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I have a habit of “saving” my best tea for a special occasion or special guest, but that special occurrence never occurs, and when I finally break open the seal, the tea has become so old that it has become about as tasty as foot powder. Last month I purchased some exquisite High Mountain Oolong that I am “saving.” How do I get over this hoarding instinct? And, how long should I expect tea to be “fresh”? What is the best way to keep tea fresh?
Saving my Tie Guan Yin
All tea drinkers have this problem from time to time (I know I have!) I would recommend always opening your tea soon after you get it. You don’t have to drink it all at once–in fact, you might find it impossible to do so–but it is meant to be enjoyed, whether solo or with company. Try not to deny yourself the pleasure! As Dostoyevsky wrote, “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”
As many claim that High Mountain Oolong is the best tea on earth, why not indulge right away? Tea is about the current moment–what is going on in the here and now. If you cannot resist saving it for a while, choose a brand with a vacuum sealed container.
While this recommendation is fine and dandy, what does one do if you’ve passed the stage or prevention and it’s already expired? No one wants to sip foot powder.
It never hurts to know the shelf life of your tea to avoid unsavory incidents. If you store your tea in a location full of light and humidity, this can be a factor contributing to an early expiration. Most tea lasts for about a year or two if stored properly, although even that can be pushing it. Less oxidized teas expire more quickly. High Mountain Oolong is a semi-oxidized (or fermented tea).
Do you have a compost? When you find yourself accidentally hoarding tea, you might not feel as guilty if you give it the opportunity to go back to its roots . . . or to nourish another plant’s roots.
Editor’s note: Dear Teabauchery will answer reader questions about every aspect of tea, dispensing well-researched – and often witty – advice! You may send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org