Does tea expire or spoil? It's an interesting question with a complex answer. You can't answer that question with a simple yes or no. To make things even more confusing, I think it's the wrong question to ask in the first place. The question should be, what is the shelf life of tea? The answer to this question is, it depends. There are too many types of teas to be able to clump them all together into one and make an unequivocal statement that tea spoils or not. When it comes to the shelf life of tea, there are two essential questions. What kind of tea is it, and what's the right way to store it? Proper storage can extend the life of your tea, so you get the flavor and experience you're supposed to enjoy. There are more than three categories of tea, but here at Hackberry tea, we offer three, loose-leaf, aged tea, and matcha. We'll look at how long each tea kind of lasts and how to properly store it to make sure you get the most out of your tea.
There are many kinds of loose-leaf tea. There's black, green, white, herbal, rooibos, and tisane. They aren't often grouped together because they can be very different from each other. But, the one thing they have in common is shelf-life. These teas don't spoil or expire, but they will lose flavor, aroma, and health benefits if they aren't stored properly over an extended period of time. I suggest buying tea in smaller quantities, so you always have fresh tea on hand.
Tea's worst enemy is sunlight, oxygen, and sudden temperature changes. Store your tea in an air-container container that prevents light from entering. The better the container, the fresher your tea will be, especially if it takes you a long time to drink your tea. Store your tea in a pantry or dark cupboard if you have air-tight containers that let light in. You can also purchase containers specifically designed to block out light rays. Dark containers also help maintain and sometimes increase the number of catechins in tea, especially in aged and fermented teas, which I will talk about next.
Aged and Fermented Tea
Would you believe me if I told you that some tea improves with time? It's true! Pu'erh tea is aged and fermented over a long period of time. It has a long history too. The ancient Chinese started the fermenting and aging technique long ago. It's documented that they would age their teas for up to 40 to 50 years. To learn more about the history and processing of Pu'erh tea, check out our blog. Storage is still critical because if you know the process of fermentation and how microbes are encouraged to grow, the temperature, oxygen flow, and humidity levels are closely monitored and manipulated to be just right. It's not a random process. The highest quality Pu'erh comes from the oldest tea plants, and only suitable leaves are picked. From beginning to end, it's a detailed and meticulous process. The longer the tea ages, the more antioxidants and catechins build up and the flavor improves.
The storage process for Pu’erh is no different than loose-leaf tea. The darker the container, the better, and make sure it's air-tight. Doing these things will ensure that your Pu'erh tea continues to age properly.
Although it's believed that matcha won't necessarily spoil, the taste can be affected by not storing it properly. It's thought that matcha can last for up to a year, but when you consider how it's processed, it's best to make sure you have a full-proof storage process at home to preserve all that match has to offer. Although the storage process is similar to other teas, the negative effect of outside elements is more noticeable with matcha than with other teas. The ancient Japanese would store matcha in ceramic pots high in the mountains because the climate was cold at high elevations. And now, ceremonial grade matcha is still stored in cool and dry places. Since ceremonial grade is harvested only once a year, matcha producers must be able to store their matcha correctly to keep it fresh and continue to sell it year-round. Matcha is so delicate that it's worth the extra effort to make sure it stays fresh. For more information about how matcha is grown and processed and why it's such a delicate tea, visit our matcha 101 blog.
Proper matcha storage is a lot like other tea, but it's absolutely essential to store it in a dark air-tight tin to keep its freshness. I've heard that some people store it in the refrigerator. If you do, I will caution you to make sure it's matcha meant to be used in the future. When you're ready to take it out of the refrigerator, it needs to sit at room temperature for a few hours to prevent sudden temperature changes. Sudden changes can cause condensation, which will increase humidity which can negatively affected matcha. It can also take on flavors from food in your refrigerator. I don't know about you, but I don't want chicken flavored matcha. I suggest, just like I did for loose-leaf tea, which is especially true for matcha, order smaller amounts so you can always have fresh matcha on hand. As long as you are storing matcha correctly, the shelf-life can be pretty long.
The key to freshness in your tea is proper storage, whether you're drinking loose-leaf tea, aged tea, or matcha. Getting tea from a reputable source is also essential. Remember the words dark, cool, dry, air-tight when you’re storing your tea. At Hackberry Tea, we pride ourselves on offering premium and delicious teas. We only offer ceremonial grade matcha of the highest quality. So when you buy tea from us, make sure you store it properly so you can keep enjoying it over and over again without compromising flavor or health benefits.
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Try our ceremonial grade matcha