Teas, just like most food products, can go bad. So maybe it is time to ask “how long have my teas been sitting exposed to the air?” Green and white teas are notorious for going bad within 6 months of opening, quicker if exposed to sunlight. Black teas are fairly rugged and can last a year or even longer. So what are ways you can prevent unwanted aging?
Airtight containers are important (tins are often used), but I’ve also seen clay jars and even a carved stone container fashioned after a tin. Metal is often used as it does not let in moisture, is easy to create a good seal and is less likely to really hold on to odors. While glass containers are nice (I use a few myself), they should be kept someplace where they will not be exposed to sunlight for extended amounts of time, as this could have negative effects on the tea inside.
But don’t get me wrong, aging is not a bad thing for certain teas. Pu’erh Tea is a tea intentionally designed to be aged, and it is well known for improving with age. Oolongs are occasionally aged, but need to be treated carefully while being aged. I’ve even heard of people aging their Lapsang Souchong to help mellow out an overwhelming smoky flavor.
I have personal experience with unintentionally aging an Assam. I had it in a tin for an entire year! I soon began to notice that it had some incredible chocolate notes in it. Quite a surprise, but a well enjoyed one. Needless to say I didn’t wait much longer to see if the tea was going to change any more, as I found it delicious the way it was.
But as a rule, most tea is designed to be enjoyed as fresh as possible, so drink up!