The Four Enemies Of Tea & How To Conquer Them

You buy your tea, you open it, brew a delicious cup, then pop it in a cupboard, but what happens after that?  How long can you keep it?  Does it go off? How will you know if it’s off?  Can you keep it on a countertop or should it be in a cupboard?

In order to answer those questions and more, you have to conquer each arch nemesis of tea: moisture, odor, light, and air.

When moisture gets involved, it can be the beginning of the end to your leaves.  A few sneaky beads fall in the open tin as you’re multi-tasking in the kitchen and it’s highly likely that it’ll go downhill from there.

Opening and closing your tea container will inevitably expose the leaves to a degree of moisture and air, but there are some basic storage tips you can use that will minimize those effects.

I loved keeping my tea on the countertop in a nice glass jar for all to see (I’m all about the aesthetics!), but little did I know I was doing it a disservice.  Extended periods of light over time will render your leaves flavorless, and if it’s a scented tea, it will most likely lose its aroma too.  If the leaves are unfortunate enough to be in the firing line of light and heat, condensation will increase the rate of dissolution.   In a nutshell, depending on the extent of moisture, you’re left with leaves that have slowly started to brew in their own container.  

Contact with air naturally attracts airborne moisture and dust, but what happens if you throw odors in the works too? 

Well, tea leaves easily absorb odors as they are a solute.  In terms of storage, keeping it in a place which has dominating aromas will see your tea as something you never thought it could be.  Any takers for garlic flavored tea? 

That being said, for intentionally scented teas, this characteristic is invaluable.  The Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl that we carry is the perfect example.  During the spring/summer, the leaves are plucked and alternately layered between trays of jasmine flowers to infuse.  While some jasmine teas are manually scented, others like the Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearl, use the leaf absorption to their advantage.

So, for your unwanted garlic tea, keeping it in an airtight tin is the most preferable scenario for general quality and freshness. If you have twenty different teas in glass jars, it’s unlikely that you’ll run down to the shop to buy twenty different tins after reading this; however, storing them in an odor-free dark place is an easy fix.

Stored well, longevity is about two years.  Oolongs and black teas are the hardiest and can potentially last longer.  The greens and whites have a shorter life span, so keep your taste buds on alert and store your tea to ensure it’s at its optimum freshness for your enjoyment!

Photo by Ben White and Farhan Azam.

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