How to store tea
By Emilie Holmes
Tea has a generous shelf life and can last for up to a year, maybe even more - but only if stored correctly. We work hard to get the freshest tea possible from origin, take great care in storing it at our warehouse and then pack it into air-locked, foil-lined pouches to ensure the leaves that arrive with you are as fresh as possible. But how you store your tea at home will be key to how flavoursome your brew is, as if exposed to the elements, it can lose its oomph and leave your cup of tea lacking...
What makes tea deteriorate?
Deterioration in tea is for the most part to do with oxidation. As soon as tea leaves are picked from the bushes they start to react with oxygen in the air. In fact, as you know from our recent blog post here, for black teas the leaves are bruised after they’re picked to actively encourage and speed up oxidation, resulting in darker, more robust flavours. However, at the end of the production process of almost all teas, the tea leaves are heated (via steaming, firing or baking) to halt that oxidation and ensure the desired flavour profile is ‘fixed’. In storing your finished tea, it is therefore important to keep it that way and ensure no further oxidation takes place that could then alter the flavour of the tea. More delicate, less oxidised teas, such as greens and whites, are naturally the most sensitive to the effects of any ongoing oxidation, while the deterioration of black teas is harder to detect in the cup.
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when storing your tea, to keep it as fresh and flavoursome as possible:
Keep it airtight
With exposure to air, or more importantly to oxygen, tea leaves will continue to oxidise. You therefore want to limit this as far as possible. An airtight container is therefore recommended, and even better a full one. The more tea there is in there, the less room there is for air trapped inside so best to keep the jars full!
Keep it cool
Although high heat is used to halt oxidation during tea production, warm temperatures can also speed up the process. Keeping the teas in a cool place, such as a store cupboard, will therefore reduce the risk of deterioration.
Keep it dry
Adding water to your dry tea leaves is of course what releases flavour when we make a cup of tea. It is therefore important to avoid any contact with moisture until you are ready to brew, to ensure all that flavour is kept locked in! Humid conditions can be troublesome, so again, an airtight container in a cool, dry place will help keep the tea fresh for longer.
Keep it away from herbs and spices
Just as they absorb any moisture in the air, tea leaves also tend to absorb any strong odours around them. We use this quality in the production of Jasmine tea, as the green tea leaves quickly absorb the sweet scent of the jasmine flowers. However, you don’t want your black teas to have a minty finish, nor your green teas to taste of cumin so it’s important to not only separate your teas (particularly any heavily scented teas), but to also avoid storing them next to all your herbs and spices.
Dark is best
Although it is still not clear how or why exactly light affects the freshness of tea, it does tend to impact flavour and can sometimes even leave the tea tasting metallic after time. Storing your tea in a cupboard away from direct sunlight, or in a dark container, is therefore recommended. Glass is a beautiful way of storing tea (this is still our favourite storage solution), but it is best suited to those teas you drink regularly, so the leaves are not exposed to light for too long. Or even better, put it in a cupboard.
So in short, storing your tea in a cool, dark, dry place in an airtight container is the best way to ensure you are always drinking your tea at its best!