Is it Safe to Use Tea Bags?

How can I safely reuse tea?

This is about how long you soak the tea at what temperature and under what conditions the used tea bags are kept. The reason "sun tea" was discouraged was the likelihood that the tea leaves that are in the bags are contaminated with bacteria, so prolonged soaking in lukewarm water like that of the "sun tea" causes them to multiply in to the extent that they pose a serious health risk. Tea leaves are usually not pasteurized during their processing and can carry viable bacteria and / or bacterial spores.

If you poorly soak the tea in warm water that isn't hot enough to get a good bacterial kill initially, there may be enough viable bacteria in the tea leaves to grow in that 5 hour interval, making the next cup in earnest can be dangerous (some can split for example every 15 minutes). However, if you want to kill the bacteria and spores sufficiently with a nice hot soak (in this example you would have to use a pressure cooker as some bacterial spores are not even killed by boiling water at atmospheric pressure), then cool the tea bag afterwards, and then 5 Reusing it hours later, it would probably be perfectly fine.

I think the final answer to your question will depend on your personal level of risk tolerance and the conditions above. If you brew in lukewarm water or for a very short time and then let the bags sit at room temperature, you're just asking for trouble, and finally you can hit the loaded chamber in your personal Russian roulette game.

For empirical answers, take your specific brewing temperature and time and compare them to the USDA pasteurization tables. Then look at the growth curves for the major pathogens at your storage temperature and find out how many would likely be present after 5 hours (20 generations at 15 minutes per generation, or 2 ^ 20 times more bacteria than after the brewing event at the end the storage interval).

Jeff Axelrod

Good answer; many thanks. For some reason it didn't cross my mind to cool the tea between brews. I usually go back to using green tea, which is supposed to brew at ~ 160 for about three minutes. And, of course, that temperature drops during brewing.