Tea will easily get stale if stored improperly, and can sometimes even spoil. For best flavor retention, tea needs to be kept in an air-tight, dark, and dry environment, ideally at a constant temperature and away from odors. Because tea leaves are dried, they are prone to absorbing moisture and aromas of nearby items. Light will also degrade the color of the leaf and over time can affect the flavor (not true for most herbal teas). Even simple exposure to air will cause tea to lose flavor and aroma over time. Temperature changes can also cause moisture to build up inside the tea container. This is often what happens when tea is kept in the freezer or refrigerator, where the door is opened frequently and/or the unit cycles through various temperatures — you may get ice inside your tea container.
I like to use ceramic canisters or metal tins with tight fitting lids for my favorite teas. Zip-lock style foil bags lined with plastic (like the ones we sell our tea in) are also good, and have the advantage that you can press out excess air before you re-seal the zip closure. If you really like to use glass jars for your tea, please keep them in a dark cupboard.
If you use tea bags, be sure not to store your chai bags along with your Darjeeling bags in the same container. You’ll end up with all chai!
If you are going to re-use a container for a new tea, be sure to clean it thoroughly and let it air out for few days with the lid off to purge the odor of the previous tea. Baking soda can help absorb these lingering scents.
Tea kept properly should last 6-12 months at least. This will vary quite a bit with the type of tea, its freshness when you bought it, how it is stored, and how often you open the container. Unopened tea that has been vacuum sealed (and better yet, nitrogen-flushed) will keep for many years. Once open, I like to use up a tea within 6 months if possible. But I frequently have customers tell me they have had some tea around for a few years, and they still think it is fine. Let your taste buds guide you.
Have a look at our Tins and Canisters category to view or purchase any of these items.