Storing loose leaf tea seems simple in theory, but in practice, there are several complicating factors you need to keep in mind. Below, we’ll cover the how and why behind tea degradation, and what you need to know to store your tea and keep it fresh.
What is the basic theory for storing tea?
Conventional wisdom states that, to keep the tea from losing its potency and taste, you need to store it in a cool, dry, dark place in an airtight storage container, free from strong odours. If you store your tea right after purchase, you’ll probably get to drink and enjoy it long before it oxidises…
What is oxidation?
Oxidation is the process in which air, or oxygen, breaks down the integrity of an element and the element begins to decay. Teas will naturally oxidise over time. But it’s hard to fully enjoy a cup of loose leaf tea if it has been subject to too much oxidation. The tea becomes drier and staler, which affects the taste.
Some tea will lose its potency quickly if you allow it to oxidise before you can consume it. It’s not worth the trouble if it doesn’t taste good, so you’re wasting money if you don’t properly store your tea.
If you’re an oolong or black tea drinker, these teas are already exposed to the oxidation process during production, so you won’t notice the loss of potency with these teas as much as you would with, say, a green or yellow tea.
So what are the two basic rules for tea storage?
- Green, yellow, and white teas degrade faster than black and oolong teas.
- Loose leaf teas have more contact with the air and will degrade faster than non-loose leaf teas.
What are the basic tenets of proper tea storage?
- Tea must be kept in an airtight container.
- It must be kept safe from moisture and strong odours.
- Tea must be kept away from light and heat.
- Tea is best stored in bulk.
Airtight isn’t air-free. Tea storage tins help create a seal that is considered airtight but there is still ambient air in the tin. Having said that, tea storage tins will definitely keep your tea fresher for longer than if you store your tea in a container without an airtight seal, or no container at all.
Tea storage boxes don’t offer as strong of a seal as a tea tin, but they do keep out moisture and light, and protect the tea from strong odours. The more tea you store in a tin or box, the less surface area it will have to make contact with oxygen. Therefore, tea will stay fresher for longer if you store the tea in bulk.
If you’re keen to increase your tea’s lifespan for a long time, the best method is to vacuum seal the tea and then store it in an opaque box.
How long will loose leaf tea stay fresh?
Storage plays a huge role in how long your loose leaf tea will stay fresh. If well-stored, yellow, white, and green teas will last about a year. Without storing them properly, they can degrade within a matter of weeks or months, depending on the type of tea.
Black and oolong teas that are well-stored can last up to two years without losing potency. If left out in the open, these teas can last about a year.
Tea is not only good for your health; it’s a joy and a pleasure to drink. But without proper storage, your tea won’t last as long, and you may not get to drink it before it loses its potency. To keep teas fresh, make sure you take the time to properly store the tea in an airtight container, vacuum seal bag or box.