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How Long Does Tea Stay Fresh?

Do you have a huge stash of tea in your kitchen cupboard?  If you’re like me, you just can’t resist buying another type or flavor.  But how long does that tea stay fresh, delicious and drinkable?  And what can you do to extend the length of time your tea tastes fresh? 

As a general rule, dry, loose tea lasts up to 24 months in an airtight container, away from heat, light, air and water. Brewed tea lasts three to four days when kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Tea left out will spoil five times quicker than tea that is refrigerated. 

And is stashing your tea in the refrigerator a good thing, or not?   To find out more, keep reading. 

How Long Do Dry Tea Leaves, Herbal Teas, and Tea Bags Stay Fresh?

 As long as you keep your tea away from all the things that bacteria needs to grow, it can last a full two years. Exposure to heat, light, water and air compromise tea’s shelf stability dramatically. You’ll know your dried tea is no longer fresh by:

  • Smell – You know what your tea should smell like. If it’s “off” in any way or if it has little to no scent at all, it’s no longer fresh.
  • Sight – This one is trickier. But if it is damp or moldy, replace the tea. 
  • Taste – If it looks and smells OK, give it a steep. Trust your taste buds. 
  • The date – If your tea came in a can or box, check the date. If it’s more than two years old, do the smell, sight and taste tests to determine if it’s still worth drinking. 

Take care of your tea to make it last its longest life!

Airtight Container

Store tea in an airtight container and do not place it near strong-smelling spices or foods. If your tea leaves come in a paper or plastic bag, immediately transfer them to a dry, airtight container to keep them fresher longer. Glass or metal is best for tea. Avoid plastic containers since they can sometimes give off odors. 

Away from Sun and Heat

Do not let it come in contact with sunlight even while still in the package. Do not store it over an oven or other heated area where it will heat up the tea and cause its flavor to degrade. 

Away from Moisture

There is no need to store tea in the refrigerator. The fridge is moist and has all kinds of smells in it, which will only impact your tea negatively. Keep your tea in a cool, dry place, like a cabinet away from the stove. 

how to store tea for freshness in metal tins

How Long Does Brewed Tea Last When Refrigerated?

When stored in an airtight container, tea will stay fresh for three or four days in the refrigerator. The taste is best tasting within the first twenty-four hours of being refrigerated. However, it still tastes good for up to four days when stored properly in the refrigerator. 

Will Adding Sugar Make Refrigerated Tea Last Longer?

Adding sugar can cause the tea to ferment, no matter if you refrigerate it or not. It is best to add the sugar to the individual glass – and not to the whole pitcher – to keep it drinkable for the longest length of time. 

When Not to Drink Refrigerated Tea

If your iced tea is cloudy or smells funny, or tastes bad, you should not drink it. It has probably started to ferment. Allow freshly brewed tea to cool before placing it in the refrigerator to help keep it from clouding up. 

If you used a cold brew method, it is in the refrigerator from the start and is fine.

How to Store Tea in the Refrigerator

Glass storage containers for your tea are preferable to plastic. Plastic tends to absorb and transfer flavors. Make sure to use a clean vessel each time you make tea to avoid it from spoiling quicker and for the best taste. 

Can You Freeze Brewed Tea?

If you accidentally make more than you can drink before it expires, you can freeze part of it for later. It will not harm it, and it remains good in the freezer for up to six months. Make sure to seal it well before freezing and allow room in the container in your freezer for the ice to expand. 

When you are ready to drink it, simply move from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw it out and proceed as normal.

How Long Is Tea Fresh at Room Temperature?

At room temperature, tea only stays fresh for about eight hours; after that, it has a questionable taste. It can start to grow bacteria and become unsafe to drink soon after. 

No matter how you choose to store tea, for safest results never drink tea that shows any signs of anything growing in it. This could mean bacteria has started, and you might get sick. 

Over-Steeping, Resteeping and Freshness of the Brewed Tea

Over-steeping, tea can cause the tea to become bitter, especially if you plan to re steep tea leaves. Some teas especially impacted are Japanese leaves. Yet, if you under steep the tea will be far too weak. So, knowing how long a particular tea needs to steep is especially important.

Resteeping tea can work just fine and will stay just as fresh as the first steeping of a tea. Depending on the type of tea, you may get anywhere from two to four uses out of your tea leaves. However, it is generally not recommended to store used tea leaves overnight, as it impacts freshness and taste. In fact, bacteria can grow on wet leaves over time, so it is best to toss those. 

The Takeaway:  Tea Leaves Last About Two Years And Storage Counts

Dry tea leaves and tea bags last about two years when stored correctly.  Brewed tea that is kept in an airtight container and placed into the refrigerator may last up to four days but will taste the best the first 24 hours after steeping it. The type of tea and the method used to steep it can also affect the length of time it stays fresh. Tea left out at room temperature should not be drunk after eight hours to avoid any issues with bacteria beginning to form.

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