How to make your tea last longer!
is very important if you want your teas to last longer and maintain not only their wonderful flavors, but also their medicinal properties.
Different teas have different shelf lives and you need to protect them from common elements that could easily ruin a perfectly good tea.
And it is not only loose leaf tea that needs proper storage, you should also take care of your collection of tea bags.
What could cause a tea to go bad?
Does your tea taste funny? Do the dry leaves have a moldy smell?
Even if a tea is within the “best by” date, it could begin to go bad, taste and smell strange if it is not properly stored. This is a pity because a tea, if stored well, can last a very long time.
Certain elements can damage your tea leaves and ruin the flavor of the brewed tea. Let’s take a look at the most important ones:
Sunlight: if tea leaves are exposed to sunlight, this could trigger oxidation something that is particularly harmful for teas that are unoxidized (green and white teas) or have undergone controlled oxidation (oolong and black teas).
Humidity: tea leaves love water, so they will absorb any water that is in the air nearby. This could cause mold to form over time and ruin the tea leaves.
Other smells: just like water, tea absorbs smells, so if you store your tea next to other items that have strong odors, such as spices, the leaves will start to smell of everything else but tea.
Proper tea storage will ensure that your teas deteriorate at a much slower rate, lasting a long time without actually going bad.
What is the average shelf life of different types of tea?
Although it may vary from tea to tea and you should always follow the recommendation given to you by the tea vendor, here are general guideline for average shelf life for each type of tea:
Green tea: 12 - 18 months
Yellow tea: 18 – 24 months
Oolong tea: 24 months
Black tea: 36 months
White tea: the more the better
Dark tea: the more the better
Herbal tea: depends on the herb
And while no one will blame you if you don’t wish to drink a tea past its “best by” date, as long as the tea leaves retain their smell, feel dry to the touch and show no signs of mold or other bacteria, you can always brew a cup and taste your tea.
So now let’s talk about tea storage!
Loose leaf tea storage
Choose a tea tin with a good seal. The lid must fit snugly so that no air can get in. The ideal tins have an additional inner lid either in plastic or metal to further seal in the tea.
Place the tin in dark place, free of humidity and smells. A cabinet next to the fridge may not be a good idea as the temperature may rise from the fridge working.
Do you have empty tea tins? If so, first check for rust (signs of humidity) and then make sure to clean them before refilling them. Lots of brands sell tea in pouches to refill tea tins at a lower price.
Make sure to always write and update the expiration date of your tea on the side of your tea tin. And don’t put more tea in the tin before using up all that is still inside.
Tea bag storage
Tea bags usually come in a box and storing all those different boxes can be a nuisance particularly when you only have a couple of tea bags inside each box. Here are some tea storage tips specific for tea bags:
Wooden tea chests are a great way to store tea bags. Use the different sections to store your different teas. Just make sure the chest closes properly.
Do not remove the bag from the individual pouches. Tea bags are filled with small pieces of tea and often this means tea dust that could accumulate inside the chest. Sometimes the tea tag is also part of the bag itself.
Just in case, every once in a while, take all tea bags out and give a thorough clean inside the chest. Try to wipe with a dry cloth so that no humidity is left behind.
When organizing your tea chest make sure to see if the individual bags have the expiration date. If not, check the side of the tea box for the date and write on the individual tea bags.
Place the tea chest along with your other tea tins, in a dark dry place, free of odors and moist.
To avoid smell contamination between different types of tea, try to buy tea bags that come in plastic sealed bags.
Storing herbs (not including tea)
Herbs should also be stored in sealed containers or resealable pouches. If you place them in a jar, remember to write the name of the herb and expiration date.
Respect the expiration date, as some herbs, particularly seeds, may go rancid. Unlike tea, most herbs are unoxidized and will degrade losing their flavor and medicinal properties in time.
If you make your own herbal blends, the expiration date to consider is the one that expires first. It is safer to make small batches of your herbal blends if you use herbs with a short shelf time.
Tea storage in the fridge or freezer
Some tea shops will recommend that you store your tea in the fridge or the freezer while others will rage against that.
The problem with storing tea leaves in the cold is when you take them out of the fridge, condensation occurs as your tea container comes into contact with air at room temperature.
As you will likely not be using all of the tea leaves in the container, condensation that reaches the unused tea leaves will cause them to become moist and spoil at a much faster rate.
If you insist on using the fridge for tea storage, then perhaps it would be a good to divide the tea up into small portions so that you only take out as much teas as you need.
Too many teas?
Worried about space for all your tea tins and about expiration dates behind each one?
You don’t have to have only one tea at a time, but it may become hard to consume all your different teas within the recommended time if the quantity of tea is large.
A good idea could be to purchase for sampler boxes instead of regular sized tea tins. These boxes come with smaller amounts of each tea and more variety so that you can explore more flavors.
Search for tea stores that will sell tea in smaller amounts or even ask if they give out samples in small pouches that you can store along with your tea bags in your tea chest.
Care for your teas and you will have good tasting teas for a long time!
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"Thank God for Tea! What would the world do without tea? -- how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea." - Rev. Sydney Smith (1771-1845), English clergyman and writer
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