Does loose leaf tea expire? This is a question many tea enthusiasts often ask. To simply answer it, we can say that tea, just like any other food/drink, has a best before date or use by date. However, this is not necessarily an expiry date.
Unless it goes bad, tea rarely expires. What is termed as best before date is the time it will begin to lose its flavor when packaged and stored right. This means that the time tea will remain in a good state largely depends on the type of tea and how well it is stored.
For instance, loose leaf tea packaged in tea storage containers last longer than tea kept in plastic or glass containers. We will talk about storing tea the right way later.
Therefore, it is important to know that when tea is termed as expired, it doesn’t mean that the tea is not fit for consumption, it just means that the tea has lost its original flavor and taste.
Different teas have different expiry periods, and it is important that we talk about this.
How Long Does Loose Leaf Tea Take To Expire?
Let’s talk about the 4 major types of tea;
- White Tea. White tea is normally considered a valuable tea, especially when compared to other types of teas. It is said to have a longer shelf time and offer more medicinal value. When properly stored in an airtight container that keeps humidity at bay, this tea can last for up to 2 years. After 2 years, you will notice this tea gradually losing its aroma and taste. However, its medicinal value increases with time. This means that if you have white tea that has stayed for a couple of years, you have a valuable collection.
- Black Tea. This tea can remain fresh for more than 18 months, especially when stored in bulk and in compact nature. When stored in airtight, containers designed specifically for storing tea, loose-leaf black tea can last up to 3 years without losing most of its flavor.
- Green Tea– Green tea is a popular tea among people who are looking for diet tea. It can last for approximately 18 months since it is unfermented. Beyond this period, it begins to lose its flavor. However, when kept away from heat, odor, air, and light, green tea can last up to 3 years and retain most of its flavor.
- Oolong Tea– For the semi-fermented oolong tea, it can last up to 2 years. However, loose leaf Oolong tea has a shorter lifespan. The shelf life of Oolong depends on how fermented it is as well as the storage method. To retain its flavor and taste, you need to get an airtight container specifically designed to store loose tea and keep it in a dry, dark, and odor-free place.
It is easier to know whether or not a certain type of loose leaf tea has lost its flavor; just use your sense of smell to know if it has lost its freshness and aroma, but we will talk more about this in another section of this guide.
To ensure your loose leaf tea last longer, storage is key. You need to keep it in an environment that is odor-free and humidity-free.
Humidity, light, and odor can affect the aroma and freshness of loose leaf tea, making it expire earlier than anticipated.
How Can You Store Loose Leaf Tea the Right Way?
As we mentioned earlier, how properly you store your tea will dictate its expiry date. When preserved right, loose leaf tea will preserve its qualities. Luckily, there are several ways you can store tea leaves the right way.
Here are several storage tips to help you keep your loose leaf tea fresher and tasting better for longer;
- Store them in an airtight, stainless steel container. Avoid storing it in plastic and glass containers, even if they are airtight? Why, because glass and plastic containers permit humid air inside them, which means your tea leaves will lose its taste over time
- If you have no stainless steel containers, you can use paper bags in the meantime. Keep the paper bags airtight and away from light and heat
- Store your tea at room temperature to preserve its volatile features. Temperature fluctuations can damage your key specific qualities. Also, avoid storing your tea near ovens, heaters, air-conditioning units, etc.
- Keep your tea in dark areas, away from sunlight. This can be inside shelves or back corner of your pantry where light doesn’t strike often
- Also, keep them humid-free. Humidity can change the taste of your loose tea and make it go bad easily
- Also, keep your lose tea from spices in your pantry. This is because loose leaf tea absorbs aroma quickly and spices can ruin its true flavor and aroma
There are storage potteries you can consider that are designed specifically for storing loose leaf tea. These storage potteries ensure that your tea is stored in the best conditions to retain its flavor, freshness, and aroma.
Related Article: How to Store Loose Leaf Tea Properly
How Do You Tell That Loose Leaf Tea Is Expired?
Well, there are a few signs to watch out for. Let’s look at some of these signs;
- Having a dank, pungent smell
One of the most obvious signs of a tea that has gone bad is having a pungent smell. Some people ignore the smell and continue to brew the tea. This smell is mostly caused by storing tea in a humid area with some airflow.
Some people are still able to drink tea, even when it develops this smell. Well, it is still safe for your health, but it might not be pleasant to drink.
- Mold in tea
Another quite obvious sign of tea that has gone bad is the presence of mold in tea. Mold can grow on virtually anything, and thus you can find them in your storage box. At first, it might be a small patch hence not easy to notice. Therefore, if you notice your tea losing its flavor, you can pour it out somewhere to look if there are molds forming.
We recommend that you throw away tea that is attracting mold since mold is not safe for your health. It is true that your teas might still be healthy and safe, but the presence of mold will make it unhealthy.
Molds in tea normally come from high humidity in the storage unit. Therefore, we still insist that you store your tea in an airtight container designed for this purpose.
- Losing flavor
The above two signs might make your tea unhealthy to drink, especially when most of it is affected by mold or has an overly strong smell. However, there is another sign of tea expiring- losing flavor.
In this case, your tea can still be drinkable since it would not harm you, but the flavor and scent are gone, and thus, tea enthusiasts will not find this tea sweet. Some people will still drink it anyway.
To avoid this from happening, you can order smaller batches of your favorite loose leaf tea to ensure that you enjoy it all before it loses its flavor.
The above three signs indicate that either your tea has gone bad or expired. Before we wind up this section, it is important to mention that once you open the box of tea, loose leaf tea begins to lose its potency at a faster rate than when it was packaged.
In most cases, the expiry date indicated on the packaging is solely based on the tea leaves staying as they were packaged. Therefore, strive to store your tea in containers that offer a similar environment to how it was when packaged.
Related Article: How and When Can You Reuse Loose Leaf Tea?
The good thing about storing tea in the right way is that it can be used for years without losing its original flavor and taste. The ‘best by date’ of tea indicated on the packaging doesn’t represent the tea’s expiry date, rather it is the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the tea will remain in peak quality. If stored properly, you can drink your tea for many years, even when it loses its original flavor, as long as it doesn’t develop a pungent smell or attract mold.
Here is a recap of what we have discussed in this guide;
- How long does loose leaf tea last? The precise answer to this question largely depends on the storage condition of your tea. To maximize your lose tea shelf life, we recommend that you buy a specially-designed storage container for loose tea and store it in a cool, dark place away from moisture
- How long does loose tea last when stored at room temperature? As we have discussed above, different types of loose tea can last from 18 to 24 months
- Is it safe to use tea that has passed its ‘expiry’ date? For this answer, we can say that, provided that it has not attracted mold and doesn’t produce a pungent smell. When stored right, your tea will only lose its flavor and taste, but not its medicinal value. Therefore, you can still drink your expired tea, but it will not be pleasant
- To maximize the shelf-life of loose tea and enable it to retain its potency and flavor, store it stainless, airtight containers or pottery containers designed to store tea
- How can you tell if lose tea is still good? Well, this is pretty obvious, just brew a cup and taste your tea. If the flavor and aroma are different, then you know your tea has expired and should be replaced. Also, if you see mold forming on tea leaves or find tea leaves producing a pungent smell, just know it’s time to dispose of them
We do hope you are now more enlightened on the best way to store tea to prolong its shelf-life and preserve its flavor.