How Long Can You Store Your Teas?

2010 Spring Ban Yan Wuyi Medium-Roasted
Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Rock Tea

How long you can store your teas is something that can be rather complicated and tricky to answer. A lot of the answer depends on the type of tea being stored. Having addressed the special needs for storing pu-erh teas, we are addressing the other tea types here.

The Enemies of Your Tea

  • Air — Most teas will lose flavor and aroma when allowed to come into contact with the air for several months. This leads to the following problems, too.
  • Moisture — Besides actually getting moisture into the storage container, exposure to air can also expose the tea leaves to moisture from that air, especially in humid environments.
  • Odors — These are actually particulates that break off from the object and travel through the air. The more you can smell something, the more particulates are being broken off from the item being stored. A steaming pie will have a stronger aroma than a cold pie because the steam carries lots of these particulates into the air. Unfortunately, these can also get into a tea stored in a container that isn’t air-tight, so you would end up with a tea that smelled like that pie you just baked, for example.
  • Light — Sunlight is especially hard on items, with its UV (ultraviolet) rays. They cause our skin to tan (which is actually a breakdown of cell walls and a release of melanin) and develop cancer spots, rugs and draperies to fade, and teas that begin with a light color in the dry leaves to turn some weird brownish green and lose all their flavor.
  • Heat — Temperature is very important to tea. During the processing of the leaves heat is used to wither and dry them. A key part of that processing is timing, that is, knowing when to halt the application of that heat. So, you don’t want to store the teas in a location that is excessively warm (usually several degrees above room temperature) since that would go against the processor’s timing.

The Arsenal to Save Your Tea

Well, obviously you want something air-tight, but it can’t stop there. You have to shut out light, too, and put the tea in a relatively cool location. With that in mind, we can strongly recommend the plastic pouches typically used by the better tea vendors. As you use up the tea the pouch can be rolled up tighter, assuring no air inside. Unlike tea tins and canisters, your teas will be air-free and stay fresh longer. The tins and canisters are good to put the pouches in, if you want a nice display, but they take up extra room. Such proper storage will, of course, prolong the time you can store your teas. Whites are generally stored for a couple of months. Greens for a few months, oolongs for as much as six months. Blacks for up to a year.

About Refrigerating Your Tea

Some tea experts caution against storing teas in the refrigerator, but there are situations in which this is advisable. Some tea vendors store this way to extend the “shelf life” of the more delicate teas, especially whites and greens. The key is that the teas are kept in the refrigerator until shipped out, but in your home you would be taking the container out of the refrigerator, removing some of the leaves, and putting the tea container back in the refrigerator. This exposes the tea to the air for a short time and can introduce moisture.

Take care of your teas and get the best flavor from them even months later.

See also: 4 Tips for Storing Fine Teas

About Janice and Stephen Shelton

Purveyors of Premium Teas
This entry was posted in Tea Info for Newbies and Up and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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