Quick 10: 10 Alternative Uses for Tea

Today marks the 235th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, but this list has nothing to do with that event. Where I come from, tea comes one way: sweet and iced. It serves primarily as a substitute for water (get eight glasses a day!). But there's more to tea than that. I've assembled a list of ten alternative uses for tea—none of which include sugaring it up and drinking it by the gallon.


1. Make new things look old
Matcha green tea has been used to dye fabrics in China, Korea and Japan for centuries. More familiar stateside is the brown Oolong version, the tea stain or tea dye. Fabric or paper is stained with a strongly brewed tea to make it appear antique (or otherwise old and brown). You can even buy a tea-stained Betsy Ross flag for next year's Boston Tea Party anniversary.

2. Make old things look young
In the same way tea stains your clothes, teeth and the tablecloth, black tea can be used to tint graying hair. Just brew up a few cups of really strong tea and run it through clean, damp hair; you'll probably have to do it several times. Thearubigin formed during the oxidizing process binds to proteins in the hair, giving it a semi-permanent dye job.

3. Analyze Your Personality
This website seeks to update the old tradition of reading someone's fortune in tea leaves by defining a person's character by their teabag. Are you a Left to Dry, Pull-String Diva, or a Drip-Trail?

4. Feed the Flowers
Acid-loving plants (such as azaleas and citrus trees) get a big boost when watered with brewed tea.

Or mix tea leaves in with the soil or simply bury teabags around the base of the plant.

5. Cool stuff off
Back in 1925, EC Davidson developed a way to use tannic acid for cutaneous burns that both soothed and cooled the skin, while the astringent properties helped prevent infection. The tannins present in black tea can help similarly with superficial burn injuries and sunburns. Just apply a cool, damp cloth soaked in tea (or a damp teabag) where it hurts. If you need full-body therapy, steep teabags in the bathtub, let it cool, and climb in.

6. Make an Old-Fashioned Eye Mask
You've seen it in movies and maybe at home; two warm tea bags placed over the eyes is thought to reduce puffiness and lighten dark circles. These claims have yet to be proven, but it certainly won't hurt to try.

7. De-funk your feet
One of my worst food-related pet peeves is when I eat something bitter and, suddenly, my mouth feels dry. Pecans are notorious for doing that to me. Anyway, it turns out that the tannins in the lining of nut shells are the same as those in tea, and that dry feeling is actually an astringent effect. Using a strong tea solution to soak your feet will help eliminate odors and may reduce sweat production for a short time.

8. Do the windows (finally!)
Astringent tea is great at removing greasy fingerprints from glass. Use a damp teabag or a spray bottle filled with tea instead of your regular household cleaner.

tea art9. Make art
In 1992, Tiny van der Plas developed a new form of origami using squares cut from decorated teabag wrappers. The papers are folded into interlocking pieces to form pinwheels and rosettes. Mrs. Van der Plas used her designs to decorate greeting cards, but creative math teachers are using the craft to illustrate basic geometry problems.

10. Give it to People who Make Art
Original T-Bag Designs in Hout Bay, South Africa is a group of artist who paint on teabag "canvas", then turn the paintings into various gifts (like cards, mugs, and jewelry). They rely on donated used teabags to make their paintings, the profits from which support nearly 100 people. For more information, visit The Teahouse Times.

Quick True/False: World Capitals
Bain News Service - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
10 Pats Born on St. Patrick's Day
A photo from the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.
A photo from the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia of Connaught to the Hon. Alexander Ramsay.
Bain News Service - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Need some St. Patrick's Day conversation fodder that doesn't involve leprechauns or four-leaf clovers? Ask your friends to name a "Pat" born on St. Patrick's Day. If they can't, they owe you a drink—then you can wow them with this list of 10.


Princess Patricia was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who gave up all of her royal titles when she married a commoner. She was born at Buckingham Palace on March 17, 1886.


The Dallas star was born on March 17, 1949. And here's a totally random fact about Duffy: His nephew is Barry Zito, former MLB pitcher for the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.


Pattie Boyd
Larry Ellis, Express/Getty Images

Pattie Boyd is well-known to lovers of classic rock: She has been married three times, including once to George Harrison and once to Eric Clapton, who both wrote a couple of the most romantic songs in rock history in her honor (including The Beatles's "Something" and Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight"). Boyd was a model when she met Harrison on the set of A Hard Day's Night in 1964; the pair were married two years later. They divorced in 1977 and she married Clapton, Harrison's close friend, in 1979. She also had an affair with Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones toward the end of her marriage to The Quiet Beatle.


Belfast-born Pat Rice is a former footballer and coach who spent the bulk of his career with Arsenal F.C. (that's "football club," a.k.a. soccer to us Americans). He joined the Gunners in 1964 as a mere apprentice, turning pro a couple of years later. He became captain in 1977 and left the club for a few years in the early 1980s to go to Watford, but returned after he retired from playing in 1984. In 2012, after nearly 30 years with the organization, he announced his retirement.


Patty Maloney is an actress with dwarfism who stands just three feet, 11 inches tall. She has appeared in many movies and T.V. shows over the years, including operating the Crypt Keeper puppet in Tales from the Crypt. She also played Chewbacca's son Lumpy in The Star Wars Holiday Special.


Michael C. Hall and Mathew St. Patrick in 'Six Feet Under'

Ok, so Mathew St. Patrick is the stage name of the actor, but he was born Patrick Matthews in Philadelphia on March 17, 1968. You probably know him best as David's boyfriend Keith on Six Feet Under.


He may not be a household name, but the recording artists Patrick Adams writes for and helps produce certainly are. Adams has been involved in the careers of Salt-N-Pepa, Sister Sledge, Gladys Knight, Rick James, and Coolio, among others.


It's possible you look at Patrick McDonnell's work every day, depending on which comics your newspaper carries. McDonnell draws a strip called Mutts featuring a dog and a cat named Earl and Mooch, respectively. Charles Schulz called it one of the best comic strips of all time.


 Singer/Guitarist Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins performs onstage during Live Earth New York at Giants Stadium on July 7, 2007 in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Yes, you know him better as just plain old Billy Corgan: he's the face of the Smashing Pumpkins, engages in public feuds with Courtney Love, and maybe once dated Jessica Simpson. He made his debut on March 17, 1967.


Patricia Ford is a retired model probably best known for her Playboy photoshoots in the 1990s.


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