Did you know that the way you store your tea leaves can effect how your tea smells and tastes? It’s true! This might sound shocking at first but luckily, the solutions for keeping your tea fresh are actually pretty simple! There are different shelf life’s for every strain of tea so we are going to break it all down for you!
Tea’s Shelf Life
The shelf life of every tea is different. It varies depending on a few factors like the tea and quality, but these are the general guidelines if stored properly! Green tea and white tea have the shortest shelf life at about 6 months to 1 year. Oolong tea is 1-2 years and black tea is 2 years or more. Dark tea (such as puerh tea) is suitable for long-term aging.
Tea shelf life will differ if talking about tea blends though. Some ingredients in blends (ie. dried fruit, essential oils) may expire more quickly than the tea leaves. In this case, pay attention to the best before dates on the tea packaging and examine the tea before steeping to make sure it smells and looks okay before using!
Top Ways to Preserve Your Tea
Store tea in an airtight container.
Tea leaves can continue to oxidize when exposed to air/oxygen. This will greatly affect the taste of a tea. For instance, green teas are less oxidized when compared to other types of teas. So, not only will the overall freshness be affected but also the color of the leaves too. Green tea is generally green in colour, but the leaves may turn brown if exposed to air for long periods of time. To limit the exposure, always keep tea leaves or tea bags in an airtight container. This can be a resealable jar or resealable pouch. If using a jar, the best material to store tea in is tin, stainless steel or ceramic.
You can store your teas in the packaging they came in if it is resealable. Keeping them in the pouches is convenient because you are able to squeeze out any extra air before sealing. This isn’t really possible if storing in jars, so it’s best to keep the jars full to limit the space for air/oxygen.
Store tea in a cool and dark space.
Loose leaf tea (or tea bags) should always be stored away from direct light and heat. This is because light can affect the freshness of tea and heat can degrade it. This is why you should not store your tea near windows or any appliances that may give off heat (ie. stoves and microwaves). One of the best places to store tea so that it stays cool and away from light is in a closed cupboard or pantry. If you cannot store your tea in a closed cupboard, you may want to consider opaque containers. Glass or other see-through jars and pouches may be a fun way to store tea so you can beautifully display and present them but these types of containers will let light through. Therefore, it is not a proper way to store tea long term.
Store tea away from strong odors.
A cupboard or pantry may be a good spot to keep tea away from light, but not if it is near other items that may give off a strong aroma. Tea can easily absorb any odors that are around them. Therefore, avoid storing tea near things like coffee, herbs and spices or your English Breakfast black tea may start to taste like chili powder (and we most definitely do not want that!)
Does tea expire?
Most teas should come with a best before date. This means the flavours of the tea should remain the same until that date if stored properly. But, tea deteriorates with age so it may get stale over time.
Does tea go bad?
Although tea can expire, it doesn’t necessarily mean tea will go bad and that you can no longer drink it for safety reasons. Most teas past the best before date can still be consumed, but it may not taste as fresh as when consumed earlier. Of course this is only if the tea still looks and smells okay. No mold should be growing on the leaves. Be sure to dispose of tea leaves or tea bags if moldy or smell odd.