How Long Does Tea Last and Does Tea Expire? [How To Stay Safe]

You would think that asking the question “Does tea expire?” is reasonable, as most foods tend to spoil, stale, go rancid or moldy after their use by dates.

Like dried herbs and spices, tea usually comes in packaging that advises a best before date, which denotes how long the product will retain optimal flavor.

So, how long does tea last? There are many variables affecting the longevity of tea and while it lasts a long time when properly stored, the natural flavors and oils evaporate after a while and it can become stale or not as fresh.

Teas that have been treated, aged or fermented should last longer, as they have been processed to build on flavor and texture.

Packaged tea can last at least a year after the use by date, before opening it and while it will eventually lose most of its flavor, the leaves will retain their form for a long time. Read on if you are still wondering “Does tea expire?” or if you want to learn more about keeping tea fresher for longer.

Can You Drink Expired Tea?

Can you drink expired tea?
Can you drink expired tea? Well, it depends, but if it’s “expired” and not “aged”, then it’ll get progressively worse over time (most likely.)

If you’re asking “Can tea expire?” then we need to discuss the difference between the best before date and expiration date. If you find a package of tea in your cupboard that’s been there a while, you might want to use more to make up for the diminishing flavor and strength. It won’t harm you but the flavour won’t be as intense as it once was.

While tea is safe to consume after the best before date, it all depends on how it was stored. This will determine the answer to the question “how long is tea good for?” but can you drink expired tea even if it’s spoiled?

Does Tea Go Bad?

As with all foods and beverages, proper hygiene and food safety methods prevents food-borne illness. If stored in a humid environment or where it’s exposed to moisture, mold becomes a big problem.

Another important factor to consider is the tea itself, whether it’s flavored with other botanicals, oils and additives. A herbal tea infused with fruit juice, for example, could be more likely to spoil or go rancid sooner as it has sugars and real food properties infused into the tea.

Always store tea in an airtight container, such as a tin or glass jar and keep it out of the sun and light in a dry, cool place. Some say that storing tea in the freezer helps to retain freshness. 

Can tea expire? Does tea go bad?

If you’re not convinced and don’t want to drink “old” tea, you can put it in your compost or use it to absorb odors in your cupboard.

Also, if you have puffy eyes you can moisten two tea bags and place them on your closed eyes for 20 minutes to brighten them, which is a good way to use them if you’re wondering how long does tea last.

How Long is Tea Good For?

This aged puerh tea from the Yunnan province is an example of how long tea is good for, and how it can vary by type.

If you’re truly concerned about the question “Does tea expire and when?” – here’s a general rule of thumb to guide you – in relation to tea that’s past its best by date.

  • Before Brewing – Packaged tea bags and loose-leaf tea lasts for 6 – 12 months in the pantry and 1 – 2 years in the freezer.
  • After Brewing – All types of tea last for 3 – 5 days in the fridge and 6 – 8 months in the freezer.

Whether you’re storing your unprepared or brewed tea in the pantry, fridge or freezer, always store it in an airtight container to keep out the light, moisture and other contaminants.

Pro Tip: Many of the best tea brands out there will indicate ‘best before’ dates on their packages – but you should be just fine to drink it past that date. Plus, drinking up some older teas from your pantry is a perfect excuse to try some new flavors of tea.

Do Tea Bags Expire?

How long do tea bags last? Again, it’s all about storage but the packaging and the materials used to make the bags might slightly alter their longevity. Stored properly at room temperature, tea bags can retain their flavor for up to 2 years, depending on the quality and packaging.

If you do decide to store your tea in the fridge or freezer, keep in mind that condensation can occur, so you might want to use a vacuum sealed bag or packaging system to reduce the possibility of spoilage and water getting into the tea.

If you are still asking – “how long do tea bags last?” and “does tea expire?” perhaps it’s better to purchase a few new bags than risk giving stale tea to your guests..

How Long Does Loose Leaf Tea Last?

Have you ever wondered how long does loose leaf tea last?
Next up, let’s talk about storing your tea to increase the amount of time that your loose leaf tea lasts before losing potency or flavor.

Although most teas are roughly the same in terms of longevity, there are some variables to take into consideration, in terms of freshness and how long it takes for tea to go stale.

The more oxidized the tea is, the longer it will last, like black teas. Herbal, white and green teas are not oxidized, so they will lose flavor sooner.

The longer you keep tea, the quicker it oxidizes when the air finally gets to it, making it bitter but also bland. If you’re worried about drinking tea that might’ve lost its flavor, here’s a guide to give you an idea. In regards to proper storage:

The Best Containers for Storing Tea

  • Stainless steel tins are best for blocking  light and durability.
  • Dark-colored glass jars  are easy to clean, block the light and don’t absorb odors.

The Worst Containers for Tea Storage

  • Plastic as chemicals can leach into the tea, it absorbs odors and it’s not as airtight as tin or glass.
  • Paper bags or wooden boxes  which absorb odors, unless the tea is packaged in foil
  • Containers with leaks or holes let in air and increase oxidation or the risk of mould.

So, the short answer to “Does tea expire?” is no – but it can spoil or become stale. Store bought tea generally lasts 6 – 12 months after the best before date if stored properly, but it’s best to use it within 3 months for a fresh cup that won’t disappoint.