Keeping Tea Bags: How Long Does Tea Last. Does It Expire?

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Tea has been a popular drink for centuries. 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 them? What is the shelf life of tea bags? This article will answer those questions and more.

Tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a species of plant native to Asia.

What is the shelf life of teabags?

Tea’s shelf life is anywhere from 12 months up to three years, depending on the type of tea and how it is stored. Generally speaking, more delicate teas such as green or white will expire sooner than harder varieties, like black tea.

Typically, the shelf life of sealed package tea can last from 12 month to 36 months

Teavivre, Tea For Llife

Most brands recommend using the tea within the date on the back of the package. Tea is usually best consumed within this date. After this ‘best before’ date, you can still drink the tea as long as it hasn’t been tampered with or left opened to the environment — It just won’t be at its best.

Quick Reference: Shelf life of tea *

Tea VarietyAverage Shelf Life
Black18 mth — 3 yr
Green18 mth
Yellow18 — 24 mth
Oolong2 yr
White2 yr
*Guide only

How long can you keep Teabags in your pantry?

The shelf life of tea bags depends on…

  • How long has the product has been opened?
  • How long has it been since the tea leaves were cut or broken down into smaller pieces?
  • Where was the product stored before opening and how soon did you open the packaging after purchase.
  • Where you have the tea stored after opening it also affects the shelf life. If you store your bags in an airtight container in a cool dry place they can last up to two years or longer.

If the teabag unwrapped and left unsealed for several hours, chances are the teabag will have lost 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 boil that kettle.

What to do with old teabags? You could always turn them into works of art...

Can teabags be stored in the fridge or freezer?

Tea 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.

Some people claim that it extends shelf life, but you might find this is not so and that it actually compromises taste and quality of the tea.

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.

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.

Moisture is just one consideration when storing tea…

What to avoid when storing tea

Where you store tea matters: Store your teabags away from these 5 elements or else you’ll harm the quality of your next cuppa:

  • Light
  • Air
  • Heat
  • Moisture
  • Odor

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 Xtrema pure ceramic teapots.

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.

See also: How to make the perfect iced green tea with teabags

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.

How do I store my open box of teas so they stay fresh longer and don’t go stale as quickly?

If you don’t have the time to consume your entire box of tea within a few weeks, then I recommend that you store the remainder in an airtight container or bag. This will help to preserve freshness and prevent mold from forming on the leaves rather than if they were just left out for storage. Store them in a cool dry spot in the pantry.

Can old tea make you sick?

Consuming tea with mold on the leaves might increase your chances of getting sick if you drink it. If you have questions about tea that has expired and whether it will cause you to feel ill, contact the maker for answers. Many have an online chats for doing this.

Lipton teas

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.

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.

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

AJanuaryGJuly
BFebruaryHAugust
CMarchJOctober
DAprilKNovember
EMayLDecember
FJuneXSeptember
Source: Lipton

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.

Twining Teas

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!

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.

Info Sources

  1. Deka, A., & Vita, J. A. (2011). Tea and Cardiovascular Disease. Pharmacological research64(2), 136–145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2011.03.009
  2. 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.
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