How to store tea to protect its flavor profile
Your goal when storing tea is to keep it away from influences that can negatively affect its delicate aroma and flavor. In particular this means keeping it away from air, heat, light, strong smelling foods and humidity.
Most tea, if well stored, will keep for at least one year. But if you store it poorly it will lose its flavor in a matter of months. Of course there is one category of tea, called pu-ehr tea, that is an aged tea. This is the only tea type that is fermented and, like wine, has vintages. Some green pu-ehr teas are over 50 years old!
But most of us don’t have been a fermented cake of tea in our cupboards but want to keep our green tea, whites, black and oolong teas as fresh as possible. Here’s what you need to do (courtesy of The Tea Lounge).
Air is not good for tea. If tea is left unwrapped and exposed to air all its residual moisture will be lost. The tea leaves will become brittle and produce a flat, unbalanced infusion. Although glass jars are commonly used to store tea, it’s important that these do not sit under bright lights or in sunlight. Its better to use an opaque container.
Keep your stored tea away from sunny windows, radiators or counter-tops that have close lighting. And, as tea also absorbs odors, keep it away from strong spices or any foods with strong smells such as garlic or cheese (see amusing video on this, complete with other tea facts). It’s probably also best to keep tea out of plastic storage containers as these have a tendency to impart unwanted odors onto the tea.
In order to ensure that you are drinking a fresh tea, it’s important to find out when your tea was plucked. Tea is seasonal with the same harvesting cycle repeated annually. For example premium green teas from China and Japan are only picked in the springtime. So if you’re purchasing a green tea in January it’s probably from the previous year. Darjeeling teas from India are also very seasonal with the first flush teas being the most highly prized.
When you buy tea, don’t store it away for months before drinking. Many people make the mistake of drinking their old tea while saving their new premium tea only for special occasions. It’s probably not going to get any better the longer it sits around in your cupboard. Do use it while it’s fresh.