Does loose leaf tea go bad?

By March 29, 2021

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Loose tea leaves are the best choice for many tea lovers. Due to its convenience, people tend to order tea from various tea shops or receive tea as gifts from close friends, but only to discover a tea that lies in the corner that got accidentally forgotten. Can you use the tea then? Has it already gone bad?

Is it OK to drink expired tea leaves?

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Actually, loose leaf tea doesn’t expire. Although they do lose flavor and color over time, they are still safe for consumption. Some canned loose leaf tea may have an expiry date for its best by date, but that is not the use-by date. So, it is completely OK to drink expired tea leaves. They won’t make you sick or even kill you. It’s just you’ll notice less flavor in tea.

Of course, if you want to serve your guest or send a gift to someone, these old tea leaves wouldn’t be recommended. But if you don’t want to waste money by discarding them and just don’t want to drink tea with subtle flavor, here’re some ways for you to have a try.

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  • Firstly, roast the tea leaves in a pan with very low heat until you smell the freshness of the leaves. Then you can directly take out the leaves and use it.
  • Secondly, steep the tea a little longer than you usually do to make sure the flavor is stronger.

The shelf life of different tea types

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Different tea types have a different shelf life, after which the taste and aromatic qualities start fading. Generally, green tea has the shortest shelf life (within 12 months) in that it is an unfermented tea. And in particular, the Japanese green tea, a tea with a very fresh and grassy scent, has an even shorter shelf life.

Following closely is the light oolong as it is also relatively fresh, though oxidized. It is better to be used within 2 years. Dark oolong and black tea have a long shelf life of about 3 years. If you notice that they appear dull and gray and taste flat and bitter, you can be sure they have expired.

White tea is a special branch of tea, being the least fermented but able to serve a fulfilling life if stored properly (around 2 years). You can purchase in large amounts and divide them into half, one part for the present, and the other one for future enjoyment.

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