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Does Tea Expire? The Shelf Life of Tea

Have you ever found yourself wondering if tea goes off or expires? Did you look in the cupboard this morning and find that old box of tea bags, only to wonder how long is actually tea good for? Well before you throw anything out for thinking that old teabag may be suspect and make you sick, it’s definitely worth considering the following.

How to Take Tea at Its Best?

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re a bit of a tea connoisseur. For those that are new to the tea scene though, it’s worth noting that tea is a revered drink for many people from different regions and cultures. Tea has numerous beneficial properties that are effective in combating the symptoms of a sore throat, headache or cold and flu.

Whether you take it cold or hot and depending on how you brew it, there are many ways to enjoy this versatile beverage. The more common and notable variants such as black, oolong, green and white teas, all surprisingly come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. According to one reliable statistics report, the second most consumed beverage globally after water is in fact, tea.

So back to the question about ‘how long is tea good for?’. Generally speaking, tea does not technically ‘expire’. However, all commercially packaged teas (be that black, green, herbal, flavored, etc) will normally be printed with a ‘best before’ date. Some manufacturers might choose to state an ‘expiry date’ instead of ‘best before’. Although don’t be too concerned about the expiry date and whether your beloved tea has ‘gone bad’. This is generally a legal requirement for health and safety practice and regulation which manufacturers must adhere to.

It is worth noting however that after the expiry date has passed, the flavor of the tea and some of its phytochemicals (primarily flavonoids) and healthy properties do start to decline. As a result of this, the overall tea quality will begin to degrade, yet still remains safe for drinking.
In fact, the technically deemed ‘expired tea’, continues to provide various health benefits even after its expiry date has passed.

Some of the benefits of tea are:

  • Provides Antioxidants
  • Lowers LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Contains antibacterial properties
  • Contains anti-fungal properties
  • Contains anti-inflammatory properties
  • Controls weight

How Long Does Tea Last?

The shelf life of tea can last 24 more months beyond the indicated expiry date. The ‘best before’ date only suggests the latest point at which it would maintain its highest quality of flavor. After this date, the tea may lose some of its taste but is still safe to consume.

If you are wondering if teabags expire or how long tea bags last, know that they should also keep for approximately 2 years past their dated expiry. Also like loose leaf tea, tea bags may lose some of their original taste and color after the date of expiry, but would still be appropriate for consumption.

How to Prolong the Life of Tea?

Storing your teabags correctly can effectively increase the quality and taste of the leaves. Improve the shelf life of your tea bags by reducing direct exposure to the following conditions:

Light

Avoid storing your tea in clear glass jars or plastics. Anything that lets light through to your tea bags can degrade the tea leaves.

Moisture

Exposing your tea bags to moisture or humidity when in storage can spoil the flavor and cause mold to grow.

Heat

Avoid leaving your tea leaves near stoves or outside in the sun. Heat can reduce flavonoids and hence the quality.

Air

Tea exposed to air can absorb odor and moisture, therefore, losing the original tea flavor.

Odor

Store your tea bags within an air-tight container free from other scents to protect the tea flavor. Tea can easily absorb any scent within its surroundings.

Our Final Say

Tea, whether black, green, white, oolong or herbal, will hold its quality, flavor, and flavonoids for quite some time as long as it is appropriately stored. Buy fresh tea whenever you can so that you will obtain the very best from it. However, if you don’t have access to fresh tea, be sure to observe the best practice for storing to ensure that you will maintain and enjoy the aroma, flavor, and freshness of your dried tea for as long as possible.

As always though, be sure to consult with your doctor or primary medical physician prior to taking any of the natural remedies, herbs or general advice given in this article. This information is for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.