A few years ago, archaeologists discovered green tea in the tomb of a Chinese emperor that dated back to 141 BCE. Tea has been around for a long time, and it lasts for a long time. But could you still drink tea that was found in an ancient emperor’s tomb? Does tea go bad?
Left to its own devices, the tea leaf will obviously decompose over time. But when it is cooked and dried (which is the way most of us experience it on a daily basis), does tea go bad?
Some teas, like pu-erh and certain oolongs, get better with age. Pu Erh is actually aged tea; the finest pu-erh is aged for a minimum of 15 years under proper temperature and humidity. If you haven’t tried pu-erh yet, why not check out Plum Deluxe’s Rainy Day sweet and spicy tea or Vanilla Rose Tea Hearts?
Aside from those exceptions, tea doesn’t usually get better with age, so it is best to enjoy your tea quickly. We generally suggest drinking it within six months to a year (though mine is usually gone long before that). While tea will not rot if properly stored, it will still lose its flavor and aroma over time.
The shelf life of tea does depend on how it is stored, though. Obviously, if moisture gets into the tea, it will start to mold. Just leave an infuser full of steeped leaves on the counter for a week and see what happens. Not that I’ve ever done that...
If your tea is exposed to sunlight for too long, it can bleach and lose its potency faster. If you’re looking for tips on how to keep your tea fresher longer, check out our blog post on how to keep tea fresh!
Like so many things, the question, “does tea go bad”? has a bit of an inconclusive answer. It all comes down to what type of tea you have and how you are storing it. If you find yourself with way more tea than you can reasonably drink in six months, why not try hosting a tea exchange party or try baking with tea? Tea is always best when it’s enjoyed!