I’m sitting here on my balcony, and I started to think about this question: How long does loose tea last? I thought that many other people probably have this exact same question and are looking for answers. Therefore, I wrote this article to shed some light and share a simple but detailed explanation for anyone who is curious.
While this question is straightforward, there are some important factors to be aware of that can affect how long your loose tea lasts. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with all the information that you need. Here’s the short and sweet answer:
In general, loose tea lasts about 6-24 months. How long loose tea lasts depends on the variety of tea. Black tea, green tea, and oolong tea all have different shelf lives. How and where you store your tea also has a big impact on how long loose tea lasts. Let’s look at the finer details and learn how to maximize the shelf life of our loose tea.
One thing that I will say right off the bat is that we recommend that you consume your loose tea within 3 to 6 months of purchasing (unless it is an aged tea like we will discuss below). By doing so you are able to get the most out of your tea in terms of flavor and benefits, and it will be an all around more enjoyable experience for you.
Another expert tip is to date your tea as soon as you get it home. This way you know exactly how long you have been holding on to it, and you don’t need to guesstimate.
Okay so back to the question: how long does loose tea last at room temperature? The simple answer is that loose tea will generally last for about 12 to 24 months if you properly store it. Technically, tea will last a lot longer than that, but quality of the tea really suffers over time.
Everything naturally degrades, so even though tea doesn’t necessarily ‘go bad’ it does degrade over time. As a result, the flavor and the benefits of the tea are negatively affected. The flavor will become less enjoyable to your palette, and your body will not receive as many of the healing benefits of the tea as it would when the tea was fresh.
This is why we always recommend that you consume your loose tea within 3 to 6 months of purchasing. There is really no reason to stock up more than that. You can always just order more tea, and that’s exactly what we suggest doing.
Order fresh tea every 3-6 months so that you get the freshest, best-tasting tea.
Even better yet, get a tea subscription so that you get fresh tea delivered to your doorstep every month and don’t even have to think about it!
We are in the process of getting our tea subscription set up at Aum Tea, which Jiaogulan lovers have been requesting. If you want to get into our subsription model early, then contact us and let us know.
For those of you who are curious to know how long different varieties of loose tea last in particular, we have created an easy reference guide for you below.
Because each of these teas are delicate, you want to be especially mindful when storing them. When stored properly, these varieties of tea will remain fresh for up to a year.
Black tea, oolong tea, and some other dark teas are naturally exposed to more oxygen during the production process. As a result, these teas are not as delicate as green, white, or herbal tea. Therefore, when stored properly they can last two years.
Any kind of flavored tea will have a shorter shelf life. Whether it is a tea flavored with fruit, or Earl Grey flavored with bergamot oil, these flavored teas will last about six months to a year when stored properly.
This is a type of tea that plays by different rules. Pu-erh is a special variety of tea that is naturally aged in a fermentation process. This sets it apart from most other teas, and it also means that it lasts much longer than most other teas as well.
Similar to a fine wine, the flavor of pu-erh develops and changes over time. In general, the flavor of pu-erh gets better over time. Therefore, if stored properly, most pu-erh tea can be stored indefinitely.
There seems to be a lot of different opinions as to whether or not storing tea in the fridge is a smart idea or not. Some people vow to never put their tea in the refrigerator, while others feel that their tea better retains its aroma and freshness when stored this way.
If you look around the internet or talk in person with tea lovers, we are sure that you will come to this same conclusion.
You want to be very careful if you are going to store tea in the fridge, and really, it should only be used for long-term storage. If you regularly drink your tea then there is absolutely no reason to store it in the fridge anyway.
So why shouldn't I store my loose tea in the fridge?
Well, one of the biggest problems is that your tea can be easily contaminated by other food in your refrigerator. Unless you truly have an airtight container to store your tea in, then your tea will most likely become contaminated to some degree.
Odors and other aromas will inevitably sneak in, which will ruin your tea. If you do decide to store your tea in the fridge, however, then we have some insider tips for you.
When you are getting ready to take your tea out of the fridge and brew a cup or pot, you want to make sure you allow it to adjust to room temperature first. Even better yet, take your tea out the day before you want to make it and allow it to fully adjust to the room conditions.
If you don’t follow this step, then humidity in the air will damage your loose tea.
When you look at the package or container that you removed from the fridge, you will see that it's a little wet on the outside. Any amount of moisture can drastically shorten the shelf life of tea.
If you do decide to store your tea in the refrigerator, then make sure that you are storing it in a tightly sealed container.
Additionally, storing tea at low temperatures may cause the aroma to become weakened, so we don’t recommend storage in the freezer.
There are various factors that affect how long your loose tea will last. Once you know what these factors are, you can use them to maximize the shelf life of your loose tea.
For starters, the quality and the natural condition of the tea that you buy is a huge factor. Buying high quality tea online will ensure that your loose tea naturally lasts longer because it was a quality product to begin with.
On the flip side, if you choose to purchase a cheaper, low quality tea, do not be surprised if the flavor fades much faster and if you don’t feel as strong of effects from that tea. Additionally, if you do buy tea in the store, then make sure it has not been sitting on the shelf for a long time.
The most ideal situation is to find a grower who harvests on demand like we do here at Aum Tea.
By doing so, you get the freshest loose tea possible. However, that is not always easy to do, especially depending on the variety of tea. Therefore, just make sure you do some research into the company you plan on buying from and keep in mind the quality of the tea you are purchasing.
In addition, the methods you use to preserve your loose tea make a big difference. We have a detailed article on how to properly store tea for those interested in a more in-depth explanation, but we will share some insight here as well.
Basically, there are 5 things that you want to protect your tea from. These 5 things include moisture, air, heat, light, and odor.
When you get your tea home, you want to make sure to store it in a tightly sealed container that can keep these 5 things away from your tea. Stainless steel works great, but make sure that the container has a lid that tightly seals. Additionally, make sure to store in a dry, cool place.
Here’s a fun fact: many of the most prized teas are those that have been carefully stored and aged!
As we mentioned earlier, Pu-erh tea is a special variety of tea that is naturally aged in a fermentation process. It appears that there are no concrete rules, but judging from our extensive experience in Asia it seems that if one is going to qualify their tea as ‘aged’ it needs to be 5 years of age or older.
Believe it or not, tea can be aged for 20 to 40 or more years of age.
Therefore, in terms of pu-erh tea, you obviously don’t have much to worry about when you ask the question “how long does loose tea last?” Proper storage, however, is still important.
These aged special-teas need to be stored in particular conditions so that the tea can rest, change, and become more complex and powerful in flavor over time.
The best option for pu-erh tea is to use thick, unglazed clay jars. These jars breathe and allow air to pass through slowly and they regulate humidity and temperature fluctuations, creating an ideal environment for pu-erh to age in.
I hope that you found this article useful, and as always, don't hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or if you have any future articles you would like to see written.