Making Soap with Earl Grey Tea
Always looking for something fun to do (like we don’t have enough to do), we thought I’d have a dabble with soap! Tea soap, in fact. Earl Grey tea soap in fact. Not the melt and pour stuff you can get with dinosaur shaped moulds for your kids to make; Proper soap, using fats and dangerous chemicals and stuff.
Marc had already had the idea of making lovely Lavender essential oil soap gifts for female relatives. (No, it’s not sexist, but we are from Sheffield – oft considered a “hard city” – and soap isn’t generally considered the manliest of gifts!) So, as we love / blend / sell / adore / worship / write about / eat / drink / sleep tea, we thought we should also try make a tea soap. And Marc set about it.
Skin health benefits of tea
After all, there are many reported skin health benefits to tea drinking, which we’re sure are transferable to soap and skincare products. There are a million tea tree skincare products out there and, whilst “tea tree” is not camellia sinensis, there are many similarities.
And, regardless of that link, camellia sinensis has enough super-skin boosting properties of its own.
A quick bit of research (mainly to try to vindicate this post: ahem, we’re not really skincare specialists in case you didn’t know…) highlights the high EGCG content of tea. ECGC is an antioxidant that is “well-known for boosting metabolism and also for fighting free radicals that cause skin damage and premature ageing”.
It also has oodles of vitamins, amino acids and catechins that: “work holistically to slow ageing, stimulate collagen production, reduce body fat, and maintain healthy skin cells.” So there you go.
Not only fun, but interesting AND educational.
Vindication complete. Here’s what he did.
(Note: the men in Marc’s family did get a bar of our tea soap for Christmas, because, well, sod it. We’re not manly men, so you’ll get soap for Christmas and you’ll like it.)
Earl Grey Tea Soap
We figured an Earl Grey soap would be pretty ace. And manly enough to satisfy the men of Sheffield receiving said gift.
Trying to find the best (for “best” read “easiest yet not embarrassingly poor quality”) soap recipe involved a little research. We would only use sustainably sourced ingredients, organic where possible, and wanted to create some really nice products that we’d be proud to give as gifts (and maybe even one day to sell?).
A few websites later on, we decided to follow instruction from the really quite lovely, and aptly named, Lovely Greens Easy Soap Recipes for Beginners.
Then it took even more research to find the best place to buy all the ingredients from: Some places seemed better than others for certain items, whilst others were better for others. Then that one didn’t sell soap moulds so it was back to the other, but then they didn’t have all the essential oils, or didn’t sell a particular base, and each of them charges a wedge for postage so we want to get everything from the same place and then…. Blah blah blah.
Eventually we settled on The Soap Kitchen as their ethos seems sound and they have a good selection of products and knowhow.
Actually Making the Tea Soap
It’s pretty fun, trying to figure how you’re going to get everything together, planning a couple of hours when the kids won’t be here to get everything done, just in case you blow the house up with the caustic soda. Nothing worse than handling dangerous chemicals with a 2-year old intent on tripping you up with a musical dinosaur.
I have to say, it was nerve-wracking getting everything together and preparing to give it a whirl.
From the time I’d had the idea to make the tea soap to actually getting to the point of making it there’d passed a fair amount of time and all that research and effort, and I was concerned a) I was going to arse it up and waste all the materials and b) for my health.
For the lavender soap – for the ladies 😉 – I chose a base mixture of Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Olive Oil and Castor oil, all organic where possible (the Olive wasn’t organic unfortunately).
For the Earl Grey soap I chose Coconut Oil, Olive oil and Sustainable organic Palm Oil (read Lovely Greens explanation of why we should continue to use sustainable palm oil here. It’s basically about making sure the palm oil doesn’t damage the environment, people or animals). I also used bergamot oil (the oil used to flavour tea to make Earl Grey) and used some Batch Earl Grey tea leaves that I whizzed up and popped in to use as an exfoliant. Clever huh?
Getting all the ingredients out, weighing everything to the gram as specified in the recipes and getting all the equipment out I was pretty shaky.
