Does Tea Go Bad?

Some of us buy tea in bulk and overload our pantries with it, so after some time we end up needing the answer to the question “does tea go bad?”. Almost all food eventually goes bad, so it seems reasonable to think that tea (especially loose leaf tea) will also spoil. Especially if it has been stored in the pantry for the last 2 or 3 years. Fortunately enough, if the tea is stored properly it won’t go bad. It can, however, lose its taste, and that’s the issue you should worry about. To retain the flavor you need to know how to store tea properly.

How To Store Tea

You should store tea in a cool, dark place in an airtight container. It’s usually sold in that kind of container anyway. That conditions will help to maintain the best flavor possible. Some producers recommend, that it shouldn’t be either refrigerated or frozen. They claim that both of the mentioned processes might affect the flavor. Once the tea has been opened, the best possible way to store it is to put it into some kind of airtight storage bag or container. The same situation is when you’ve bought a loose tea packed in a paper bag (you can often buy loose leaf tea that way) or something similar (not airtight). Doing that will help the tea to retain its flavor for a longer period of time. If you can’t store it in an airtight container, it’s fine, but you should remember that it’ll lose its flavor faster (the aroma will flee into the air). You should also know, that the worst case possible is to store tea in a moist environment. If your tea will get damp, it’ll go bad in a matter of a few days.

Does tea go bad?
(credit: thunderchild5)

Shelf Life Of Tea

As I’ve mentioned earlier tea doesn’t go bad, when stored properly. Because of that tea manufacturers usually don’t place any expiry date, but they place a “best-by” or “best used by” date. That means that the tea shouldn’t suffer from any significant loss of taste up to the mentioned date. After that date, in most cases it’ll be safe to drink, but its flavor won’t be as good as it used to be. Most producers state that their tea will taste great for up to two years after its production, after that time the tea will gradually lose its taste.

What To Do With An Old Tea

If you’ve found an old tea and you don’t know if it’ll be safe to drink, the only way to know it is to check it yourself. Firstly, you should closely look at its container and the tea itself (either the loose leaf tea or that in tea bags), if any water got in there you’ll surely find some signs of mold. If both the container and the tea looks fine, the only thing you can do is to brew a cup of that tea to check how does it look like and taste. Of course if you’ll find any signs of mold or any strange masses in that brewed cup of tea, you should discard the tea. Depending on its taste you should decide whether to keep it or toss it out. If it tastes oddly (e.g. stale) you’ll probably decide to throw it out, but some people don’t mind drinking tea that is a little stale. That’s perfectly up to you.

As you should know by now, tea does not go bad unless it’s stored in very bad conditions (moist). While it’s stored in a some kind of airtight container it retains its taste for longer than if it’d be stored in an ordinary one. Your tea should provide great taste for at least two years, but probably it’ll be fine (both safe to drink and tasty) for a couple more years. You should always bear in mind that tea producers want you to buy tea on a regular basis, so the “best-by” dates provided by them might be somewhat exaggerated.