Can Tea Go Bad?

A nice cup of tea

If you, just like me, from time to time overload your kitchen cupboard with tea, you might want to know the answer to the question ‘can tea go bad?’. When having several kinds of tea in your cupboard, chances are you will simply forget about one or two of them and they will lay unbrewed for a few months or even more. Will this tea go bad? In 999 out of 1000 cases it won’t. Tea can go bad quite quickly when it’s not completely dry, but otherwise, it will stay fine. Let’s go through the most important pieces of information about storing tea.

Storing tea

As you probably know, tea should be stored in a dry place. After opening the package (if you’ve chosen tea bags), it’s suggested to keep the tea bags in an airtight container. If you’ve bought loose leaf tea in a paper bag, transferring it into such a container is a good idea as well. Why keep it in an airtight container you ask? It’s quite simple – tea retains its flavor better when it’s not exposed to lots of fresh air. If you’ll use all that tea within a few weeks, it probably won’t make a difference at all.

A nice cup of tea
(credit: Giuseppe Bognanni)

Tea should be stored away from light, so if the container you’re using is a glass one (or any other that lets light through), put it into a closed cuboard or any other place where it’s way from light.

Does tea lose its flavor over time?

The short answer is: yes, it does. Tea loses its taster over time and after a certain period of time it will taste stale. The time needed depends on the tea itself. But the thing you need to remember is that it takes a pretty long time before it will happen. Of course you can find a date on every package of tea, but that’s just an estimate from a company that profits from you buying another package. It’s pretty obvious they would like you to buy that new package instead of finishing the old one. If you have tea that was stored in the cupboard for quite a long time, just give it a shot and brew it. If it will actually taste stale, nothing bad will happen, except that you will want to discard it. If it will be fine, that’s great!

How to tell if tea is bad?

As mentioned in the beginning of the article, tea can go bad, but only if stored in a humid environment. If it was, it will be moldy. If you’re not sure if water has gotten its way to the tea, look for any signs of mold. If water was there, there will be mold. If it’s mold free, the tea is most likely fine. Just brew a cup and taste it!

As you should know by now, tea can go bad, but only in certain circumstances (humid environment). If you’ll keep it in a dry place, it won’t go bad. The worst thing that is likely to happen is that it will lose some of its flavor and taste a bit stale. Drinking that tea won’t kill or even make you sick, you’ll simply dislike it and probably choose to discard it.