The Ultimate Guide to Tea Storage

Tea Education / December 17, 2018

Have you ever sipped your favorite tea only to find the taste flat? Your disappointed frown on finding a different taste than when you first bought it and drank it.

You might have blamed the manufacturer for the decrease in quality. But did you know that the improper storage of tea can be the actual culprit?

While we’re all mindful of how we store our spices, we forget to pay the same attention to our teas. Even though, proper storage of the tea is crucial for maintaining its shelf-life, quality, taste, and aroma. In fact, adequately stored loose tea can last for about 18 to 24 months.

That said, let’s dive into the details of tea storage, its fundamentals, and how you can best go about it.

The Importance of Tea Storage

Despite tea being the second most widely consumed beverage globally, many people toss in their opened tea packages with other spices. Improper storage of loose tea can take a toll on its freshness and flavor. The focus being on flavor being lost rather than it being altered.

Proper tea storage can help you enjoy your teas for longer.

Since tea can absorb the moisture and odor around it, when loose tea is not sealed, its aroma turns unpleasant. Now that may not matter to an occasional tea drinker, but it does make a huge difference for a tea lover.

Why Does Tea Lose its Flavor if it is Not Stored Properly?

The way you should store a tea can slightly vary based on its type. Typically, teas degrade in terms of quality as their flavonoid content lowers over time. However, the phytochemicals that dried teas contain can last for up to two years if they are stored as advised. Factors such as light, heat, and moisture can strip the tea of its taste, color, and aroma.

How Should I Store Loose Leaf Tea?

Whether you are a fan of iced tea or a mug of steaming hot matcha, you need to focus on the storage part. This way, you will be able to reap an amazing tea experience. Once you’ve opened your sealed tea packet, it is best to take steps for storing the tea properly. Unless, of course, you’re going to prepare it all at once.

Rather than letting the tea leaves stay in their original packet until next use, you should move them into an airtight container. This container should then be kept in a cool, dry place away from any strong smells.

Here are some general tips on tea storage that you should keep in mind:

Store tea away from oxygen

When we talk about the quality of tea deteriorating, we’re actually talking about tea getting oxidized. Several manufacturers prevent tea oxidation or let it occur only slightly. However, once unsealed, tea leaves get oxidized as oxygen comes into contact. Since oxygen is not favorable to the situation, you should store your tea in an airtight jar.

Store tea away from heat

Another factor that you need to consider is heat. Certain teas are recommended to be stored in the freezer to avoid the high temperature. Heat can trigger oxidation, whereas, freezing the tea can slow it down. However, you should be careful with the way you store your tea in the refrigerator. The aim is to avoid condensation that can culminate in moisture formation which, in turn, weakens the tea’s quality.

Store tea away from moisture

This brings us to the role that moisture plays. When tea and moisture meet, the former loses its flavor. However, ensuring that moisture is out of the picture is not limited to keeping fluids away. Since tea is hygroscopic in nature, it can absorb moisture from the air as well. What you can do is store the tea in an airtight jar. Even though airtight containers are not entirely air-free, they work.

Store tea away from light

Light can loot the tea leaves of their naturally occurring antioxidants. It can stimulate a series of chemical reactions which can give the tea a metallic flavor. Light does not only ruin the taste of the tea, but it also spoils its color. This is why tea must be stored in a dark place and in an opaque, light-blocking container.

Store tea away from strong odors

As mentioned above, tea absorbs odors. This quality of it is useful in certain cases such as in the production of scented teas. But it can result in a repugnant smell if the tea is stored in the presence of a strong, unpleasant odor. This is why you should store your teas in tea vessels which are particularly designed for this purpose.

How Do You Store Different Teas?

Considering the variety, there is a tea for all your moods. And, because each one of them serves the purpose of making you feel better, it is your job to ensure proper storage. After all, a true fan likes his tea flavorful with just the perfect color and smell.

In this regard, here is a short explanation of how you can store some types of teas:

How to store Oolong tea

This tea must be stored in a low temperature to maintain its freshness. However, depending on the baking degree of the tea, it can also be kept in room temperature. A properly sealed tin can, iron can, or ceramic container can be used for storing oolong tea.

How to store Black tea

Black tea should be stored in a closed and dry place. It must not be kept in a place which is exposed to sunlight or heat. Along with getting damp easily, black tea can lose its scent speedily as well. Subsequently, it should be placed away from any odors.

How to store Chai tea

Like black tea, chai tea must also be stored away from heat and moisture. However, it should not be placed inside the refrigerator. If you want your chai tea to last longer, store it in a cool and dark place in an airtight container.

How to store Dark tea

Dark tea and Pu-erh tea must be kept in a ventilated and breathable environment. Kraft papers, ceramic or clay pots can work best to preserve this tea type. The storage area must be dry. It should also be odorless since the tea may absorb any outer odors which can mess with its original scent.

How to store Matcha tea

Matcha tea has a shelf-life of about a year when it is stored under proper conditions. However, if you want to enjoy it in its best state, be quick to consume it once the packet is opened. Matcha tea must be kept away from light, heat, and air. It should be stored in an air-tight, opaque container.

How to store Herbal tea

Herbal tea should also be stored in a cool place away from sunlight since light and temperature are not friendly to it. You can keep your herb tea in a sealed can to prevent moisture from seeping in. Furthermore, you can store the sealed tea tin in the refrigerator but that is not mandatory.

Tea Storage Containers To Avoid

We’ve already discussed that your tea storage vessels should be airtight and light-blocking. But there’s more to picking the right storage container for your tea than these two pointers. Some other tips that you should keep note of include:

  • Avoid plastic containers as the material can absorb and release odors
  • Don’t store tea in a transparent glass jar because it would allow light in, which can weaken the quality
  • Don’t store tea with other spices because it can absorb their aromas

Storing Tea in Bulk

When it comes to stashing several varieties of tea in your cupboard, the process is not complicated when you’ve got the know-how. You just have to label tea containers to be able to remember which type is inside without having to open all the canisters to check. When you open a container several times, you give air and moisture a chance to barge in.

If you have a business where you serve tea to customers or employees, then you have to be even more careful. You have to ensure that you buy high-quality teas which come with complete equipment and support solutions.

Conclusion

Since tea holds such worldwide significance, it is important to serve it fresh not only to others but also to yourself. To keep your tea fresh and flavorful make sure to store it properly.

Loose tea should be shifted to an airtight container away from sunlight, odor, and moisture in a cool and dark place. This will not only maintain its quality but its shelf-life too. Kakuzo Okakura was right when he said, “Tea … is a religion of the art of life.”

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