How do you store your tea? It’s actually a very important point since storing your tea wrong can reduce the amount of time you can drink from it.
First, we really should talk about a very important feature of tea and tea drinking in general.
Tea is meant to last for several months or years
Tea will last a reasonably long amount of time if stored properly. It’s meant to be a drink enjoyed over several months or years, depending on the type of tea you’ve got.
Some teas, like the Pu’er teas, are better with age. Their flavors change over the years, and they need to be stored differently than other teas.
But with most other teas, you will be able to enjoy a nice, hot cup for up to 2 years if you’ve stored your tea properly.
Enjoy your tea, and drink it slowly and deliberately. Don’t try and make it last too long, keeping it only for special occasions. The tea will make the occasion.
Now let’s talk about the tips on storing your tea. Some you might know, some might be a surprise. Here they are.
1. Keep tea in a dark place, sunlight damages it
Whichever kind of tea you’ve got, it should never be left in direct sunlight. This means that whatever container you store it in, should be opaque. It should let no light in, so this means clear glass containers are not okay. Not even tinted containers.
Just be safe and use a completely opaque container or tin or jar.
This can be extended to where in the house you keep your tea. Best to keep your tea in a place that doesn’t receive direct sunlight as well. For example, if you leave your tea in an opaque container on the kitchen counter, and there the sun shines directly on it, that’s not okay.
The sunlight brings the heat as well, and this will damage the tea inside, even if the sunlight doesn’t reach the leaves.
2. Keep your tea in a dry place, humidity will grow mold
Keeping your tea in a dry place will ensure that you won’t get moldy tea next time your try and brew it. This means areas like the basement, bathroom, most closets, sometimes the attic, are not okay.
If your kitchen gets very humid when you cook, and you cook often, then that’s not a good place to store your tea either.
The moisture in your home, if it gets to your tea, can bring tiny mold spores. There is also the problem of your tea partially brewing once it comes into contact with the tiny water droplets.
3. Keep tea in a cool place, heat will damage the flavor
Another very important point, keeping your tea away from high heat. Now if you keep the tea at room temperature it should be fine. But if you keep it in a hot kitchen where you cook daily and the heat rises, this is not a good place to keep your tea.
Especially if you keep your tea on a high shelf. Heat will always rise to the top, and be trapped by the ceiling. This heats up everything you keep on a high shelf or cabinet.
Some say keeping loose leaf tea in the freezer or fridge is alright, as long as you vacuum-seal it. Vacuum sealing takes out any and all oxygen, which prevents moisture from building up and ruining your tea.
I do not recommend this option because most people don’t have the conditions necessary to store loose leaf tea in the fridge or freezer. And even if you do, the risk of ruining a tea outweighs the merit of longer-lasting tea, at least in my opinion.
Best to just buy smaller amounts of tea, only when you need them, and know you’ll be able to drink them within a few months.
4. Keep tea in an airtight container, otherwise, you lose flavor
Always, always make sure your tea is exposed to as little air as possible. No air, if you can manage it. This means that the flavor will be kept for a much longer time because airflow makes flavor evaporate.
It’s the same with coffee beans and ground coffee, actually. And all spices too, since all flavors are going to go away when exposed to air, moisture, heat, and sunlight.
Keeping your tea in an airtight container is even better if you can manage to squeeze all the air out of the bag or tin before you close it. Some containers will help you with that, some can’t do that.
Not only for loose leaf tea though. Teabags work the same way, and they lose quite a bit of flavor if you leave them lying around. This is also true for tea that’s already been brewed too.
5. Do not keep two teas in the same tin
Tea is also very sensitive to other flavors. This happens through direct contact, but also if you keep two teas in the same container but separated.
This is because the flavor and aroma from other items, like flowers or food or a garbage can, will penetrate your tea leaves, and it will stay there.
This also means that if you store your tea in a wooden box, you have to be alright with the aroma of that particular wood, since it will get into your tea.
6. Keep tea stored in bulk to maintain flavor
Keeping your tea in large amounts will sound counter-intuitive to what I just said above about small tea caddies. But! Keeping your small tea caddy fully stocked is what I mean by bulk.
This ensures that your tea won’t have time or room to be exposed to lots of air, because it will always be in its own company.
Of course, your tea will run out at some point. Your stash will get to about half, and then start to dwindle. Once that happens, I recommend drinking what’s left of the tea in a short amount of time and considering getting another batch to fill up the tea caddy.
7. Green teas are meant to be enjoyed in a shorter time than black tea
The leaves for green tea are fired for a much shorter amount of time than any other tea. This means that it will retain its freshness for less time than, say black tea.
If we were to fire it for longer, we would lose the green, fresh aroma of green tea. And we would end up on the path to an oolong tea, so again no green tea.
This means that the way you store green tea will have to be very strict. Store it as we’ve discussed above, no heat, humidity, sunlight, airflow.
8. Black, white, and oolong teas can last up to 2 years
The story is very different with black, oolong, and white teas. Black and oolong teas are heavily fired and processed, which will keep them fresh and beautiful for longer.
They can last up to 2 years, even longer in some cases. How much you want to push that date is up to you. But most people will probably go through their tea in less than 2 years, so you should be safe.
White tea lasts for longer than green tea because it’s a tea that is only dried, not fired. It will keep longer than green tea and will provide a more delicate flavor.
Many people actually prefer older, aged white, black, and oolong teas. Their flavor deepens a bit and becomes more pronounced.
These are not Pu’er teas though, so don’t overdo it.
9. Pu’er teas require a bit of airflow, will last many years
Pu’er teas are an accident, at their core. Back when tea was meant to be transported along the Silk Road, travels used to take many weeks or months.
Due to the heat, humidity, time spent in travel, and the tight packaging, the green teas sometimes formed compact tea cakes. The leaves were pressed together tightly and fermented along their way into the West.
Then, their infusion had a very different taste. This led to people purposefully fermenting tea cakes and keeping them for years before trying their flavor.
So if you’ve got a nice Pu’er cake, make sure you give it the tiniest amount of airflow. Keeping it in its rice paper wrapper is alright, and keep that in a dark, cool storage room. Make sure you keep it in a container that will remain partly open or get yourself a special Pu’er container.
A small amount of airflow (small is key here) will keep the tea developing and you can age it for several more years.
Any changes in humidity (too dry or too wet) will significantly alter your tea’s flavor, as will temperature changes.
An idea on how to store your teas at home
When storing your tea you will need dedicated storage space. Be it a cupboard, or a drawer, or a certain section of your home. The storage space should be cool, dark, dry, and able to store several tea caddies or containers.
I use a drawer in my kitchen, in which I’ve got several tea pouches, boxes, and bags. We cook daily but the windows are always open so humidity or heat is not a problem.
The drawer blocks out the sun keep things dark, and there is nothing in the drawer, above, or under the tea drawer that would impart a scent.
If you’ve got a similar place in your home, feel free to use it as long as it won’t hinder your other activities. And as long as small children and pets won’t easily get into them.
If you’re looking to store your teas the best way, then I hope this article was helpful to you. I know tea is very sensitive and sometimes very expensive.
It’s great when we can make a little go a long way. Storing our tea properly makes sure your tea will last as long as it can.