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Tea Storage Tips

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Extending the Life of your Tea! By: Naomi Rosen Refrigerator?  Cabinet?  Drawer?  Countertop?  Maybe, if you are like me and have a few too many, you stash them in all of these places!  I will post something later about a Tea Anonymous Club I am starting...but for now you might as well ensure that your tea is as tasty as can be!  At least, until you admit you've got a habit!  When I first started drinking loose leaf, I was told that putting my tea in the refrigerator would help keep my tea fresh longer.  You know...like batteries!  So, I kept some of the tea in the refrigerator.  Then I read an article about not refrigerating my tea, and I put it in a cabinet next to my spices.  That's right, Earl Grey right next to my Garlic Powder.  OK class, can anyone tell me what my tea might have tasted like the next time I brewed a cup?  That's right...Gilroy, CA (Garlic Capital of the World)! In an effort to keep any of you from having to perform your own version of the Boston Tea Party, I have put together a quick checklist to ensure that your tea stays fresh and tastes great with every brew.
  • Heat- I love heat.  Especially in December.  Heat is great on a cold night.  Heat is great to cook with.  Heat is awesome for making water hot.  Heat is not recommended for teas when being stored!  It will degrade the tea leaves and quickly shorten their tasty little lives.  Therefore, a few rules to live by: do not store tea next to the microwave, on top of a refrigerator, in a cabinet above the stove, next to the oven, or near a furnace/radiator.  Keep tea out of direct sunlight.  A kitchen can be a toasty place so you might want to consider  tea storage in any number of other rooms (dining room, office, etc.) to avoid heat exposure.
  • Light - Light, like heat, can break down the leaves and components of a tea.  My recommendation is that tea be stored in an air-tight container that does not permit light.  Metal, air tight containers are preferable.  If tea comes in a clear container or is being stored in a clear container, it is best if the container is stored in a cool, dark cabinet.
  • Air and Odors - As mentioned above, I initially stored my teas in my spice cabinet.  Unfortunately, my spices and my teas co-mingled and made their own little creations.  That's what I get for storing them all in a dark cabinet without supervision!  I ended up with Oregano and Garlic flavored Earl Grey and Japanese Cherry. Similarly, storing teas next to one another can cause the same problem. A very strong cinnamon or orange flavored tea next to a delicate, orthodox white tea can cause the white tea to absorb those strong flavors an aromas.  Again, I go back to the air-tight storage idea.  In addition, storing the teas away from other strong odors (meat, fish, garlic, trash cans, refrigerators, etc.) will keep the tea leaves odor absorption to a minimum.
  • Humidity/Moisture - Q: Why can't you store tea in the frig?  I store nail polish and batteries there...why not tea?  A: Moisture and Odors (see note above regarding Odor).  Proceed to the science lab with me kids!  Tea leaves are best stored dry.  Refrigerators are full of moisture.  Something dry will want to absorb moisture.  Tea leaves with a bit of moisture will begin to breakdown and become an excellent source for mold.  I've tried lots of teas, but a moldy one is not something I'm interested in.
As this point, are you thinking that a fire safe in your sock drawer might be your best option?  That might be a bit too far!  Use air-tight containers, keep the tea in a cool, dark spot away from odors and keep your collection manageable.  Buying smaller quantities or sample sizes can provide a variety of teas for any tea drinking mood you find yourself in as well! Where/How do you store your tea?

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  • Naomi on

    I’m glad it was helpful Beth! Shoot me a note with any questions! Sarah, the TDA (Tea Drinkers Anonymous) meetings will begin in January. Would you like to provide the tea refreshments? Maybe I shouldn’t be leading this???

  • Sarah on

    Thank goodness your tea comes in metal air tight containers! I have a tea cabinet in the kitchen that happens to be far away from my appliances. Also I would be very interested in your aa meetings for tea. Will it meet often? Will tea be served? Should I buy some for the meeting….damn.

  • Beth Aguilera on

    Thanks for posting this! It’s good information for a tea noob like myself. I currently store mine with the coffee cups (I don’t drink out of tea cups because I already own way too many coffee cups). The down side is that it’s adjacent to the stove, so I’m wondering if the tea might be getting a little too much heat. It doesn’t seem to be absorbing moisture there, but I hadn’t considered the heat. Something to think about.

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