An important part of making a great cup of tea is the freshness of the tea leaf. Like all plants, the tea leaf’s chemical properties change with age. The fresher it is, the better the flavor and the more nutritious it will be. Knowing how to store tea is an important part of the tea making process that starts even before putting the kettle on.
What causes tea to loose its freshness
Excessive amounts of any of those will make your tea go stale or have its flavor tainted. Much like a spice or herb loses its flavor over time, tea is just as temporal. Improperly stored teas will loose their flavor and nutrients much sooner than they need to. We hate to see that happen. That’s why we have some great tips to keep your tea nice and fresh.
Follow these tips to store your tea
So you bought some good loose leaf tea and brought it home to your kitchen. More than likely, the tea shop owner put it into a zipped bag or pouch for you. This will work great for short term storage. If you plan on drinking this tea over the next few weeks, there’s no need to worry. Keep the bag sealed tight and your tea will taste great for the next few weeks. However, if you plan on keeping your tea around for more than a few weeks, we recommend a more protective, long-term storage solution.
What to look for in a tea storage container
A good tea storage container keeps light and air away from the tea. That means an opaque material like ceramic, porcelain or clay will work better than glass or a bag with a display window. It also means that the seal of the container is key. A jar with a clamp lid and rubber stopper is a good choice, so are tight fitting tins. A twist-tie or rolled-up bag are going to let a lot of air in that will eventually steal all your tea’s flavor.
Where to store your tea
So you’ve got the tea all snug in its new storage container – now where to put it? In most cases, a dark cupboard in your kitchen should do just fine. You’ll want to make sure it isn’t near a heat or humidity source like the fridge, stove or heater. It’s also a good idea to keep the tea away from long exposure to direct light sources like windows and overhead lights.
The storage container and location both factor into the tea’s shelf life. Having your tea in a clear glass jar inside a dark cupboard is certainly better than keeping it on the counter, however, it’s not as good as an opaque container in that same cupboard.
How long to expect your tea to stay fresh
Most tea, when stored properly, will last for about a year. A lighter tea, like a white or green tea, tends to loose its freshness a bit quicker and may only stay fresh for as little as 6 months1. A darker tea like an oolong or black tea will easily keep its freshness through the 1-year mark1. There is, of course, an exception as some specialty Pu-erh teas actually improve in flavor as they age.
Hope your tea stays nice and fresh!
- Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss. (2010). The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook. New York, NY: Ten Speed Press.