Developing B&W film with Tea

UPDATE: I posted my very own tea developer recipe here!

After searching the web for information on tea-based film developer and not finding much, except for this rather inspiring forum thread, I decided to just bite the bullet and make my own tea developer based on what little information I had. I didn't have black tea but I did have some orange pekoe, green, peppermint, and pomegranate green teas in my kitchen cupboard so I thought, what the heck, let's get some water in a saucepan, throw some tea bags into it, boil it, mix it with vitamin C and washing soda, and see what happens!

While the teas were steeping, I shot a roll of Fuji Acros 100 around the house with my long-abandoned Chinese medium format SLR camera, the Great Wall DF. If the tea developer didn't work, I wouldn't be too sad because I can always re-shoot the same things all over again some other time if I want to.

While I was busy preparing the film for developing, Troy got home from work and insisted on going grocery shopping. I didn't really want to wait until we got back home to develop the film. Originally, I thought I'd do a 30 or 45-minute development, agitating every 3 or 5 minutes, but since we had to go, I decided to do a 2-hour semi-stand development. I ended up agitating only 3 times in total. Then I washed and fixed as normal and washed again. And then, the moment of truth: did it work? It did! Yaaay!

I did notice the white spots on the negatives when I was hanging it to dry but didn't think much about it until I started scanning and saw the many dark spots on the scans. It was kind of disheartening at first but then it grew on me. The dark spots actually give a vintagey feel to the shots which I find rather endearing. I hope that I'll be able to replicate the effect the next time I decide to develop with tea again, which is going to be soon. I really can't wait to experiment again with different combinations of tea!

If you're interested, there's a couple more pictures from the roll developed in tea (other than the one at the beginning of this post) in this Flickr set.


  1. Nas
    April 7, 2011

    I’m all about the vin­tagey.

    also, lov­ing the Great Wall cam­era — is that also a thrift shop buy? (I’m try­ing very hard not to suc­cumb to cam­era-envy, or I’ll blow all my mon­ey on cam­eras, and not fillum…and I’m look­ing for­ward to using good film soon — any rec­om­men­da­tions for 35mm B&W — obvi­ous­ly to be devel­oped in tea/coffee!)

  2. Firda
    April 7, 2011

    I got the Great Wall from the Bay of E, shipped all the way from Chi­na. It’s a quirky but sur­pris­ing­ly decent cam­era for a frac­tion of the price of a Has­sel­blad. At least it was when I bought it. I don’t know how pricey it’s got the­se days.

    As for film rec­om­men­da­tions, I’m not picky. I just shoot what­ev­er I can get my hand on for cheap. But I do like Kodak TMax and Fuji Acros. They’re pret­ty for­giv­ing film. A lot of peo­ple swear by Kodak Tri-X. I still have yet to try them. I have a cou­ple rolls of Kodak Plus-X in my film lot. Will let you know if I like those once I used them.

  3. Antonio
    April 4, 2012

    Hi! that’s fan­tas­tic!! I’m a tea (and cof­fee) lover. Tea is by no means miss­ing my pantry.
    I must say that the pic above superb. What con­cen­tra­tion of tea you’re using?? If tea bags, how many? And water„„ 1 liter? half?


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