Storing loose-leaf tea is your ticket to tea utopia. With proper storage, tea keeps from spoiling and is also a great way to taste how it evolves with time, much like fine wine. Loose-leaf tea can actually take a long time to spoil. Just as great wines, teas can also age.
The good news is that the tea is tough as nails, and it's hard to go wrong. Whether you're sipping on a late '90s vintage or this year's harvest, we'll share some of the best practices for storing loose-leaf tea and answer some Tea Storage FAQs.
While you can certainly apply these tips for all teas and tisanes, this guide mainly focuses on pure teas made from the tea plant Camellia Sinensis.
Elements that Cause Tea to Go Bad
The rules are actually quite simple. To preserve their flavors and freshness, keep your teas away from these five elements:
- Air (Oxygen)
Difference Between Tea Aging and Spoiling
Properly stored tea doesn't expire, but the flavor and aroma will change over time, especially in greener-style teas. One thing to remember is knowing the difference between tea aging and spoiling. Properly stored tea does not spoil.
Like wine and whiskey, when teas age, they (slowly) change their flavors. Well-made teas don't soil if they are kept away from the five elements mentioned above. Teas are spoiled when they mold, which happens when tea leaves are exposed to excessive moisture and heat.
Tips for keeping teas fresh
Different types of tea have different freshness sensitivities.
category of tea that's the most sensitive to aging is the greener styles or lighter oxidized tea. For example, Green Teas and Lighter Oolongs.
Greener Style Teas
These teas are made to accentuate the grassy and vibrant quality of the raw tea plant and therefore carry a higher "freshness" factor, which makes them the most sensitive to aging. The freshness quality is the first to fade during an aging process.
Tea doesn't spoil if stored properly; just the flavor will change and, in this case, grassy to earthy. If you don't have access to a vacuum sealer and prefer that vegetal flavor, try buying in small quantities and drinking the tea within two-four months.
More Oxidized and Roasted Teas
On the other hand, more oxidized black tea or roasted teas are less sensitive to aging. This family of teas appeals by showcasing flavor nuances created by processing the tea plant (i.e., controlled and intentional exposure to heat or air). They may even get tastier with time as the flavor settles and develops, therefore suitable for intentional aging.
How to Store Loose Leaf Tea Properly
We recommend using a container that is odor-free, blocks sunlight, and can keep the tea tightly sealed in a cool environment. Avoid plastic, paper bags, or clear jars.
Where to store loose leaf tea
Storing loose-leaf tea in a tea canister, tea caddy, or metalized foil bag is easier and the most effective. At home, once open, we suggest keeping teas from us in the foiled bag it came with and wrapped tightly with a rubber band. At our tearoom, we pack almost all our teas in 60 grams pack and only cut open the bag when we are ready to use it. We store the rest of the unused tea in canisters.
Labeling and Tracking Dates
Much like spices, we also recommend labeling the tea with the date that you got it. This way, you know when you received it. Labeling your tea containers with the date you received them helps to keep track of their age.
If storing large quantities of green tea, refrigeration is an option, but be mindful of condensation, which can lead to spoilage.
Considerations for Pu-erh Tea
Pu-erh teas are an exception, as they require slight air exposure and variable temperatures to age well. However, it’s important to be kept away from strong odors and excessive moisture.
Use these tips to store your loose leaf tea well.
We hope that our guide on how to store loose leaf tea has provided you with useful tips and tricks, if you can it that. If we had to summarize it, always ensure that your tea is stored in an airtight container, in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight and strong smells. By doing this, your tea can remain fresh for several years.
How to store loose leaf tea FAQ
Should I refrigerate green tea?
You could if you have a very large batch and it will take you over 6 months to consume it. Be aware of condensation. Temperature differences in the air build condensation after the tea is removed from the fridge. The resulting moisture can cause spoilage if it's excessive.
Although the fridge may extend the freshness of green teas, we encourage you to purchase yours in smaller increments to enjoy its vegetal flavor and aroma fully.
Can you leave brewed tea out overnight?
Well... We do this all the time... But to err on the side of caution... We recommend completing your brewing within 12 hours. The flavor and aroma diminish when the brewed tea sits at room temperature. Fresh is always better.
Does loose-leaf tea need to be refrigerated?
Avoid storing your tea in the fridge. Instead, keep it in a cool, dry, dark place. Minimize its exposure to air and direct light for optimal freshness.
What is the best container to store tea in?
Ideally, store tea in an airtight, opaque container. Something that seals tightly to keep out light, air, moisture, and any odors that could affect its flavor. Opaque containers are best to prevent light from degrading the quality of the tea. Materials like tin, dark glass, or ceramic are excellent choices.