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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