If you are someone who loves tea, then we should be friends. Whether it is morning or evening tea, it is the perfect way to help you relax. And if you are a tea lover, you must have stocked several packs in your pantry.
And with storing all the tea packs comes a question: Does tea expire?
NO!! Tea, loose or packed, does not expire, although it has an expiration date. The date on the label does not tell you to throw away the condiment. The expiry date means it will remain at its peak until the date mentioned. After the date, however, the tea will start to lose its potency.
So if it doesn’t expire, can tea last forever?
Well, let’s find out.
How long does tea last?
Tea is one of the many beverages like gatorade that you consume before its expiration date. So you may never have thought about the tea’s shelf life. You will be surprised if I say: Tea does not expire. It stays flavorful for quite some time, even after the expiration date has passed. If you store tea in a bag, it can last for 4-5 months before it loses its flavor. But if you store it in a tin, it can last up to a year at room temperature.
Want to make the tea last longer? To enhance the freshness of your tea, it is essential to store it properly. Keep it in a tin/bag away from light or heat sources to make it last longer.
How to store tea to keep it fresh?
Tea comes in two forms: tea leaves and tea bags. Irrespective of their form and texture, the tea can lose its flavor. To preserve the flavor of loose tea, it’s important to store it correctly. It is also important that you do not expose it to air, moisture, light, and heat. Exposing it to any elements can cause it to lose its flavor quickly.
So, how should you store tea to keep it fresh? An efficient way to ensure it remains fresh is by using an air-tight container. The air-tight container used to store the tea must be opaque. While storing tea, make sure it is stored in a cool, dark place. To meet the above requirements, air-tight tins are the best to help maintain their freshness.
Are you using mason jars to store your tea? As appealing mason jars are to store condiments, they are not the best to store tea. But if you use mason jars, place the jar in a cabinet or dark drawer. Remember, the jar must not be exposed to a direct source of sunlight or heat from the stoves.
How to tell if tea is still fresh (or not)?
Teas don’t expire, but that does not mean they don’t stale. The most common reason it was stale is that it was not stored properly. So, how do you tell if your favourite tea is fresh? The best way to evaluate the freshness is by its aroma and flavour.
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Fresh tea gives off a strong fragrance as if plucked from a tree. If your tea is not as aromatic as before, it might not be fresh. Another way to know its freshness is by how it brews. A fresh one will brew up a bright, savory cup. If you think the leaves are not flavorful as it was once, it is time to buy a new pack of flavourful tea.
The reason your tea loses its freshness can be due to exposure to heat and light. Prolonged exposure to heat can also cause the leaves to change color. Thus, if you notice your leaves appearing darker than when you purchased them, replace them. Using old tea will brew a less flavorful cup that will taste dull. Although using old leaves is not dangerous, it will ruin your taste.
Notice your tea has mold or visible signs of decomposition? Although expired leaves won’t make you sick, consuming moldy tea will make you visit a doctor. Thus, look thoroughly at the leaves you want to consume. If you see mold, it is time to toss the pack in the bin.
What to do with old tea?
Have an old pack of tea resting around? Don’t throw it away. There are other benefits that you can get with old leaves.
Besides being a tasty beverage, tea is versatile and serves other benefits. To make use of old leaves, you can use them in compost piles. Tea is rich in nitrogen and works great in composting the soil. Don’t have a compost pit? No problem. You can also use old tea to dye your clothes, paper, or hair.
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Does tea expire once brewed?
As stable as the tea is when packed, it does not last long after brewing. If you leave the brewed leaves open, they can go bad faster than you think. A brewed tea also becomes home for bacteria and other contaminants. Compared to cold brewed tea, hot tea is most likely to expire soon.
To use brewed leaves again, you must store them nicely and properly. The best option is to keep it in the fridge in an air-tight container. Refrigerating can prevent it from expiring, but it does not guarantee the taste and aroma. While you can put cold-brewed tea in the fridge, the same can not be done for hot tea. It is because hot brews have a shorter life and can not survive for a longer period.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. Is tea still good after 5 years?
Ans. Tea is one of the few beverages that do not expire. However, if you have leaves or bags from 5 years ago, they might not give a strong taste. Thus, the leaves will lose their flavor and smell once the best-before date passes.
Q2. How long does tea take to expire?
Ans. When stored properly, tea can last for more than 2 years. After that, however, most leaves lose their flavor, aroma, and nutritional benefits. If the leaves are less fermented, they can even expire earlier.
Q3. Does dry tea actually expire?
Ans. If your tea leaves are kept dry, they will not spoil. However, even dry leaves can lose their flavor and aroma if exposed to heat, water, light, and air. Dry leaves will last longer when they are fermented and intact.
Q4. How long can you keep tea past the expiration date?
Ans. Tea is a shelf-stable condiment that can last way past its expiry date. The flavor and aroma of leaves and bags can last up to 6 to 12 months after their best-by dates.
Q5. Can I drink 10-year-old tea?
Ans. Tea rarely spoils if you store it properly. Consuming a 10-year-old tea will not make you sick. It will, however, not be as flavorful as a fresh one. Thus, if you use an age-old tea pack to brew a cup, it will give a stale flavor.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know tea does not expire, it is time to brew a hot cup. However, brewing expired leaves might not give you a strong flavor. Therefore, ensure that you store the leaves in an air-tight opaque container.
If you have leaves that have gone stale, do not throw them away. Instead, use it as a fabric, hair, or paper dye. You can also use stale tea to enrich the nitrogen levels in your gardening soil. So, make the best out of every tea pack.