Guest contribution by Sufi Mohamed
Loose-leaf teas are sensitive and the best thing you can do for them is to store them in places that are ideal. They are vulnerable to light, air, and moisture, and they tend to absorb (in subtle ways) the flavors and aromas of the places and things they come in contact with. It’s highly recommended to store them in an airtight container or seal, in a cool and dry place.
Tea leaves contain 3 percent of moisture and volatile oils that are essential to its flavor. This unique chemistry is susceptible to the variable environments the tea leaves encounter, and these oils will evaporate if they aren’t stored properly. So what’s the shelf life of tea? Green tea has a shelf life of 6-8 months, oolong tea can last for 1-2 years, and black tea has the longest at over 2 years. Flavored teas can last the shortest and degrade really quickly if not stored correctly.
Buy seasonal harvest
The local tea harvest has the highest potential for making its full shelf life. This may largely be due to the fact that those tea leaves are highly suited to those conditions. Getting the fresh tea from local suppliers will be your best bet!
Seal it up
Be sure that after using tea the tea bag is tightly sealed.
Keep it airtight
Store tea in opaque caddies made of tin, or ceramic, or even stainless steel containers. These usually come with airtight lids. Be sure to keep the teas in these containers and that they are airtight enough that its odors don’t permeate outside!
Buy in small quantities
Too much tea that sits around is probably a bad idea. If you’re unsure what tea to buy, getting those taster packs (small samples) might help you get an idea about what those teas you like actually taste, without having to buy a quantity you don’t need! I don’t recommend buying more tea than you can actually store, or have the containers to use!
Keep it cool
The ideal place to store tea is a cool, dry place. Don’t put it in the fridge, or even near a fridge. A low cupboard will do fine. Keep it away from other spices, herbs, or any sources of heat.
Be sure to buy tea that you can actually consume. Buying too many means that you don’t have the opportunity to taste them all in time, and it might be some years before you can actually try all your teas.
Store in the fridge
Through condensation, the tea leaves will absorb the surrounding moisture. This makes the leaves too susceptible to breakage and will significantly affect their flavor.
Store in unlined wooden container
Storing tea in loose-fitting containers that don’t have a protective, air-sealed lining will cause the air to seep in, eventually making the tea leaves stale or even mouldy. If you do store in loose-fitting containers, be sure to put the tea leaves in an airtight seal.
Buy old tea
Find out how old the tea is before you buy it and use that as a reference for its pending shelf life.
Expose to light
Don’t store the loose tea leaves in a see-through container, because the light that comes into the container will alter its chemistry, and perhaps even lighten its color.
Storing above the oven
Don’t store tea leaves near hot surfaces, or objects that produce heat. They weaken the chemistry and affect the leaves. The heat will degrade the leaves.
Store with other teas
Storing with other teas will affect the tea, because they exchange flavors and aroma. They “leach” into one another.
Keep with spices
If you store teas near spices, you will have very unusual tea! The leaves will absorb the aroma and odors that come from the spices. Keep them as separate as possible.
Knowing the shelf life of your teas and how to maintain them is one of the best things you can do for your teas and for you, to get the flavors and aromas of them. Be sure to avoid the DON’TS and DO what you can!
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