If you drink tea, you probably don’t have just one type living in your pantry next to your canned goods. You have a whole collection: black, chamomile, lavender, chai, jasmine, green, matcha…If Queen Elizabeth casually were to drop by, you’d be prepared. Here’s what even avid tea collectors may not know: how you store your tea matters—and not just for aesthetic reasons. (Pantry porn is real.)
According to Kyle Stewart, co-owner of The Cultured Cup and one of only 175 certified tea specialist in the entire world, incorrectly storing your tea can affect its taste and integrity. “Tea leaves are dry, meaning they’ve lost 97 percent of their moisture, and as a result they are susceptible to absorbing moisture and strong aromas,” he says. That means if you leave your tea uncovered and exposed to the elements, it’s going to absorb whatever else it’s hanging out with. “Several years ago, a customer visited our store and complained that her tea tasted like onions,” Stewart says. “Where did she store her tea? In the refrigerator! Possibly, the worst place to store your tea.”
Okay, so the fridge is out. What should you do instead? Here, Stewart and Nadia De La Vega, the director of tea content and sustainability at DavidsTea, share how to store tea properly, including three golden rules to follow and how to know if your tea’s gone bad.
3 golden rules to follow for tea storage, according to experts
1. Store teas in sealed containers.
Both De La Vega and Stewart emphasize the importance of storing tea in something sealed—that goes for whether you have loose leaf tea or tea bags. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Stewart’s customer and end up with tea that smells and tastes like whatever it’s next to. “Keep your tea away from other strong aromas,” De La Vega says, adding that this includes spices and condiments.
2. Keep your tea somewhere dark.
The next rule to keep in mind when storing tea according to both experts is that it should be kept somewhere dark. Stewart explains that tea leaves can absorb sunlight, which damages the leaves. When the leaves are damaged, it means the flavor and health benefits of the tea have been degraded. Because of this effect sunlight can have, Stewart says containers made of glass aren’t as good for storing tea in as containers that aren’t see-through.
3. Keep it cool.
While tea shouldn’t be stored in the fridge, De La Vega and Stewart say it should be kept somewhere cool. Similar to light, heat can degrade tea leaves, making the flavor and benefits not as potent. For this reason, you don’t want to store your teas next to the stove.
Of course as with anything, there are a few exceptions to the three golden rules of tea storage. De La Vega says if you have Pu’er tea—a type of fermented tea from Yunnan, China—you’ll want to store it in something breathable. “This helps facilitate the aging process so the flavor can continue to evolve,” she says. Another exception is matcha. “The finely powdered, shade-grown green tea, is extremely absorbent. We store our matcha in containers that remove most of the air when closed, and then we place the containers in the freezer,” Stewart says, adding that this keeps it fresh longer than if it’s stored somewhere else, like the pantry.
When stored correctly, Stewart says tea can last a very long time. “Several years ago while cleaning my closet, I discovered a tea that I bought in Asia ten years ago. I made it and, to my surprise, the tea was delicious,” he says. “Don’t throw a tea away just because of the past freshness date.”
That being said, De La Vega says that many of the DavidsTeas blends have little pieces of fruit, chocolate, or nuts in them. This, she says, can affect their shelf-life. “They don’t always stay as fresh as tea with just one ingredient,” she says. Just something else to be mindful of when storing your teas.
Inspired to give your tea collection a mini makeover? Check out some tea storage options below.
Tea storage containers
If you’re looking for ceramic canisters that are simple yet elegant, this set is perfect. They’re big enough to store a sizeable amount of tea bags or loose leaf tea without exposing them to the elements.
If you’re thoughtfully purchased your tea, it is definitely worth storing it correctly to ensure you’re getting the maximum flavor and health benefits from it you can. Plus, it will make the process of preparing your cup more enjoyable. Because ultimately, a cup of tea shouldn’t bring more chaos to your life, it should bring peace. And that starts with a little organization.
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