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If you’re a tea connoisseur, proper tea storage will be very close to your heart, but it’s something that more casual drinkings can take advantage of, too.
Similarly to coffee, the quality, flavor and shelf life of tea can vary enormously. With less expensive teas, it’s possible they haven’t necessarily been stored perfectly before making their way to your kitchen, but with higher-quality teas, you can keep them tasting great for a lot longer with some really simple care techniques.
While it’s unlikely that any tea will ever actually ‘go bad’ (at least before you’ve had a chance to drink it), it can go stale and lose its flavor. The longer it is kept in the cupboard, the faster it will lose its freshness and flavor profile, depending on how it is stored.
As a first rule of thumb, you should buy fresh teas in small quantities (Even though that’s almost impossible thanks to some of the amazing tea brands out there). Only buy what you can consume within a month or two. Tea tastes best when it’s at its freshest. An exception to this rule of thumb is well aged Pu Erh, aged Oolong Teas and other post-fermented teas where a controlled and ongoing process of oxidation is desired.
According to a major international tea packaging supplier, the following 5 storage conditions should be avoided at all costs:
Avoid These Conditions for Better Tea Storage
5. Does Light Ruin Tea?
Light and UV rays will degrade tea quickly which is why storing tea in glass or transparent plastic containers is not a good idea unless these are then placed in a dark cupboard. While there is no robust scientific evidence to explain the chemical process, we do know that light induced damage makes tea taste metallic, so it’s wise to keep your tea in the dark.
4. Do High Temperatures Damage Tea?
Tea will also degrade in hot conditions since the heat will speed up the oxidisation process. Consequently, is highly recommended to keep your tea leaves away from heat sources (hobs, ovens) or store it in full sunshine.
3. Will Moisture Ruin my Tea?
Tea must be kept dry at all times until it’s ready to brew and the tea leaves release their flavour. Tea is hygroscopic, meaning it will easily absorb moisture from the air, so keep it well away from humid conditions such as near boiling water, near a dishwasher vent or in the fridge. An airtight container is a good way to keep out any moisture.
2. Will Odors Impact Tea?
Since tea will absorb aromas easily, it is important to keep it away from undesirable smells including your spice rack or the bin! Aromatic teas such as jasmine are produced by storing the leaves in close proximity of fragrant jasmine blossoms. Unless you want an accidental aromatic tea, ensure that the leaves are stored in odor-free containers – wood, plastic and rubber can all impart their own fragrance – and away from any unpleasant smells.
1. Does Exposure To Air Ruin Tea?
Finally, exposing tea to the air means that it will continue to oxidise. Even in airtight containers, the remaining air in the tin will react with the tea. That’s why some manufacturers use nitrogen flushing techniques to vacuum seal their teas, while others may use oxygen absorber packets that use iron and salt to absorb the oxygen.
Interestingly, green, white and yellow teas that are less oxidised will degrade more quickly than more heavily oxidized teas such as black teas and oolong tea. As a rule of thumb, the smaller or more broken up the leaves are, the higher the surface area in contact with the air and the more oxidization will take place.
Once you’re clear about the 5 cardinal sins of tea storage, it’s actually very simple. Keep your tea in an airtight container, store the container in a dark, cool, dry place that is free from strong odours, and you’re there.
When choosing the best packaging materials to keep your loose leaf tea fresh:
Use opaque packaging, so the tea leaves are not exposed to light. For that reason, transparent plastic sandwich bags are not appropriate.
All tea packaging must be food safe. Pencil cases or cosmetics containers are not good tea storing options.
Suitable materials for tea containers include glazed ceramics, non-reactive metals and opaque plastics, while wooden containers must be treated with caution to check their odour won’t influence the flavour of the tea.
A tight seal is important, such as double lids with metal tea caddies, or odour-free silicone seals.
Paper bag packaging should be multi-ply with an inner layer of foil or glassine (similar to wax paper) which minimises water, air and grease contamination. A resealable plastic zip is also a good idea.