Film · Photography

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.

3 thoughts on “Developing B&W film with Tea

  1. 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. 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. 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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