How to Store Loose Leaf Tea

Wondering how long your expensive loose leaf tea will last? It all depends on how you store it. This article will enlighten you on the do's and don'ts of properly storing gourmet loose-leaf tea to make your tea last all through next winter.


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    Keep fresh tea away from air, heat, light, and moisture. Each of these will cause the tea to deteriorate or to go stale.[1]
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    Purchase loose leaf tea from a quality store that you trust. The tea merchant should be knowledgeable about the origin, age, and quality of the tea they're selling, and fast turnover should be evident from clean shelves and sales of stock nearing its use-by date.
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    Place the loose leaf tea in an opaque, non-plastic container. Preferably use a container that is made from tin or aluminum. Plastic can transfer an odor and spoil the taste of the tea.[2] It should be airtight; if not, place the tea in a sealable bag first, although be careful of the odor of the bag if it's plastic.
    • After usage, tightly close or seal the container every single time. This ensures that the tea maintains its freshness, flavor and aroma.
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    Store the tea in a dark, cool, and dry location. Light and moisture are tea's biggest enemies as they will activate enzymes that contribute to its decomposition.
    • The perfect place to store tea is in a pantry that has an automatic light switch and its temperature constant, unaffected by climate change. A kitchen cabinet is the next best location.
    • Do not place tea over the stove; the heat and moisture will harm it.
    • Do not place tea in the fridge or freezer.[3]
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    Keep flavored tea apart from plain varietal or origin (pure) teas.[4] If you don't do this, the flavored tea will flavor all the other teas it is stored next to.
    • Blended teas may have a flavor that is overwhelming. Do a sniff test first before storing.
    • It's a good idea to keep smoky teas well separated; they're an acquired taste.
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  • Be sure to tightly seal bag or close tin after each use.
  • Buy smaller quantities of tea and drink them faster to retain freshness.
  • Used leaves can be stored in freezer until next day, but must be used immediately.
  • If tea is properly stored, it can potentially last up to a year for green and black teas.[5] White tea lasts about six months before it isn't as good in quality as when fresher. Stale tea (or bad tea) will taste flat, as if you're drinking paper.
  • Glass or ceramic containers are fine provided that they're opaque.[6]


  • Never purchase tea that comes in a see-through glass container. You may not know how long that tea has been sitting on the shelf.
  • Never store tea in a garage, as it is exposed to light and moisture which are the primary causes of deteriorating tea.

Things You'll Need

  • Appropriate tea storage canisters
  • Dry, clean, cool storage area in the kitchen or pantry

Sources and Citations

  1. Tracy Stern, Tea Party, p. 21, (2007), ISBN 978-0-307-34643-8
  2. Wendy Rasmussen and Ric Rhinehart, Tea Basics, p. 74, (1999), ISBN 0-471-18518-3
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