The general soap making process
The tenets of making soap are thus:You put a fatty base – hence the oils – together with a solution of caustic soda (also known as lime or sodium hydroxide – pretty nasty stuff – “caustic” doesn’t sound nice really) to create a process called “saponification” – which basically translates as “soap making”.
Melt your oils and then, separately, create a caustic soda solution. Now, creating a caustic soda solution releases 2 things: chlorine gas and a lot of heat. So, you need to be careful, use goggles, gloves, open all windows etc. All the precautions around it made me, on more than one occasion, wonder why the hell I was doing this.
You need the 2 liquids to be roughly the same temperature and roughly around 38°C before moving on to the next stage.
How to make the tea soap
The solid and liquid oils are placed in a big pan on a low heat to gently melt the solid liquids.
Whilst that’s happening you turn to the caustic soda solution and carefully measure pop your caustic soda into water, I did it in a cooling bath (well, a sink with cold water in). This stops the temperature rising too much (i.e. explosion) but also gets the temperature down faster so you can bang on with your soap making quicker!
(Caution: Always put lye into water, not water onto lye! The latter will likely explode and potentially cover you in hydrochloric acid.)
Once the fats have all just melted, get those off the heat and cooling.Once they’ve both cooled sufficiently you pour the caustic soda solution into the oil and whizz it for ages with a stick blender until it starts to leave a trail behind. At this point, pop in your bergamot essential oils to make the soap all Earl Grey-ey and whizz til a proper trail is left – called Trace. Throw in the whizzed up Batch Earl Grey tea, give it a stir and pour / scrape into your soap mould.
The finishing touches
After pouring into your mould, you then need to leave the soap to solidify for 48 hours or so, ideally wrapped in a towel to let it cool evenly. I put it on top of my wardrobe, which was great as the room smelled strongly of Earl Grey for some time after. The downside of this is that you can soon be put off drinking Earl Grey if you’re quite literally immersed in the smell for weeks!
After a couple of days, de-mould the soap, slice it into bars and – here’s what I didn’t fully understand when I made the soap 10 days before Christmas, thinking I was being all prepared – leave for 1 month! This is important to make sure all the lye has saponified, to stop people being essentially burned by your soap gift.
I used a kitchen knife to cut the bars but wouldn’t recommend it as it didn’t leave the smoothest result. A cheese (or sap) cutting wire would be the best thing. But if you haven’t got one (cos, well, who has?) then knife will work to start.
My soaps ended up a bit bumpy and crumbly round the edges because I used the knife, but it’s nothing a little shave around the edges didn’t fix, and they’re definitely great for a first go. And that’s it!
Wrap nicely in brown paper, tie with jute string and a bow and you have a wonderful gift!
Earl Grey Tea Soap Ingredients
Here’s the ingredients list we used for our Batch Earl Grey Soap, which made a 957g soap mould’s worth – about 12 ok sized bars.
Ingredients for 1 tin Earl Grey Soap:
- 96 g Sodium Hydroxide (aka lye, aka caustic soda)
- 192 g Water
- 169.5 g Organic Coconut Oil
- 238.5 g Sustainable Palm Oil
- 271.5 g Olive (Pomace) Oil
- 15 g Organic Bergamot Oil
- 2.5 g Batch Earl Tea, whizzed to smaller pieces (but not dust)
- If you want to make you own soap, please don’t just use my method above. It was probably somewhat abridged and a little flaky on the precaution side. I’d highly recommend the Lovely Greens pages about the processes and there are also a few different easy recipes on there that you can use to vary your soap offering. She also provides great, detailed information about the correct temperatures to mix your soap at and loads of other useful stuff.
- Use rubber gloves.
- Use goggles.
- Read the precautions about lye / caustic soda. Always put lye into water, not water onto lye!
- Understand that you need to leave your Earl Grey soap for a month before using it!!
Join the Discussion
Tried this at home? How did you get on? Comment below 👇 & let us know!