Tea is probably one of the most famous and healthiest beverages in the world. It’s an important part of many cultures and can be consumed on a daily basis and throughout the day. But if you ever wondered: does tea expire, then this article is for you!
There’s no easy answer to this question, as the answer depends on several factors. Tea bags do have an expiration date on them, while loose leaf tea leaves do not. But unlike other foods and drinks, tea doesn’t necessarily go bad or will make you sick in case you drink it. You can tell the tea has expired when it starts to lose its smell and is less flavorful. And the longer you keep it stored, the more it will lose its properties.
Tea is sensitive, can go bad with slight temperature changes or improper storage, and will absorb the odor and smell of other foods stored next to it, so it’s important to correctly manage your tea to make it last longer.
The Average Shelf Life of Loose Leaf Teas and Pre-Packaged Tea Bags
There’s a slight difference between the average shelf life of loose leaf teas and pre-packaged tea bags, and that is because the smaller the leaf, the faster it will oxidize – losing the freshness and the flavor.
The tea bags come in pre-packaged compartments and are made of very small particles, mostly dust, and fanning, and have the best before the date written on it by the manufacturer along with the information about the preparation date, method, and how it should be properly stored. But normally, the tea bags have an average shelf life of 6 to 12 months when stored right.
Meanwhile, the loose leaf teas have no expiration date, and in theory, don’t go bad. Since they come in bigger leaves, it takes them a longer period to oxidize even when in contact with the air and light. But that oxygen contact is how it does lose flavor, aroma, and some of its color. But when stored properly, the tea leaves can last for many years.
How to Properly Store Tea
One of the most important steps to make your tea last longer is by properly storing tea. There are different ways to do it, you can adapt to what you already have at home, or purchase the correct containers to do so to improve your tea’s shelf life.
- Doesn’t matter if you prefer pre-packaged tea bags or loose leaf ones, always store them at room temperature. Tea is too sensitive to its surroundings, and any temperature changes, slight or severe, will damage the properties and make them last less than it should.
- Avoid sunlight at any cost. The oxidation process can be fast and in a matter of days, you can lose all your tea. Prefer to keep them in a closed cabinet or in an airtight container with UV protection in which the light can’t reach.
- Keep the tea away from humidity. Any contact with water when stored can cause mold growth and make the tea really go bad to the point of you not being able to consume it. Prefer places where the room temperature is good, away from the sink, and with a container that won’t let the humidity enter.
- Don’t let it get in contact with other spices, herbs, and other types of foods. Tea is a highly absorbing ingredient, and it will absorb the smell and flavor from other things close to it.
- Try to keep teas with different tastes and odors away from each other. As mentioned above, they will absorb the smell and taste from anything, so store weaker tea away from the stronger ones.
- Never put the tea in the refrigerator. Although it may seem like a good place to keep away from natural light and air, the refrigerator is a very humid place and the tea will be in constant contact with moisture. This will make the taste disappear faster than normal and even allow bacteria and mold growth.
Store the Tea in Airtight Containers
Storing the tea in a good airtight container is probably one of the best ways to preserve it for a very long time. Even by storing it in closed kitchen cabinets, it may not be enough to keep it away from the air and moisture.
If you want to play it safe, there are many options for airtight containers available on the market for you to research and purchase the one that best suits your needs. Below we’ll list some of the best and most popular airtight containers that’ll keep your tea safe in order to expand its life shelf:
- INNOVATIVE PATENTED DESIGN - Original Airscape coffee & food storage...
- SOUND OF FRESH - Airscape lid removes all air in the canister creating...
- KITCHEN ACCESSORIES - See-through plastic containers for easy...
This Airscape Lite Container has an original design made especially to store coffee, tea, and food in general to preserve its freshness. It comes with a plunger that removes all the air on top of the tea bags or the tea leaves keeping them locked with no air or humidity. The CO2 valve will preserve the tea flavor.
The HIDE Stash Jar is made from aluminum, so the outside is painted with a solid black color, but also comes with a nice design and technology that keeps the tea not only away from the air and the light, but also preserves all the smell of it.
- Holds 3 oz. of Coffee and Tea, 4 oz. of Corn Nuts, 4.5 oz. of Gummy Bears ,...
- Amazing travel container, great hiking and snack container for your kids....
- Patented system creates a vacuum seal and keeps all dry goods - Fresher for...
This product not only creates a vacuum inside its body but also comes with a solid black color that also protects it from light. So it’s the complete solution to store your tea away from the air, moisture, and external light.
- ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Turn-N-Seal is a new approach to perishable food...
- ULTRA FRESH! Using no pumps or batteries, food can be stored for up to six...
- EAST STORAGE! The Turn-N-Seal modular design comes in three different...
