STORING TEA: HOW TO STORE TEA FOR THE LONG TERM WITHOUT LOSING ITS FLAVOUR
Storing tea in a clean glass jar or tin container to preserve its flavor and strength is the best practice. Tea, like freshly roasted coffee and aromatic spices, possesses delicate aromatics that will deteriorate when exposed to the flavor-robbing influences of air, heat, and humidity.
Depending on the type of tea, most properly stored tea will keep for a minimum of one year; the same tea stored carelessly may lose its goodness in just two or three months. Of course, some oolong, black, and Pu-erh teas store well for longer than one year, but for the majority of green, yellow, and white teas, it is best to restore with fresh tea once the seasonal harvest brings new tea to market.
Air is the enemy of tea. Left unwrapped, air will rob tea of its vibrant flavor as well as the residual moisture content of the leaf (and yes, even though tea is a “dry” product, all tea has about 5 per cent residual natural moisture remaining in the leaves). When this happens, tea becomes brittle and takes longer to rehydrate, resulting in a cup of tea that tastes flat, dull, and out of balance.
When you are in a tea shop that sells tea from glass jars it is essential to know whether the store has a busy tea counter. Providing that there is a constant turnover of tea and the jars are not sitting under bright lights or in direct sunlight, this is a wonderful way to be able to see the leaf before purchasing.
Storing tea at Home
Most tea companies sell their tea in zippered foil or paper pouches. These bags are fine for short-term storage, but we would suggest repackaging all loose-leaf tea. Many tea shops sell decorative glass jars, tea tins, and ceramic containers made of porcelain, unglazed clay, or stoneware for storing tea at home.
You can also check our tea storing glass jars here.
PROTECTING TEA FROM LIGHT AND HEAT
Constant exposure to strong light will fade the tea leaf, and the tea will lose flavor. Keep tea away from heat-generating places such as sunny windows, radiators, the top of your refrigerator, countertops that are close to under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen, the kitchen stove, and even the computer station at work.
PROTECTING TEA FROM ODORS
Tea readily absorbs odors, so store tea away from spices or other aromatic foodstuffs (such as garlic) in your pantry. Avoid new or recycled plastic containers for tea storage; plastics often have persistent, hard-to-eliminate odors, particularly if they have previously contained other food.
TEMPERATURE CONDITIONS FOR STORING TEA
It is better to keep tea at an even temperature than in fluctuating temperatures. Tea stores better in cool temperatures over hot temperatures and in humid conditions over bone-dry air.
Our advice is to store tea in airtight containers at room temperature and never put tea in the refrigerator or freezer. Both refrigeration and freezing can be harmful to tea. freezers are drying by nature, and refrigeration introduces moisture and refrigerator “smell,” both enemies of tea.
STORING GREEN AND WHITE TEA
Green teas are not made with longevity in mind, and there is little one can do to enhance long-term keeping qualities. Some green teas begin to lose flavor around six months past harvest and manufacture. But small-leaf green teas have less surface area and are often tightly curled, which keeps their surface area to a minimum and their freshness intact, sometimes well beyond the one-year standard.
Tightly compacted green, and white bud-only teas are dense and have a longer keeping ability than do their large, leafy counterparts. Because they have less exposed surface area than leafy teas do, they can retain flavor for one full year or longer.
STORING OOLONG TEA
The style of oolong manufacture and the corresponding amount of oxidation and roasting affects the keeping ability of oolong tea.
Highly oxidized traditional-style roasted semi ball-rolled oolongs can age deliciously for decades. As they mature, it is customary to refresh or re-roast these oolongs once a year to eliminate moisture and “awaken” the flavor.
Modern-style unroasted semi ball-rolled oolongs and open leafy–style oolongs can keep for one to three years, depending on the tea.
STORING BLACK TEA
The more intact the leaf, the better the tea will keep. The more finely cut the tea, the more surfaces there are for the air to come into contact with it and rob the flavor. In general, black teas can be kept for one to three years. Whole-leaf black teas last longer than crushed teas (CTC) or broken leaf teas.