The different types of tea are endless, and you may find yourself wanting to stock up on your favorite varieties. But how long can you store tea? What is the shelf life of tea bags? Let’s have a look…
Tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a species of plant native to Asia.
Can tea expire?
It’s not so much that tea can expire, but rather the quality of the tea expires over time. You can enjoy the full flavor of tea if you consume it within a certain timeframe. You can still drink the tea after this ‘best before’ date (as long as the product hasn’t been contaminated) — It just won’t be at its best.
Typically, the shelf life of sealed package tea can last from 12 month to 36 monthsTeavivre, Tea For Llife
Quick Reference: Shelf life of tea *
|Tea Variety||Average Shelf Life|
|Black||18 mth — 3 yr|
|Yellow||18 — 24 mth|
What is the shelf life of teabags?
If you’re wondering “do tea bags expire?” the answer is yes. Generally speaking, the more delicate teas of green and white will expire sooner than the black tea varieties. Tea bag shelf life is anywhere from 12 months to three years, depending on the type and how you store the tea.
Do tea bags go bad? It’s not that tea bags go off in the sense of they rot like some foodstuffs, but they can go bad with mold if moisture gets into them.
Do tea bags have an expiration date? Yes. Most brands recommend using their tea product before the expiry date marked on the back of the package.
How long can you keep teabags in your pantry?
The shelf life of tea bags in your pantry depends on…
- How long it’s been open
- The manufacturing date
- Storage before opening and how soon it was opened after purchase
- How you’ve stored it since opening
If you store your bags in an airtight container in a cool dry place they can last up to two years or longer
If you leave the teabag unwrapped and unsealed for several hours, chances are the teabag will loose freshness and flavor.
If you have been holding on to old tea bags, you might want to check the date on the packaging and consider composting or somehow disposing of them if that date has expired. At least before you put that kettle on.
What to do with old teabags? You could always turn them into works of art...
Can teabags be stored in the fridge or freezer?
Some people claim that storing teabags in freezer or refrigerator extends the tea’s shelf life, but you might find this actually compromises taste and quality of the tea. Tea leaves are sensitive to moisture and they break down quickly when placed in an environment that’s moist, as in the refrigerator or freezer.
Tea bag storage:
- Although the tea bags can be put in a cool place for storage, it’s not a good idea to store them inside of the fridge or freezer.
- If you must store your tea bags in the fridge, look for a small container that’s airtight and doesn’t have any holes and seals tightly.
- Some people also recommend using zip lock type sandwich baggies especially if the package has an open end as they are more likely to create a vacuum seal.
Moisture is just one consideration when storing tea…
What to avoid when storing tea
Where you store tea matters: You can remove tannin stains from your cup, but unless you store your teabags properly, you still hamper the quality of your next cuppa. Store tea away from elements that will degrade its quality.
The best way to store tea and keep it fresh for as long as possible is unopened in its package. If you have opened the packaging, try storing in mason jars with lids or airtight containers. Make sure the container has an airtight seal; this includes water vapor from outside sources because it could cause mold or bacteria to grow. Store away from light and heat also.
When should I toss a tea bag that has been opened for too long?
If you’ve already unwrapped and left your tea bag exposed for hours, it’s likely that the flavor will deteriorate fast. It’s best to toss it.
The longer a tea bag is left open to air, the more its taste deteriorates so it should be tossed as soon as possible.
If you’re on the go, single serving tea bags from a box of them can keep fresh for days in an airtight container like a small Tupperware or sealed plastic baggie.
While I enjoy teabag tea, for me there’s nothing better than teapot brewed tea — see my article on how to brew the perfect cup.
How do I know if my tea bag is still good to drink?
There are some things you can look out for when it comes to knowing if your tea bag is still good. The color of the tea is one. A stale teabag may have speckles and be more brownish or yellow-toned than a fresh one. Such discoloring indicates that there’s been oxidation from air exposure. The flavor won’t taste the same and it will be more bitter.
If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is just toss them and get new ones! You can’t really tell for sure if they are still good other than looking at them and refering to the date on the packaging.
Shelf life for tea bags of popular brands
Lipton recommends consuming their tea within 18 months after production. This includes: Black, Iced Tea Brew, Cold Brew Tea, Herbal, Black Flavored Teas, Earl Grey and English Breakfast.
Lipton makes a variety of great teas including their signature “Lipton Yellow Label Tea”, said to be made from the finest tea leaves.
The four main types are: Black, White, Green, and Oolong – each one has a different taste profile that is all its own.
Their packages of tea bags have a number and letter combination that indicate the production date. “The first number is the year, the next letter is the month and the next two numbers are the day of the month.” Here’s an example: 4J24 is code for October 24, 2004.
Lipton tea: month codes for how to tell when tea expires
Some packages have an actual a date in mm/dd/yyyy or similar date format. Used within this date assures optimum quality and freshness of the tea.
Twinings tea bags are best used before the date stamped on the box or packaging. This date can be up to three years of date of packaging.
Twinings was founded in 1875 by Thomas Twining who opened his first shop near London Bridge. Since then they’ve expanded across Europe and North America.
I like the chamomile tea as it helps lull me to sleep at night but I also love the Orange Spice which smells very festive.
The Green Tea has a lighter aroma than Black Tea because they’re made from unfermented leaves. While some people prefer one type over another, we might all agree that Twinings has done their part in making sure we always have plenty of flavors to choose from!
- Deka, A., & Vita, J. A. (2011). Tea and Cardiovascular Disease. Pharmacological research, 64(2), 136–145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2011.03.009
- Nakachi K, Matsuyama S, Miyake S, Suganuma M, Imai K. 2000. Preventive effects of drinking green tea on cancer and cardiovascular disease: epidemiological evidence for multiple targeting prevention. Biofactors. 13(1-4):49-54. doi: 10.1002/biof.5520130109. PMID: 11237198.