The Ankomn Turn-N-Seal comes with a knob on top that creates the vacuum airtight seal. With only a simple twist you’ll activate the seal. Doesn’t need any batteries or pumps and will make the tea last six times longer than normal.
But remember that plastic and glass airtight compartment options are great to keep the tea away from the air and moisture, but will still allow the natural light to get in contact with it, especially if you’re storing tea leaves. The ceramic options are great to keep away from light but won’t protect the tea from humidity and from absorbing odors and smells since it’s not airtight.
So if you go for one of those transparent options, make sure to store it in a safe place away from the light, like a closed kitchen cabinet or drawer. Meanwhile, the stainless steel, aluminum, or black plastic ones will already offer the needed light protection not only for your herbal tea but also for the bags.
And of course, go for the options that are easy to open and close, since tea is something that you’ll often consume. It won’t affect the tea quality and expiration date if you need to open and close it during the day. If the container is good, it’ll seal everything easily, but to make it comfortable for you, don’t purchase a container that is too hard to handle.
How to Tell if the Tea Has Expired
There isn’t a proper or right way to see if the tea has expired. Of course, when talking about pre-packaged tea bags the best by date will be your first indicator, but mostly you’ll have to inspect the tea leaves and the bags very well.
The appearance of it should be the first sign if it’s good or has already gone bad or started to lose its properties. Look at the color and the overall appearance of the bags or the tea leaves to see if there are any drastic changes or if you can notice mold growth.
The smell is also a great way to tell if the tea is still good. Normally, the tea odor is strong and very predominant, so if you see that it’s not as strong anymore, then it may be expired.
Also, look at the place where you’re storing the tea. If you notice humidity, moisture, or any other signs that the tea was in contact with the things that make it oxidize faster, then it may be a sign of being expired.
Drinking Possibly Expired Tea
As mentioned above, you won’t get sick if you drink possibly expired tea, their natural properties won’t turn into anything harmful to you, especially if you had stored it properly, away from moisture, air, and light. So don’t worry about expired tea making you sick.
But the tea will be less flavorful with almost nothing left to brew, and most of its properties and nutrients will be gone. So it’s more about the tea quality and not the safety, especially if you’re drinking the tea to absorb its nutrients.
But don’t drink the tea if you notice visible changes in its appearance or the odor is too different from the normal. It’s better to be careful in this situation.
The Shelf-Life of Different Types of Teas
Although it may seem unlikely, the shelf-life can be different depending on the type of tea. The most popular ones, like green tea, black tea, yellow tea, and white tea or herbal teas in general, all have a particular shelf-life and can be safe to use on different dates.
Even when you store the tea leaves or bags away from water, air, light, and anything else that may decrease its duration, the type can still make the best by date longer or shorter. So, to know if does tea expire, you should also pay close attention to the type:
- Green tea: green tea is unfermented, will taste better if consumed earlier and has an average shelf-life of 18 months. Since this type of tea is unfermented, it keeps its flavor and odor for less time than the rest. The healthy nutrients will be better absorbed by you if you go for the leaves instead of the pre-packaged bags.
- Yellow tea: this is a light fermented type of tea, which makes it last for about 24 months — a little longer than green tea. The yellow tea is also better when drunk earlier.
- Black tea: one of the strongest and fully fermented types, making it last longer than green and yellow tea. It also has a strong and characteristic taste, which makes it last for years. So, if stored correctly it will last for more than 36 months.
- Oolong tea: this is a semi-fermented tea, but with a very strong and unique aroma and taste, so it’ll last for around 24 months.
- White tea: this is one of the rarest types of tea, more expensive than the rest, and with a very special shelf life. The longer you store the white tea, the higher its properties will get and the more medicinal value it will have. They are usually consumed after being stored for 6 years and will last for more than 20 years. But remember that to make the tea last for this long, it has to be kept away from moisture and light.
The answer to the question does tea expire was answered and detailed in the article above. As you could notice, tea does not necessarily expire, since it all depends on if they are tea leaves that you can separately purchase or even plant by yourself, or are pre-packaged tea bags that can be bought in grocery stores, on how it’s being stored, and which type you prefer.
When opting for pre-packaged teas, keep an eye on the expiration date that the manufacturer indicates since it takes into consideration the manufacturing process and the date it was made, and when going for the loose leaf tea type, pay close attention to the odor and color of the tea leaves, and try to purchase them as fresh as possible.
If you store your tea correctly, there’s nothing to worry about. Your teas will last for a long period and won’t go bad. You can enjoy this delicious beverage in your daily routine with no dangers of it not being safe.
Agnes is a kitchen and cooking enthusiast as well as a fitness fanatic. She loves to help readers upgrade and furnish their kitchen with the best available products! She is the primary writer behind SmartKitchenImprovement.com and hopes to share little tidbits of knowledge she’s picked up over her years as a mom and wife.