Wondering how long can you keep tea bags?
The various types of teas such as green, white, oolong, and black come from the leaves of the same plant. However, they differ in the way their leaves are processed past the harvesting stage, and just before the drying stage. All the teas eventually lose their flavor and the nutrients in them degrade.
Nevertheless, the tea leaves that are dried up and preserved, by the process of drying and are mostly kept away from heat, water, air, or light can last up to two years. The dried leaves will last longer if they are fermented better and the dried leaves remain intact.
In contrast, black tea leaves are more fermented than the green, white and even oolong tea is somewhere between. The scale for intactness of the leaves differs from leaf to leaf, and the amount of fanning (small pieces of leaves), as well as the dust particles, left behind.
Teabags often have fanning and dust particles since they brew rather quickly. You may often find whole leaves in some tea bags that require room to expand. For a flavonoid-rich and tasteful tea that you would like to preserve for the next two years use an airtight container to store it. Moreover, make sure that you keep it away from the stove or sink.
There are numerous types of teas and it is overwhelming to keep a track of them. If you are a tea enthusiast, it is likely that you buy different flavors and test them out. Some of these turn out to taste amazing while others not so much. While there are also those that you never get around to tasting. These resurface in your pantry after months.
The real question here is, has the tea gone bad? Most people just throw them out if they have crossed the expiry date on the label. While others have a hard time believing that the tea has gone bad. If you identify yourself with the latter then here is an informative article on “How long can you keep teabags?”
How to store tea?
Storing tea is similar to storing coffee. It needs to be stored in a dry and dark environment where no heat, light, or air is accessible to it. The pantry is the perfect spot for storage however the cupboard is the most convenient one. Once the packet is open make sure to transfer it to an airtight container or seal the packet away.
Air circulation fast forwards the aging cycle of the tea leaves and our job is to avoid that as much as possible. For tea that comes in paper bags and cannot be resealed, you could always transfer it to the container. Many jars and containers are available for this purpose.
If making your tea last for longer periods is not what you’re looking for then you could always leave it in its original packaging.
How long does tea last?
When you purchase your tea there is a best before the date that comes printed onto the packaging. The date is an indicator for an approximate range the tea will retain its freshness. This date has nothing to do with the tea bags going bad.
The tea rarely ever goes bad on its own. It needs to come in contact with moisture to degrade in quality over time. Henceforth the date on the packaging is just an idea of how long you can expect the tea to taste at its best. Even after the specified date, you can still use it as long as it does not smell foul.
One can’t predict how long after the printed date the tea will taste like its flavorful self. A general concept that floats among the assorted tea community is that the more processed the leaves are the better it retains its flavor. This proves that the most common type of tea which is earl grey tea lasts the longest.
Oolong tea on the other hand is mildly processed and ranks somewhere between black and green tea lasts for a lesser time. While green tea is the least processed out of the three and lasts for a shorter duration.
Fun fact about tea
Apart from the type of tea the quality of the tea also plays a great role in identifying its life span. Green tea that is of good quality can last longer than a poor-quality Earl grey tea.
To sum it up tea bags and tea leaves that are of good quality can be kept for about a year past the printed date. Another type of tea is red tea, also known as the Pu-erh tea. This tea is made through the process of fermentation, unlike the other type which puts it on higher rank when it comes to quality and taste.
However, it would be incorrect to expect a rather cheap quality red tea to last for years in storage.
How to tell if the tea has gone bad?
What seems to be the most difficult part is to be able to tell if the tea has gone bad. Even the tea is safe to use it does not necessarily mean the tea will taste flavorful. As mentioned above the tea will lose its freshness over time.
The only way to tell if the tea has gone bad is by brewing it. If the tea tastes stale or the flavor seems to be uncoordinated, then it might be time to throw it out. The tea is still safe to drink but the taste is just not the best. So no need to worry about it upsetting your stomach. Therefore making it one of the top reasons why you should immediately get rid of it.
Tips on how to store tea and teabags
- Storage conditions matter the most in keeping tea fresh for a longer duration. To maximize its shelf life, preserve the tea in a cool dark cabinet.
- Storing the tea bags at room temperature can help them last for about 18-24 months.
- For better potency and flavor retention store in an airtight container.
- If the packaging of the tea is undamaged and unopened then the tea maybe fresh despite having crossed its expiration date. The date is just an estimate of how long the tea will retain its quality and flavor. It certainly does not mean that the tea has gone bad or if it will lose its flavor.
- Commercially packaged tea bags do not get spoilt rather they start to lose flavor over time.
- Storing tea bags in the fridge or a freezer is not recommended at all. The fridge contains moisture and condensation can ruin the taste and flavor of the tea.
- To test if the tea has lost its flavor brew a mug of it and leave it for 5-8 minutes. If the aroma of the tea seems weak and the flavor seems bland then you might realize the teabags need a replacement.
Do tea bags go bad or expire?
Teabags can last a year in the back of your pantry probably even longer than that. However, they are still safe to consume. They do lose their color or flavor once they cross the date printed on the packaging. The date represents the best quality and not safety.
How long can you keep tea bags after the expiration date?
Approximately about 6 months to a year. Both tea bags and tea leaves retain their quality during this time.
Can old tea make you sick?
Tea should be consumed right after it has been brewed. Old tea will taste weird due to the antioxidants that are present in it. Old tea does not usually make you sick, but I would not recommend that you consume it. If you do have doubts about its taste better to throw it out than to drink it all the way. The same goes for old tea leaves which may only be safe to drink as long as the packaging suggests.
What can I do with old unused tea bags?
If you do happen to find a bunch of old tea bags in your closet, then here are some ways to use them:
- Use the old tea leaves to freshen up your rugs and carpets.
- Brew them up for an oxidizing mask for eye bags.
- You could hydrate your dry skin patches with it.
- Sunburns hurt a lot; you could use them to soothe the redness
- Clean up stiff greasy kitchen counter-top stains.
- They serve as a great way to polish wood.
- Whip up a relaxing bath with them.
To answer your question on how long can you keep tea bags
You could brew old tea bags and if they don’t smell bad or taste weird it is okay to consume old tea. However, I would recommend that you use them in some other way rather than consuming it. They serve as a great way to get rid of bad odors and maybe you could reuse them as a life hack too!
Let us know if you have a crazy life hack for reusing teabags.
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