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The world’s favorite drink (after water) has been around for thousands of years. It’s defined cultures and has been present in some of the most important conversations in history. Rightly so – a nice freshly brewed cup of tea is pure comfort.
With over 3,000 teas in the world, which come in various forms, you’ve got your hands full in exploring all the flavors and benefits, but for those of you who prefer loose leaf tea, as important as it is to perfect making it, you also need to know how to store it and eliminate the risk of spoiling it.
How long can I keep my loose leaf tea?
Maintaining tea leaves is important to maintain their freshness and the integrity of their taste. And surprisingly enough, tea doesn’t actually expire if stored correctly. Tea leaves have the same characteristics as wine and whiskey in the sense that they change flavors and notes as they age. This is especially the case with greener teas like Oolong tea or Matcha green tea, whereas teas which are more oxidized, like black tea, change less in the taste and aromas.
If vacuum sealed, your tea will preserve its original flavor and taste for between 2 and 4 months. Its freshness can last for up to a year if kept in an airtight container, though you will taste a difference. Beyond that point, expect the aging process to affect the strength and flavor of the tea.
How and where should I store my loose leaf tea?
When trying to keep your loose leaf tea to last, and be as fresh as possible, the two most important factors are that your choice of container is airtight, and does not let in any light.
You have a few options which are best suited for loose leaf tea preservation, the two best ones are opaque vacuum sealed bags and stainless steel or tin jars. Both block out light and will keep oxidization to a minimum. You should avoid using plastic containers or plastic bags as they absorb smells. Also, avoid any form of glass jars which let in light.
If you are planning on keeping your tea for a while then a handy tip is to date the bag or tin so you know how long you’ve had it. Don’t worry if you can’t remember. You can always just brew a cup of it and you’ll be able to tell from the strength of the tea – the weaker it is, the longer you’ve had it.
The elements which will ruin your tea!
When it comes to loose leaf tea storage, there are a number of nature’s elements which should be avoided at all costs!
- Oxygen (Air) – also known as oxidization, is one of the most important factors in changing a tea’s flavor, aroma and strength. Some teas are more susceptible to oxidation than others, like green tea in comparison to black tea. This is why it’s necessary to ensure whatever container you keep it in is airtight.
- Light – sunlight, or any form of light, will erode your loose leaf tea’s potency. This is why it’s vital for the container you choose to be opaque, especially if you plan to keep it for a long time.
- Heat – heat contributes in releasing the flavors of tea leaves, which is why we boil water to help extract that taste and aroma. So exposing your loose leaf tea to any form of heat when storing it will spoil the leaves.
- Odors – tea leaves are known for their taste and smell, but are also prone to absorbing other aromas and smells. If you store your loose leaves close to other strong smells such as cinnamon, for example, it’s very likely that the smell and taste of the tea will change, so keep this in mind when storing your container.
- Moisture – water is the main ingredient in activating tea leaves’ fragrance and taste, without it you can’t drink. So exposing your loose leaf tea to any form of moisture will ruin them. Wherever you store your tea leaves must be a completely dry area.
What are some benefits of storing loose tea leaves?
By storing loose tea leaves correctly, you’re saving much more than the flavor and freshness – you can even protect the antioxidants and vitamins in the tea, making it a more refreshing and healthy brew. Having fresh tea in the house for a longer time also means you spend less buying new leaves. Loose leaf tea is also better for the environment as they decompose quicker, in comparison to tea bags, however, you can get eco-friendly tea bags.
Are loose tea leaves better than tea bags?
The most important part of brewing a tea is the time it takes to infuse it – it can become bitter with the tannins in tea if infused for too long, which can happen with loose tea leaves. Tea bags are better for quick infusing, and for those who are beginners at enjoying tea. Otherwise, loose tea leaves are more environmentally friendly, and one can enjoy a variety of teas, as you can infuse larger leaves as well.
Can loose tea leaves be reused?
Green tea and oolong as loose tea can be reused! When brewing reused tea, you just have to make sure you infuse the tea for a longer period of time for a better taste profile.