Food preservation

Does Tea Go Bad?

Let me tell you a really quick story about tea that I actually heard from a friend of mine. Apparently, according to an old adage, tea was first discovered to exist in the years Before Christ.

The discovery was made when an Emperor in China, Shen Nong, was boiling some water to drink. As he went on with his business just boiling the water, some leaves of a plant that was nearby flew straight into the water.

I know, you would think that he would pick them out or even pour out the water and just start boiling a fresh pot. Well, he did not. The resulting mixture of the stray leaves and boiling water was surprisingly tasty.

There you have it, that is how tea came to be. Of course, this is just a legend. But what we do know for sure is that tea definitely did originate from China.


There is jasmine, lavender, hibiscus, ginger, caramel, vanilla, black, oolong, you name it. The variety of tea that is available for consumption in today’s market is unbelievable.

This article seeks to address various aspects relating to tea. It will cover the shelf life of tea, how to store tea, the different types of tea, and everything in between.

Does tea go bad?

Unfortunately, yes. In as much as tea can last long, at some point it will go bad, especially if it has been contaminated. Be on the lookout for mold, a foul smell, or a stale taste or flavor in order to ascertain whether your tea is still good to drink.

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Can bacteria grow in tea?


Bacteria in tea can either grow from scratch or multiply in numbers if they were already present.

In the dried and unbrewed tea, because of the lack of enough moisture to host bacteria, very few to sometimes none of the bacteria can exist.

However, if you leave out your cup of tea at room temperature and uncovered, the bacteria within it can multiply within a few moments.

Storing Tea


I want to believe that it is common sense that tea ought to be stored in a dry place. Once you open up the package, it would be more ideal to transfer the tea into an airtight container.

This is because tea tends to retain its flavor best when it is not exposed to a lot of fresh air, kind of like coffee.

Your pantry is probably the most ideal place to store your tea since it is dry and dark, away from sources of light like the sun.

When it comes to brewed tea, on the other hand, the same should always be stored in the refrigerator.

This is especially the case if the tea was made using some milk. Transferring the brew into a resealable airtight container would also do it some good.

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Different Types of Tea


There exist more than three thousand varieties of tea, however, for the purpose of this article, we shall only look at the five main types of tea.

These are black, green, oolong, white, and one that is commonly referred to as Pu-erh.

Black tea

This is the most well-known variety of tea. It is usually fully oxidized and has a much darker appearance when brewed hence its name.

Black tea also has a much higher caffeine content as compared to the other teas but not nearly as much as that contained in coffee.

Black tea can be consumed with many other additives such as sugar, milk, or even lemon if you are trying to keep healthy.

Green tea

This is generally unoxidized tea. The leaves in this case are usually heated soon after being picked.

This has the effect of leaving it with a high content of antioxidants as well as minerals and vitamins that are good for the human body when consumed.

Green tea can also be paired with several other additives such as lemon or honey but never milk.

Oolong tea

This variety of tea is the middle ground between the green and black teas. It just so happens to be semi-oxidized.

When this oolong tea is submerged in water, it can bring forth a golden or light brown tea in color.

White tea

This tea is the least processed variety of tea. It is worth noting that only the unopened buds and young leaves are used in its preparation.

It ends up with a very mild flavor and an even lower caffeine content than the rest. This type of tea is best to be consumed without adding any additives to it.

Pu-erh tea

This final type of tea is one that comes all the way from the Yunan province that is in China.

It is known for its signature earthy taste and is generally made from leaves taken from wild trees rather than cultivated tea bushes.

The leaves that are plucked to prepare this type of tea are first taken through microbial fermentation.

This process involves pressing the raw leaves together. Once this process is complete the leaves are stored together for them to mature or settle.

The shelf life of tea


Generally, at the store, you will find that most teas come with an expiration date that has been printed on the package.

This expiration date is usually used to indicate just how long the tea or tea leaves can retain their freshness. In most cases, the expiration date has very little to do with the safety of the tea but lots to do with the quality of it.

Technically, tea will not go bad without the presence or addition of water or air to it. However, over time, they will begin to degrade and depreciate in quality.

The shelf life of unbrewed tea remains different for every type of tea. It is usually said that the more processed the plant leaves are, the better the tea retains its quality.

Borrowing from this, we can come to the conclusion that the very popular kind of tea which is black tea is typically the one that retains their good quality for the longest period.


Ideally, packaged tea lasts for a period of between 6 – 12 months in the pantry and between one and two years in the freezer. Loose tea will typically last for the same amount of time as the packaged tea option.

The brewed tea is quite opposite of this. If left on the kitchen counter, in-room temperature, and uncovered, it will only remain fresh for a period of 8 hours at most.

When the brewed tea is moved to the freezer in a resealable container, it can last for a period of between 3 – 5 days and when it is stored in the freezer it can go a cool 6 – 8 months before starting to go bad.

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13 Steaming facts about Tea

  1. Tea is really popular, obviously. In fact, it is the second most common beverage in the whole world after plain water.
  2. We have seen at the beginning of the article that the Chinese have been drinking it for eons now but tea was not really a staple in Britain up until the 19th
  3. In the long history of tea, it was at some point considered dangerous for consumption. The reason for this is that a French doctor had published an article that claimed that the consumption of tea caused the insides of a person to heat up and eventually would lead to death.
  4. There is such a thing as drinking too much tea. Too much tea can lead to renal failure so as much as you love the beverage, moderation is key.
  5. Technically speaking, herbal tea is not actually tea. Since it is made without using actual leaves, it is caffeine-free.
  6. In America, most people prefer their tea cold and about 85 percent of the sales made in the tea industry are for iced tea.
  7. As weird as it may sound, some cultures actually add butter into their tea. This is a practice observed in the Himalayas. Who would have known that salt helps people in high altitudes to stay hydrated?
  8. Recent studies have shown that drinking tea and other caffeinated drinks like coffee are not dehydrating.
  9. The Turks consume the most tea. On average, almost seven pounds of tea is consumed per person annually. Makes sense now why they grow about one-fifth of the world’s supply of tea.
  10. Speaking from a point of fact, green tea and black tea are made from the same plant. The difference usually comes in from how the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis are processed.
  11. Tea also makes you feel like urinating because it is diuretic.
  12. Apparently, tea was such a valuable commodity that in the 18th century it was kept within a locked chest. This chest is now commonly known as a tea caddy.
  13. The practice of adding milk to tea is a thing to do with social status rather than anything else and more specifically, taste.

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