and Pans. The natural tannins in the tea plant make for an effective tool against grease. The tea lifts oils off of the surface of your pans, making them easier to clean and less likely to leave residue on any cloths or scrubbers. Soak the pots with water that has a couple of used tea bags in for a few hours or overnight. You can then set to rinsing them with ease. 
  • For Washing Glassware. It might seem counterintuitive to cover your dirty glass in the dark fluid that tends to be produced by tea. However, it can be useful in bringing back the shine. This is effective on windows, drinking glasses, even spectacles. Simply rub a damp tea bag on the surface of the glass, then wipe down with a clean cloth or paper towel. This method removes any grease or fingerprints.   

Flavouring Food

We’re all familiar with drinking tea, but it also has culinary uses beyond beverages. Each variety of tea plant’s distinctive aroma has the potential to add flavour notes to recipes. This isn’t the same traditional infusion you get from steeping a tea bag — it’s a more direct, full flavour of the plant’s natural form. 

Some uses include: 

  • For Smoking Ingredients. This ancient method of cooking takes on the scents in the smoke, which adds to the sensations you experience while eating. It can be used on meat, fish, even cheese. Throwing plants with interesting scents among the embers can unleash some powerful flavours. This means that potent, large-leafed tea plants like Keemun, Nilgiri, jasmine, and Yunnan can be perfect. 
  • For Baking. Using tea in baking recipes is a great way to add some subtle changes to traditional cakes, brownies, and cookies. There are a few different ways you can impart the tea plant’s flavour into your baked goods. The most popular tend to be scattering some shredded tea leaves directly into the dough. However, a stronger flavour can be achieved if you let the tea leaves or tea bag steep in melted butter before adding to the mixture. 

Pest Repellent

Have you ever noticed that pest repellants tend to have a strong aroma? Perhaps the most familiar to most of us is citronella; though we’re not all keen to spend our summer months surrounded by the potent scent that lies somewhere between fresh lemon and chemicals! Thankfully, some tea plants are among those that give off smells that naturally discourage pests. 

There are a few effective approaches to this: 

  • For Your Home. Rodents, cute though they are, can be a nuisance when they’re free to run rampant about your home. They can also be a health hazard. Most of us prefer humane methods to discourage these pests, and tea can be a useful tool here. Peppermint tea is considered to be a scent that rodents dislike. All you need to do is place the tea bags in various places about your home that are likely to see rodent action — cupboards, skirting boards, and near doors.
  • For Your Plants. Creating green spaces is a positive activity, and is beneficial to both you and the ecosystem. However, some plants are just magnets for pests that cause damage. Rather than using harmful pesticides, it can be better to boil tea bags and then place them in the soil around your plants and in various areas in your garden. Lavender tea is known to be particularly effective in warding off insects, though black tea can also work in a pinch.        


Tea helps to make our lives more pleasant in so many ways. It has a range of health benefits when blended with herbs, and its aromatherapeutic qualities can keep us mentally healthy in what can be a stressful world. However, it can also make our day-to-day chores that little bit easier. It can lift grease from our metal cookware, assist our creative pursuits, and keep our homes smelling fresh. Yet, we’ve only just touched the surface. The more we explore tea, the greater potential we can find for its application in our lives. 


Adrian Johansen writes to share her knowledge with the world.

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