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Crafting with Tea Leaves

Generally I do one of two things with spent tea leaves: toss them into the begonia, or just throw them into the garbage can.

A few years ago, a tea friend came up with a more creative idea for using infused tea leaves. She sent me a greeting card that she’d created by incorporating used tea leaves in her design. It was a hand-drawn image of a teacup with the leaves rising up in waves of “steam.” I was delighted – not only that she had taken the time to create something just for me, but that she’d done it with tea!

A couple of cards I created by recycling spent tea leaves. (Photo source: article author)
A couple of cards I created by recycling spent tea leaves. (Photo source: article author)

Since then I’ve received a couple of other “tea leaf cards.” One combined a teapot sticker with tea leaves tumbling out of the spout. Another was a flower made from big ol’ oolong leaves arranged in a circle, with a couple more leaves for the … well, leaves.

Last week I was in one of those big-box arts ‘n’ crafts stores and found some blank cards on sale for a dollar. I picked up a couple of packages thinking I’d find some way to use them. When I got home, I made myself a pot of tea … and as I was decanting the spent leaves I decided to make some of my own tea-leaf cards.

For the TEA card I used a Taiwan Mao Feng with its long twisted leaves to create letters. The flower’s stem and leaves are also made with the Mao Feng leaves, while the flower head is a bunch of broken leaves from a Badamtam Darjeeling that I simply pinched up into a “flowery” look.

If you’d like to give tea-leaf art a try, let me pass along a few tips:

  • Dry the spent leaves between paper towels until they’re almost dry but still pliable.
  • Lay the leaves out and create your design before making the commitment to glue them, then choose a light-duty white glue that dries clear.
  • Add stickers, drawings, lettering, and any other embellishments you like; check out the scrapbooking aisle in your local hobby shop for ideas.
  • Use a tweezers for small leaves – if you try to handle glue-y tea leaves they’ll just stick to your fingers.
  • Apply a small amount of glue and press until the leaf adheres to the paper.
  • Round toothpicks are handy for this; use one to apply the glue, and roll the other over the leaf to provide just enough pressure to make it stick.

Unfortunately, spent tea leaves do not age well – the art is ephemeral at best. Sooner or later the leaves will dry out completely and flake off the card. To prolong the life of your tea-leaf card, spray it with a fixative (available at hobby and art supply stores). This will give you a little more time to enjoy your artwork, but not much. So send the card to someone special and let them savour it for a little while – just like a favourite tea that’s gone once the season is over.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One response to “Crafting with Tea Leaves”

  1. You guys are so clever and the result is quite nice, indeed!

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