Does tea expire or is it all a hoax to get you to buy more tea?
My guess is that it is...
You may have found a container of tea leaves at the back of your cupboard or maybe you have realized the expiry date on your tea has come and gone long ago.
Or perhaps you have purchased tea from an artisan shop and the tea doesn’t even have an expiration date.
And you may have wondered, does tea expire?!
Like everything in life, tea leaves do expire... Well, maybe not everything; Twinkies could probably survive a meteor like the one that killed the dinosaurs...
By the way, ‘expired tea’ doesn't mean that it is unsafe for consumption, but it will definitely lose its flavor and possibly its health benefits after some time.
If you are using Chamomile tea, for instance, to aid you in your sleep, then you may not get the desired benefits.
Anyways, if you’re using loose leaf tea, then you are passionate about your tea and the last thing you want is a bland drink when you’ve been looking forward to a nice steaming cup of comfort.
The main reason why tea expires is because of the way it is stored. It is important to store your tea in an air-tight container and out of direct sunlight, away from other heat sources, and water.
Remember that over time the natural oils and, therefore, the flavor of the tea will evaporate which means the tea can still be consumed but it will be bland.
And why the hell would anyone drink tea without flavor?
The crazy thing is, some people actually do! But who am I to judge? As long as there is no mold or pests in the tea, then it is safe to consume.
The best thing to do is buy an air-tight container, specifically for your tea leaves. Once the original packaging is opened, empty the contents into the container, and seal it.
Don't use the regular seals on the packages that the tea comes in, because they are not that good at keeping the air out, and therefore the tea will lose its freshness quicker.
The straightforward answer is: Yes, green tea does expire!
Why does green tea expire?
This tea is more temperamental than other teas. Green tea leaves are less oxidized which means they won’t last as long as regular tea and are more sensitive to light, heat, and air.
So when does green tea expire?
Green tea is appreciated for its freshness so it is best to use it within six months, but if it is stored properly then it could last up to one year.
Just be careful not to expose the tea leaves to air or direct sunlight even for a small period of time, because they can be ruined.
Plus green tea is particularly known for its health benefits. It has antioxidants which may lower the risk of some cancers, and it is known to increase one's metabolism for fat burning.
In order to get all these benefits from it, make sure that your green tea does not expire, as it is best to drink it within six months of opening the package.
Different teas expire at different times...
Even though some teas, like black tea, green tea, and oolong tea come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, they are harvested and processed differently. This creates the different flavors which then contribute to each tea’s expiry period.
Black tea is more fermented than other types of teas which means it can last longer. Black tea expires approximately within 2 to 3 years.
There are two types of oolong tea: light and dark. They are partly oxidized so they have a longer shelf life than green tea, for example.
White tea comes from the same plant as black and green tea. However, it is the least processed which means it keeps a lot of its antioxidants. And its expiry period is between 1 and 2 years.
Herbal tea will not necessarily expire if stored right but it will lose its flavor. Its expiry period is from 1 to 2 years.
Cascara or "the coffee cherry tea" has a similar expiry period to herbal teas.
This type of tea is different from the rest, in that it gets better with age. It will last the longest and can even last decades.
Matcha, which is a pure green tea powder, has the shortest shelf life of most teas. Its expiry period is up to 4 weeks if opened and 1 year if unopened.
With any tea, it is important for the tea to be stored properly to have the longest expiry period.
Store your tea in small batches and in air-tight containers. The more times the packet or container is opened, the more air is getting in and deteriorating the flavor of your tea. So storing them in small batches will help them last longer!
Tea bags, similar to loose leaf teas, can ‘expire’.
The packages that hold the tea bags and loose leaf tea will most likely have a best before date printed on them.
This date is not an expiry date, but more of a reference date. It is safe to drink the tea bags or tea leaves after that date. But to get the best out of them, it is better to drink them when they are at their freshest.
Even though tea bags are more convenient than loose leaf tea, the tea leaves in them are much smaller than loose leaf tea, which affects the natural oils in the leaves that in turn affect the quality, flavor and health benefits.
Also the loose leaf teas have a greater contact area with the water, which enhances the flavor. Plus, the larger the tea leaf, the longer it lasts. Loose leaf tea expire within 2 to 3 years whereas tea bags expire within 1 to 2 years.
If you ensure proper storage, then the tea leaves, whatever kind of tea it is, can have a considerable shelf life. Follow these 5 tips for proper storage:
Keep these tips in mind if you are not sure whether or not you can still consume your tea:
Also keep in mind that tea leaves may turn a different color or scent, but this does not mean that they can no longer be consumed; however, it will indicate that the tea is not at its best.
No they don’t as long as they are not exposed to conditions that allow mold to grow. If the tea leaves are stored properly, then they will not go moldy.
Yes, it does. The less the tea is exposed to air, the fresher it remains and the longer its flavor lasts.
They can, but it is not recommended, because a glass jar allows light and heat to enter, which are not ideal for the tea leaves’ shelf life and freshness. The same applies to plastic jars, which are even worse, because they absorb the tea leaves’ scent and flavors.
If you find your tea has passed its best before date, don’t just chuck it in the bin. It takes 2,000 tea leaves to make 1lb of tea. That’s a lot of tea leaves, and tea is a wonderful resource, not just for drinking. So don’t waste it!
Instead, you can:
1 - Use the tea leaves as fertilizer in your compost bin.
2 - Put it in a pouch and place it in your shoes to absorb smells.
3 - Bake with it. Make a Tea Loaf with cold tea or a variety of buns and cakes infused with Earl Grey or Chamomile.
4 - Make a smoothie.
5 - Use it as an eye mask. Steep the tea in hot water and let them cool before placing over your eyes to get rid of puffiness.
6 - Use it to create a shine on your wooden floors.
7 - Create a floral bath with old leaves which can also hydrate your skin.
So to wrap things up, does tea really expire? Yes, tea can expire eventually but it can be safe to consume. The main issue is that the flavor and its benefits will deteriorate with most teas after a year or more.
If your tea does expire, there are plenty of other useful ways it can be used. So whether you are drinking it or using it as an eye mask, you can still enjoy ‘expired’ tea.