Storing loose leaf tea

Dried tea leaves are a very sensitive foodstuff, so properly storing our tea is imperative to retain its quality and flavor. Dry tea can absorb moisture and aromas in its environment particularly fast, therefore we must store it in a well-sealed box or aroma-retaining bag. If you store tea next to spices or items with strong smell (e.g. freshly washed clothes or chemicals), the foreign odors will be detectable in the brewed liquor. Tea must also be protected from light; prolonged exposure to light causes the leaves to lose much of their aroma and color.

Expiration date of tea

Many believe that teas never expire. It is true in the sense, that tea remains safe to consume even after its expiration date, as no harmful chemicals will propagate in it. Nevertheless, how long you can store your tea without loss in quality depends on how the tea was processed, so it varies for each tea type.

Tea TypeYears AgeableNew tea
White tea2YesSpring
Chinese + Taiwan Green tea1No Early spring
Japanese Green tea Sencha1NoAutumn
Japanese Green tea Gyokuro1NoAutumn
Green Oolong tea – China (Qing Cha)1NoLate spring
Taiwan Oolong tea – High mountain oolong2NoEarly summer
Wuyi Yan Cha – Wuyi Oolong tea2-3Yes
Feng Huang Dancong Cha – Dancong Oolong tea2-3Yes
Chinese Golden Bud Red/Black tea – Hong Cha2Yes
Chinese Red/Taiwan Black tea – Hong Cha2-3No
Indian Black tea Darjeeling1No
Indian Black tea Assam2No
Young Sheng Puer tea100Yes
Old Sheng Puer tea + Shu Puer tea100Yes
Chinese Hei Cha – Fuzhuan, Anhua Cha, Lui Bao Cha 100 Yes

Darker, oxidated teas can be successfully stored for several years, indeed some types even improve their flavors with age. Green teas however require more attention to their expiration date. Green tea is most delicious when fresh, and unfortunately their flavors change dramatically over a few weeks at room temperature. If you want to retain the freshness of green tea, store it in an air-tight container in the freezer.

Storage faults

In the case of a bag or box of tea left open at ambient temperature, moisture in the air is absorbed by the leaves, which makes the brew sour, its smell and flavor unpleasantly astringent.

When re-closing a bag of green tea, try to expel air from the bag. This will avoid oxidation and help retain freshness.

When storing green tea in the refrigerator, make sure to use a well-sealed container, otherwise the tea will absorb the aromas of the other foodstuff in the fridge.

Always use a clean, dry spoon to manipulate your tea in the bag.

Storing puerh tea

In the case of puerh tea, you must protect it not from moisture but from drying out. Because the tea is continuously fermenting, this process requires air ventilation, at least 60% humidity, and fairly constant ambient temperature. In the wet season, puerh requires regular airing, while in the dry season you must provide it with humidity or use protective packaging.