Storing Tea for Freshness

How to Make Tea Last

My tea audiences across the country always want to know how long tea lasts and how it should be stored. Tea drinkers have always tried to keep their precious tea fresh as long as possible. Colonists at the time of the Boston Tea Party sometimes used wooden tea caddies like their British cousins. These tight coffers kept expensive teas securely locked away from both the elements and light-fingered household staff.

Tea Caddies
Tea Caddies

The enemies of tea are humidity, air and light. It is always best to transfer both loose tea and tea bags from a cardboard or paper container into an air-tight container. Tins and caddies with tight-fitting lids are best as they will keep out other smells and humidity. Glass jars on open shelves are not ideal for storage as light can damage the leaves and reduce the quality. However, glass jars may be stored in dark cupboards away from light. With the exception of Japanese Matcha, most teas should not be kept in a refrigerator.

Be extra careful with flavored or aromatic teas. The added flavorings can be very potent and the aromas may transfer from tea to tea if stored nearby. Lapsang souchong and peppermint can easily influence neighboring teas if not stored correctly.

Proper Storage is Key

Properly stored, most teas will have a shelf life of about 10-12 months. But if you bought a tin of tea as a souvenir from Harrods in London ten years ago, toss the tea on your garden and keep the decorative container as a reminder of an afternoon well spent.

Storage Hints:

  • Place all teas in airtight containers such as tins
  • Store containers away from light and moisture
  • With the exception of some green teas, tea should not be refrigerated
  • Keep aromatic teas apart from non-flavored teas
  • Label the container with the date the tea was purchased
  • Buy tea in small quantities and order often
  • Use a tea scoop or measuring spoon that is completely dry