Unconventional Tea Hacks

This is a new “diary style” permanent post that will keep adding more unconventional tea hacks as I run into them, or more often, as they run into me… These are presented in reverse chronological order, newer hacks are added to the top of this perma-post. This is not a novel, so the order you read these does not make a difference 🙂


A gaiwan is a versatile tool as it is, you can use it to brew tea gongfu style, you can use it as a tea cup, you can use it as a fairness cup (a two gaiwan gongfu session). Eventually though, through time and accidents, some may break or become inoperable. If you have any gaiwan lids that don’t fit any of your current gaiwans, don’t throw them away!

You can use them as mini display stand for your tea, or tea bags, or tuocha, or even put sugarcubes on them 🙂 Or even use them as a stand for your dry or wet tea bags before or after you brew.


Especially if you use To-Go cups, with fancy lids and complicated closing mechanisms, it’s impossible to clean them the same you would clean a simple glass or porcelain cup. You can use fancy bottle cleaning kits, but if you don’t want to buy those or want something simpler, then a toothbrush may be the answer!

Before you freak out, I am not suggesting you use a used toothbrush 🙂 Rather, a brand new toothbrush. Mayhaps the free one you get from your dentist after a visit. Or you can get a multi-pack for $1 at a dollar store.

The toothbrush is ideally suited to clean up the lids and lid closing mechanisms in the To-Go cups. Because most of the people who design these forget to design them for cleanability 🙂

uPDATE: and just like you put toothpaste on your toothbrush, you can mix in a little bit of your favorite dishwashing liquid on the toothbrush and speed-up the cleaning thanks to the magic of soap. Needless to say, only do this for teaware that can handle soap (eg class, porcelain, etc). Not any that “drinks/absorbs” whatever you put inside (eg yixing).


If you have tea tins of spicy or aromatic teas that you just finished, AND you also have boring tea that needs a bit of a kick, you can use your just emptied tea tins and store your boring tea bags in there. Tea bags can and do absorb flavors and aromas from around them.

For example, I bought some CTC Assam teas that are just bland on their own. Tossing the tea bags in there and letting them sit for a few days can get you something different 🙂

I will be doing this once again, as soon as I finish the all new 2017 Trader Joe Pumpkin Spice Rooibos:

Needless to say, this may result in some iffy combinations, so if you are not a boldly-going risk taker, try one tea or two bags at a time 🙂

This can also work with loose leaf tea, not just tea bags.

Just don’t expect miracles 🙂


One ways to wear out your tea pots and gaiwans is constant friction/clanking on tables and counters. So why not use a tray for them? I started doing this totally by accident, they happened to be on the kitchen counter next to each other.

Instead of throwing away lids of other food items, keep them as gaiwan trays or (small) tea cup trays, like this:

Or if you need a temporarily place to rest spent tea bags until they are dry enough to trash, you can use them as tea bag trays. Since these are throwaway lids and throwaway tea bags, you don’t have to worry about staining them 🙂


If you regularly use timers when you brew tea, and you have an older working smartphone that is collecting dust, you may want to repurpose it as a dedicated tea timer. Some people use timers for tea brewing times, while others also use them to approximate lower than boiling temperatures (either by ending the water heating early, or waiting to cool off the boiled water).

I started doing this accidentally. I have an old first generation Motorola Moto G. I was using it as a dedicated Roku remote control, but it happened to be in my hand as I was making tea, and then it clicked.

So here’s how to make the most of your smartphone tea timer:

  • remove all non-essential apps
  • put it in airplane mode
  • monitor the Data Usage and Battery Usage reports and uninstall or restrict any apps that are eating up resources

With this configuration, I only need to charge it once per month! I’m using the default pre-installed Timer app, but you can use your favorite timer app or even download some of the dedicated tea timer apps. I am trying to keep it as simple as possible, because I like charging it once a month 🙂

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