Tea is an essential part of people’s daily routines all across the globe. There are so many opportunities to bust out a cup of tea and so many varieties to choose from. However, just like anything else, tea can go bad if stored improperly.
There are some variations, but most loose tea and tea bags should be stored in an airtight container away from light and should never be refrigerated.
In this article, you’ll learn how to store tea the correct way. The type of tea, intended use, and the storage time, do make a difference in the shelf life of your tea. Lastly, as you keep reading, you’ll learn how to recognize the signs of tea that has not been stored correctly and if there’s anything you can do to rescue it.
Keeping your tea leaves and bags fresh involves only a few main storage concerns: keeping it in an airtight container, keeping it away from light, and keeping it at a constant room temperature.
Loose Leaf vs. Tea Bags
There are different types of packaging when it comes to tea: loose leaf tea and tea that comes in sachets or teabags. There is no difference in taste. However, loose leaf tea can be harder to store since it typically comes in plastic bags that are not always resealable.
Storing loose leaf tea also means finding on-the-go storage options. With sachets of tea, you can keep them with you in your purse or bag, but with loose leaf teas, you’ll need to find a separate container.
Storing Tea in Containers
Even though there are differences between loose leaf and sachet teas, they do both need to be stored properly to ensure freshness and sanitation. However, not all tea-storage options are created equal.
Whatever way you store your tea, you should store it in a container that blocks out as much light as possible to preserve the leaves and, therefore, the flavor.
There are many great tea storage ideas that you can implement to keep your tea fresh. Read on about what to do and what not to do to keep your precious tea leaves at their best.
Most of the time, sachets of tea come in cardboard boxes, especially if you’re buying them in a grocery store. And a lot of people just leave it at that; shove the boxes into the cupboard and take out a sachet whenever you’re in the mood for a cup. However, this might not actually be the best way to store tea.
Cardboard boxes don’t provide much in the way of protection. If your box ends up under something heavy in the cupboard, it’ll get crushed and leave you with sachets loose in your cabinet, or worse, loose tea everywhere. Prolonged exposure to air and potentially water can compromise the flavor of your tea.
Containers With Lids
Plastic, stainless steel, ceramic, or glass containers with lids are a great way to store tea long-term. The lids are usually airtight, which protects the tea from the elements and potential invaders like ants or even mice. In addition, they’re easier to take on the go than a cardboard box and more likely to be able to hold up during travel.
Hard containers with lids are also perfect for tea because they are:
- Easy to label
- Perfect for indoor and outdoor use
- Pleasant to look at
- Protective against absorption of other odors/flavors
The other most common option when it comes to storing tea is in plastic resealable bags. This is the best in terms of portability, and it’s a cost-effective way to store teas since plastic bags can usually be reused, especially if they were used to store sachets.
However, they provide little protection, so unless you have a designated spot for your tea, beware that the leaves may get crushed.
Can Tea be Stored in the Fridge?
Before it’s brewed, tea should never be stored in the refrigerator. Refrigerators generate a lot of condensation, and condensation can be harmful and degrade the tea if it’s not stored properly.
In addition, storing your tea in the refrigerator causes the temperature of the tea to fluctuate too much; it’s cold, gets warmer when you take it out to use it, and cold again when you put it back in.
Can Tea be Stored in the Freezer?
The freezer is also not an adequate place to store your tea. It may seem like it’ll help it last longer, but it will ruin the tea.
Freezing and thawing tea compromises both the integrity of the leaves and the flavor. Storing your tea in the freezer or refrigerator speeds up the aging process rather than slowing it down.
Does Improper Storage Impact Taste?
Tea ages, just like cheese or wine. And, just like cheese and wine, a wrong step in the process can ruin the final product, which in this case is your brew. Tea doesn’t improve in flavor as it ages, though. It ages, and, as it does so, the leaves lose their potency, and the tea may fall flat of your expectations.
Tea has a shelf life of about two years before it “goes bad.” Tea doesn’t necessarily go bad; (even if you consume tea past the expiration date, nothing bad will happen). There isn’t a risk of food-borne illness. It just won’t taste as good, or like anything at all like fresh tea in some cases.
The issue with improper storage is that it can cause the tea to age faster. This occurs when tea is exposed to extreme temperatures, moisture, or open-air for prolonged periods of time. Some things you might notice if you drink tea that has been stored too long can include:
- Bland or flat flavor
- Darker color than usual
Using Expired or Bad Tea
Luckily, you may still be able to salvage the leaves for something rather than just throwing them away, even if the tea doesn’t seem like it’s still good for anything. Activities to do with expired tea can include:
- Staining. Old tea is perfect for staining the pages of scrapbooks or sketches to create an aged and distressed look. You might also be able to stain some clothes to look this way if you had enough.
- Potpourri. If your tea still has some scent to it, you can throw it in a sachet with some citrus peels and essential oils to create a nice air freshener for your bathroom or closet.
- Compost. When all else fails, you can compost tea that’s no longer drinkable and use it as fertilizer.
The Takeaway: Storage Matters For the Best Tea Taste
Storing tea is not difficult, but it is a crucial step to maintaining your tea’s longevity. Otherwise, you may find your tea collection quickly going to waste. Storing tea isn’t just functional, though; you can make your storage into a display piece by using pretty, airtight jars with some nice labels. Just remember: airtight container + moderate temperature + dark place = freshest tea.