Tea, whether in bags or loose leaf tea, can stay for extended periods without going bad, though the latter is at a higher risk of going stale and losing flavor. To keep enjoying your fresh and flavorful loose tea, however, you should consider storing it properly. Doing so is not supposed to be tough as all you need is an airtight container which you should then store in a place that is dark, cool, and dry.
We don’t always store tea to prevent it from losing flavor. In some cases, you store loose tea for a special reason. The reason, in this case, is similar to that of storing some wine brands – to allow the tea to change with time, increasing its palatability. How your tea will age highly depends on how you store it.
Storing tea in an airtight vessel can allow it to oxidize gradually using the ambient oxygen that will be left in the container. Wulong teas are a good example of teas that usually are stored in a tightly sealed container and left to age.
Some types of teas need not be shielded from moisture during the aging process. These teas require a controlled level of humidity to enhance the aging process. For such cases, the tea leaves undergo fermentation and oxidation, which is why non-hermetic sealed containers are used.
You might be asking yourself what you need to do if your goal is not to age the tea, rather preserve it so that it stays fresh and doesn’t lose flavor.
If your concern is to store loose tea to preserve the taste, here are some of the most important tips to consider:
Tea leaves oxidize when exposed to oxygen over a long period, which is why the flavor is bound to change. Keep in consideration that simply storing loose leaf tea in a container does not mean that all the air has been expelled.
For this reason, you should consider using things like vacuum-sealed bags for strong leaves (delicate ones will get crushed), flushing packages with nitrogen as you seal the bags (for delicate leaves), as well as using oxygen-absorbing packets.
These methods are, however, only useful when storing tea over extended periods. Opening and closing the containers will reduce effectiveness.
Low-level heat allows oxidation while high levels of heat eliminate any chances of oxidation. Some of the delicate yellow and green teas should preferably be stored in a freezer or refrigerator. That's because the cold temperature will significantly slow down oxidation reactions. You should, however, store them carefully to avoid condensation.
You can as well re-package loose leaf tea into smaller packets and use each of these packets separately to allow the tea to stay fresher for longer. Before putting the packages in the freezer, get out as much air as you can, since the air that remains is more likely to condense, allowing moisture to develop on the leaf surface. Most importantly, do not open a package before it has reached room temperature after getting it from the freezer, to avoid condensation.
It has been established that light has some major effect on dry tea leaves, even though this topic has not been seriously studied. There, however, is some information claiming that light-induced damage is more likely to give your tea a metallic flavor.
There is also another claim that the light-induced damage mostly occurs due to photodegradation, which eventually leads to a reduction in the quality of tea. Before the mystery is solved, however, it would be best to protect your loose leaf tea from light.
Another major factor to consider when storing loose leaf tea is the surroundings and odors that are in the places where you store your tea. This is in consideration that tea leaves have this tendency of absorbing scents from the surroundings.
You should be cautious, especially with scented teas like jasmine and others to keep them from losing flavor. Do not only consider the surroundings, but also the container in which you are storing the leaves, as that too, should not have any strong odors.
It’s a quite obvious that leaves eventually lose their flavor if exposed to moisture. For this reason, you really should keep your loose leaf tea from “steeping” until you are ready to steep it for drinking. Keeping tea away from moisture does not only entail preventing it from coming into contact with visible liquids. That's in consideration that tea is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. That’s why you should consider using an airtight container to keep the moisture out, and the tea leaves in.
This is a combination of some of the rules stated above but is still worth mentioning. A near empty container that is full of tea will deteriorate slower when compared to a similar container that has just a small amount of tea at the bottom. To ensure that your loose leaf tea stays fresh at all times, it would be better to use smaller containers so that they stay fuller. Besides, more tea means lesser oxygen in the container, which is a good thing as oxygen is not good for tea.
When storing loose leaf tea, you should prefer using the following containers. Ensure, however, that they are airtight, odor free, and are completely dry.
The following are the containers you have to avoid when storing loose leaf tea:
Loose leaf tea absorbs humidity, and if it gets damp, it will start to mold and decay. For this reason, you should consider storing your tea in a cool and dry place.
A kitchen cupboard should be perfect for storage of loose leaf tea, compared to a freezer or refrigerator. Moisture from condensation when the tea is stored in a freezer will eventually ruin the flavor.
Remember that loose leaf tea is “fond” of absorbing odors too, so avoid storing it near spices and the likes. The storage place should also be away from direct or indirect sunlight so that the tea won't be robbed of its flavor.
This is something that most people keep wondering, and for good reasons - the reasons aren’t even important in this case. The important thing to note is that perfectly stored tea should last up to a year, and probably even longer. You should, however, consider using up the supply you have within 3 months for a perfect taste.
Related Article: Does Loose Leaf Tea Expire?
Now that you know what you needed to about storing loose leaf tea, you would have only yourself to blame if your tea lost its flavor. Be sure to remember what you have learned in this article, as it will go a long way in maintaining the freshness and flavor of tea for long.