Does Tea Go Bad?

Does tea go bad or not? Is it safe to consume tea after the best before date (BBD)? Here are all the answers you are looking for.

There are billions of tea lovers worldwide who love to stock up on different varieties of tea.

There’s good reason to be crazy about teas. Tea leaves are exceptionally rich in antioxidants that help build our immunity and prevent infections.

A lot of different varieties of tea, like white, green, black, and oolong, are sourced from the same plant. It’s the varying processing techniques that give unique qualities and taste to the different varieties.

Many people prefer to buy small quantities of different teas to sample, and unsurprisingly we all have plenty of tea sitting at the back of our kitchen cabinets.

So you might be wondering whether tea goes bad or not, or do tea leaves ever expire. Keep on reading to learn about the shelf life of tea and how to store it.

Does It Go Bad? The Summary

cup of tea

Yes, tea does expire, but it relatively has a considerably longer shelf life than most foods. The good thing is that expired tea does not harm the human body. You won’t get a tummy ache from drinking old tea, but it definitely won’t be any better than drinking plain warm water.

If you happen to have old packets and pouches of tea in your pantry, the chances are that the aroma and taste of the leaves would have faded. Expired teas do not have any nutrients since all the natural oils in them have already dried up.

Different varieties of tea have different time frames at which they degrade and lose their best quality. You can efficiently repress the shelf life and the best quality of your tea by storing it properly since storage plays a significant role in preserving its freshness.

Reasons Why Tea Leaves Expire

Tea leaves or tea bags that are not stored properly are prone to losing their freshness and degrade much quicker than usual. Tea is bound to expire if exposed to direct sunlight, heat, moisture, or mold.

Every tea product has an expiration date on the packaging. Still, it can be consumed past its expiration date since appropriate storage play a critical role in preserving the tea quality. Tea leaves have a natural tendency to absorb moisture and odor from the atmosphere, which actually promotes the quality’s degradation.

How Long Does Tea Last At Its Best Quality?

tea brands

Many packaged teas have a best-by date printed on the packing, and that date has got nothing to do with safety. This is because the best-by date indicates the time by which the freshness of the tea will last.

Tea is safe for use even when it goes past its expiration or best-by date. The dates only signify the permanence of the leaves’ flavors, and they differ with each type of tea. If a variety of tea is more processed, it will significantly retain taste much longer than the other types.

That’s why black teas like Earl Grey and English Breakfast last much longer in quality than other teas out there. The other variety, the Oolong tea, lasts reasonably well since it involves both green tea and black tea processing methods. In contrast, green tea is the least processed tea that lasts the shortest.

But here’s the kicker!

It’s not just the tea type that determines the time frame for the best quality, but the tea leaves’ quality also plays a significant role. A good quality green tea can last much longer than a black tea, which is of lower quality.

Only Pu-erh (or red) tea improves and retains its quality over time since it’s a fermented tea.

Both tea bags and loose tea leaves retain the best flavor and aroma for up to 6 to 12 months past the best-by date IF appropriately stored. It would be best if you never keep an opened tea pouch or uncovered tea bags in the fridge since tea tends to absorb all the surroundings’ moisture and odor.

Can I Use My Expired Tea Leaves?

cup of tea at sunset

Although expired tea leaves are safe for consumption and do not affect our health, it’s a good idea to either chuck them out or use them for other productive purposes.

Note: Herbal and flavored teas should not be used past the expiration date since they contain other ingredients that might cause minor or major health issues.

Use Expired Tea Bags To Depuff

Do you wake up with puffy eyes that take longer to depuff? No worries. Dab and cover your eyelids with tea bags dampened with icy cold water. Keep them on for 10-15mins.

Use Expired Tea Leaves As Compost

Don’t throw out that precious loose tea just because it has gone past its expiration date! Use it as compost for your garden or house plants

Storage Tips To Keep The Tea Leaves Fresh

floating tea bag

Tea needs to be stored properly if you require longer quality retention from it. You can easily store loose tea leaves and tea bags using the following storage tips.

Storage Tips

  • Keep unopened packages of tea away from heat sources in a dark, cool place. A cupboard in the kitchen is an ideal spot for tea storage.
  • Loose tea leaves or tea bags should be transferred into airtight containers once opened. You can keep tag bags in a slender jar with an airtight lid; use it for kitchen decor and place it on a counter away from the stove.
  • You don’t have to worry about transferring tea bags if they come in individual, foiled, and sealed packaging.
  • Do not open the packaging of your tea frequently between uses.
  • Do not use wet spoons to scoop out tea leaves from the jar.
  • If you do not have vacuum-sealed bags, do not store your tea in the fridge because it can retain all the odor from the fridge into the leaves.

The Summary: Tea Storage & Shelf Life

Tea has an expiration and best-by date, but it can safely be consumed past the mentioned dates on the packaging. Expired tea does not cause health problems but it is useless to be consumed since it loses its aroma, flavor, and nutrients.

The shelf life of tea leaves can be extended with proper storage. Use airtight containers for storage.

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Alisa Shimoyama
Alisa Shimoyama

Alisa eats her way around the world on her travels and likes to have good food ready and waiting for her when she gets back.