Much like good coffee storage, proper tea storage is imperative to its shelf life, quality, and flavor. Learn how to keep your tea fresh and delicious with these easy tea storage tips.
Storage Conditions to Avoid
Avoiding just five storage conditions will make a huge difference in the shelf life of your tea. These factors are light, heat, moisture, odor, and air.
Light and UV rays degrade tea very quickly. Avoid buying tea from vendors who store tea in clear glass or plastic containers, and avoid storing your tea in anything clear unless you plan on keeping it in a dark cabinet.
Heat also degrades tea. Avoid placing it in the sun or near a heat sources like stoves and ovens.
Moisture causes problems, too; tea is shelf stable because it's dry and absorbs water from the air very easily. You'll also benefit by keeping the tea away from humid areas, like above a dishwasher vent or in a refrigerator. You won't want to expose your tea to liquid moisture either unless you're brewing it.
Tea absorbs odors very easily. This trait allows for the creation of amazing scented teas, such as Jasmine Pearls, but it also means that storing your tea near a spice cabinet, trashcan or another aromatic area is a no-no.
Air exposure increases the chance of your tea absorbing moisture and odors. Avoid leaving tea out, sealing the package without pressing out excess air, or storing it in porous packaging materials, like paper bags.
How to Store Tea Properly
Avoiding the five 'tea killers' above means you'll have to consider the location, packaging material and packaging mechanism you're using to store your tea. Here are the best practices for each:
- Store far away from anything with a strong odor.
- Store in a dark cabinet or completely opaque container.
- Keep delicate teas separate from strongly scented teas.
- Avoid storing tea in humid areas of your kitchen or house.
Tea Storage Materials:
- Use opaque packaging if possible.
- Be sure your packaging is food-safe (for example, don't use a pencil case to hold tea).
- Glazed ceramics, non-reactive metals, and opaque, non-leaching plastics all make great packaging materials.
- Wood packaging may be a workable option, but be aware that many wood containers have odors that can influence the tea's taste.
- The bags that suppliers sell tea in vary widely in terms of quality. For long-term storage, make sure your bags are multi-ply with an inner layer of foil or glassine (a substance similar to wax paper). This avoids contamination by water, air or grease.
Tea Storage Mechanisms
A tight seal is key. If the mechanism can hold water, it can protect tea. Good options include:
- Double lids (these are common with metal tea canisters).
- Odor-free silicone seals (also common with metal canisters).
- Multi-ply bags with resealable plastic 'zippers.'
- If your vendor doesn't use adequate packaging for your tea, resist the urge to continue storing it poorly. Invest in quality packaging and your tea will thank you.
- Buy fresh tea in small quantities. If you live in an area where good tea is hard to find, ask your favorite vendors if they offer shipping.
- Only open what you can drink in the next few months. Unless they are well-stored aged pu-erhs or aged oolongs, don't hold onto teas for years. Instead, drink them when they are at their freshest and best.