Does loose leaf tea go bad?

By March 29, 2021

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Loose leaf tea is preferred by many due to its convenience, but at the moment when you discover the loose tea leaves in a corner of your house, can you be sure it is still good to use?

Many packaged loose leaf tea is claimed to have an expiration date, but more specifically, it means that the tea remains the best taste before a certain date. After that day, the scent, flavor, color may start fading, making the brewed tea taste dull, stale, or bitter.

The truth about the expiration of loose leaf tea

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The expiration date among different loose leaf tea varies. Green tea has the shortest shelf life of them all — only 12 months because it didn’t go through oxidization and its volatile compounds are easy to fade. Matcha, a special kind of green tea, has an even shorter life. You’d better consume it within weeks as soon as you open the package. Light oolong, as an oxidized tea, can have a longer shelf life of 2 years, while dark oolong and black tea have the longest, normally around 3 years.

What to do with expired loose leaf tea

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If you notice your loose leaf tea has a flavor not as vibrant as before, and the color turned grey for dark tea and yellowish for green tea, it means your tea is likely to have past its expiration date. Still, you can do something to recover the taste as much as possible. Just place it on a pan with very low heat until you smell the scent again. Brewing tea for longer is also helpful to release the flavor.

Of course, you can also use it as an odor absorbent. Place it in your kitchen, fridge, bathroom, or any other place that smells not that good. The tea leaves will help you to absorb the bad smells.

The shelf life of different tea types

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Loose leaf tea is very delicate, so without proper storage, your tea may still get bad within the expiration date. Here are some things you can do to store your loose leaf tea:

  • Place the tea in stainless steel, airtight container. Avoid plastic containers, because tea leaves may have a chemical reaction with plastic.
  • Put the container in a corner away from heat, air conditioning or stove.
  • Store at room temperature. If possible, the unopened tea can be put in the fridge for longer freshness.
  • Avoid light.
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