Getting fresh with tea is essential, especially as your knowledge of tea grows and you start branching out from the teas available in the grocery store aisles. In Part I, we considered the shelf-lives of various teas. Some are “short-termers” that shouldn’t be stored too long after opening the airtight package for the first time. Others can hang around quite awhile.
Proper storage conditions will keep both kinds of teas fresh longer. Even if you buy more long-term teas, be sure to store them properly. Once you break open the tea vendor’s airtight package, the clock starts ticking. Improper storage speeds up that clock.
- Airtight (as much as practicable).
- Odor tight, to prevent odors invading the tea or escaping from it. (Yes, you can have a basically airtight package but still have odors “travel.”)
- No moisture (some Pu-erhs are an exception).
- No light for any length of time (brief exposure isn’t an issue).
- Definitely not in the refrigerator. (Going from cold to warm back to cold repeatedly can cause condensation build-up, which reduces flavor.)
- In a location that is not near substances with strong odors (cleaners, spices, etc.).
A few storage container considerations:
- Tins — Cute and can be stacked nicely. Some have definite decorative potential. However, as the quantity and volume of tea gets lower, there is more and more air inside the tin. Also, some tins have an airtight seal around the inside of the lid, but most do not.
- Plastic pouches — Can be compressed as you use the tea to assure air is not in them. However, some have little “windows” so you can see the tea while some are totally clear, letting in light, and others are so thin that aromas from one tea (especially strong scents like cinnamon) can “travel” and infiltrate other pouches around them.
- Glazed ceramic — Okay for storage and decorative. Just as with tins, some come with an airtight seal. If they don’t, you may want to put your tea in a plastic bag and then in the ceramic container. Don’t used unglazed ceramic, since the unglazed surface could absorb colors and odors.
- Glass — Only use glass colored dark enough to block out significant light. Even then, you might want to store the container in a dark cupboard.
This should give you a few pointers as you travel through the world of tea.
- Know if you’re buying a “short-termer” tea or one with a longer shelf life.
- Buy from a vendor that packages the tea in a way that will make it easier for you to preserve the freshness.
- Short of that, stock up on containers that you can transfer the tea into after purchase.
My little blue tea tin is great for tea storage since it has a seal around the inside of the lid, which gives extra protection in addition to the plastic bag the tea is in. I stored some Gunpowder tea in that tea for several years (tightly rolled tea leaves can usually last longer that thin, needle-shaped, or flattened leaves).
Hope all of this is helpful to you. Through knowledge and care, you can really make your tea dollars go far. Hurray!
Keeping your tea fresh is an important part of living what A.C. calls the “tea life.” Visit her blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, to learn more!