All tea leaves will eventually lose flavor, but properly stored dried tea leaves can keep their flavor for up to two years, depending on how fermented and intact the leaves are. Black tea leaves, for example, are more fermented than green or white teas, and will stay fresh for longer. Other teas, like pu-erh, improve with age. But if teas aren’t stored well, they can spoil well before their best before date. Here’s how you can keep your tea leaves fresher for longer.
What Damages Tea?
If tea isn’t stored properly, even the highest quality tea can easily go bad. In some cases, tea leaves will lose their flavor; which means that you could simply use more tea to get your desired flavor. But in cases where there are mold and mildew, the tea is totally ruined and you’d have to throw the tea out. There are five factors that can deteriorate tea: Light, moisture, heat, oxygen, and odor.
Because tea easily absorbs water from the air, it’s important to ventilate your place to deal with damp. It’s also best to store tea away from humid areas, which are abundant in kitchens. Areas around refrigerators, dishwasher vents, and stoves can be quite humid, and excess moisture in the air can lead to problems associated with mold and mildew. Storing tea in airtight containers away from these areas can prevent moisture from ruining your tea.
Though the effects of light on tea haven’t been sufficiently studied, experts agree that light exposure can degrade the quality of tea. A ceramic or tin airtight container is ideal for loose teas, although glass jars can suffice as long as they’re stored in a dark cabinet or drawer. And because tea leaves can absorb the aroma of nearby items, avoid storing tea near objects with strong odors such as spices and herbs.
Most tea lovers drink multiple kinds of tea, and if you don’t organize the different varieties it’s easy for some to be forgotten and go bad. Storing your tea collection and accessories in the same area can make your life easier and also help you keep tabs on what you have in stock. You can organize your tea by variety, time of day or preferred drinking time, flavor, and best before date; but what’s most important is being able to access all of these easily.
If you often find your teas going bad, it may be a good idea to store them in a drawer or nesting tin. These shallow containers organize your collection without stacking the different varieties; so you can easily see what’s available. The limited space also forces you to control the size of your tea collection so that it stays manageable, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy your tea while it’s fresh.
Of course every tea drinker is different. Some tea drinkers store their teas in different containers — from plastic bags to cookie tins — while others prefer a more systematic approach. It may take some time for you to figure out what works for your tea-drinking habits, but as long as you’re making sure that your tea retains its taste and aroma you’re on the right track.
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