How Long Does Tea Last?

Tea is among the top-most consumed beverages globally. Known for its social, health as well as cosmetics benefits, this beverage is a darling for many cultures. However, these benefits would prove futile unless you are aware of just how long tea can last.

Tea is derived from a shrub known as Camellia sinensis, which is native to the eastern regions of Asia.

It is consumed in many forms, either brewed on its own or added in milk or cream.

Tea boasts of many benefits such as:

  • Rich in antioxidants.
  • Helps in metabolism thus helps in weight management.
  • Ground leaves are used in beauty products. They are added in facial cleansers, masks, hair products and body creams for enhancing healthy skin. The leaves contain elements which exfoliate and cleanses the skin by unclogging pores.
  • Helps in maintaining a healthy brain.


There are several types of well-known teas. They include: black, green, Oolong, purple as well as white tea.

All these have the same origin with the only difference being how they are processed. Here is a short description of each type.


Black variety is the most oxidized (fermented) of all. It is also the most flavorful. The leaves are withered and dried first before being oxidized until they turn completely black.


The shrub containing tea has green leaves, therefore the green variety is made from fresh green leaves. There is little oxidization and withering of the leaves, hence this variety is considered full of medicinal properties.

This type is highly popular in China, but it has spread to other regions across the globe. It is not only used as average but in beauty as well.


Another popular beverage among the Chinese and Taiwanese. Oolong meets at the middle between black and green type. It is partially processed, neither like black nor green variety.


A more interesting variety is the white tea. This type is made from young leaves whose buds have not yet fully opened.

The leaves are plucked when still covered in white, creamy hairs, hence the name white tea.

It is considered a delicate variety since there is minimal processing and oxidization.


Purple tea is a fairly new entrant in the world of beverage. As of now, this type is exclusively grown in Kenya, from a crossbreed of a variety of the Camellia sinensis shrub where all the types are derived from.

The shrub used in purple tea is not planted as a seedling, but is grafted and cut.

The leaves used have a purple hue, hence the name. Purple food items are considered to be loaded with higher levels of antioxidants compared to other foods.

This may be the next best thing and people will find themselves slowly hopping on the purple tea bandwagon.

Shelf Life

Being so accustomed to drinking tea may cause you to become oblivious of other crucial aspects such as expiration.

Like all other naturally occurring substances, tea has a shelf life as well. Its storage state also determines how long it can last.

Prepared tea has a much shorter shelf life, compared to packaged or loose tea leaves.

A few pointers to bear in mind when storing tea include:

  • Store away from direct sunlight which can affect the quality.
  • Moisture will shorten the shelf life and cause mold to grow. Ensure tea is well packaged and stored in a dry area.
  • Tea absorbs flavors and odor easily. It is advisable to store away from strongly scented items like fish.

The shelf life may vary based on the type and the state of tea.

When packaged, all types will have a longer shelf life. Packaged tea is best stored in the pantry.

When stored under suitable conditions, packaged tea can last for up to one year in the pantry.

Similarly, loose tea leaves can last for a whole year when stored away from direct sunlight, heat, moisture and humidity.

On the other hand, prepared tea can only be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. It tends to lose flavor and potency when stored for an extended period, hence should be consumed immediately.

In the refrigerator, prepared tea can keep well for roughly five days. When frozen, it can last up to 7 months. I don’t know who would want to store tea for that long, anyway.

How Best To Store Tea to Prolong Its Shelf Life

Due to the difference in processing, each type needs to be stored in its own unique way to maximize on its benefits.

Many of the storage methods will favor the more oxidized ones, since there will be less enzyme reaction.

For each type, here are the most favorable storage techniques and conditions.


Due to the optimal oxidization that black tea undergoes, it has little water content. This means that it will last longer.

Store loose leaves in airtight containers, ceramic pots, clay or tin cans which are heavy duty or opaque. This will prevent any light from getting in. store in a dark, dry and enclosed area.

Avoid placing strongly scented spices or food items nearby, as it will pick up the odors.

Avoid leaving the storage containers open to prevent contaminants and air from getting in.


Green tea deteriorates quickly since it is made from fresh leaves which are processed.

Ideal storage conditions are cool, dry and dark areas. Green tea will also lose its color fairly quickly, thus avoid direct light or air which can cause oxidation.

This type will keep well in the refrigerator. However, optimal temperatures have to be used.

Ensure the temperature settings don’t exceed 5 degrees. Store it in tightly sealed containers and fill to the brim. Leaving space in the containers will create moisture and shorten the shelf life.


This variety comes in different variations. As such, it is best stored in low temperatures to retain its original state.

Store Oolong in opaque and airtight containers to preserve its flavor.


Another sensitive tea to store due to moisture content. This type is effectively stored under dry, air-free conditions and away from light.

Keep it sealed even when in use to minimize air penetration.


Like other types, the purple variety favours a dry, dark and air-free location. Avoid any contaminants or strongly scented items which can alter its flavour.

How to Identify Spoiled Tea

Properly stored tea can last long, thus coming across spoiled one may be rare. However, the sense of smell and sight will guide you in identification.

  • Odourless – The longer tea stays, the more it loses its distinct odor. Lack of odor should warn you that it is past its expiry date.
  • Visible mold – Moisture will cause mold to grow. Mold has a whitish or grayish appearance. Avoid food poisoning by discarding any mold-infested beverage.

Enjoy the healthy and delightful benefits of this sizzling beverage by handling it with care. Proper storage guarantees a longer shelf life.

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