You would think that asking the question “Does tea expire?” is reasonable, as most foods tend to spoil, 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.
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?
If you’re asking “Can tea expire?” then there’s a distinction between the best before date and expiration date, as previously discussed. 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.
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. An herbal tisane infused with fruit juices, for example, could be more likely to spoil or go rancid sooner.
Always store tea in an airtight container, such as a tin or glass jar and keep it out of the 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?
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.
Protip: 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 get some new 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 packaging system to reduce the possibility of spoilage.
If you still asking – “how long do tea bags last?” and “does tea expire?” brew a cup and see if it’s stale before offering to guests.
How Long Does Loose Leaf Tea Last?
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 if you’re asking – “How long does loose leaf tea last?” – in regards to proper storage:
The Best Containers for Storing Tea
- Stainless steel tins – for blocking the most light and durability
- Dark-colored glass jars – which are easy to clean, block the light and don’t absorb odors
The Worst Containers for Tea Storage
- Plastic – chemicals 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 – which lets in air and increases oxidization or the risk of mold
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.