Storing tea bags for long periods is a useful strategy for holding onto excess tea or building up your survival stores. There are, however, proper ways to store tea bags and loose-leaf tea to maintain freshness.
The best way to store tea bags long-term is to put them in airtight containers made of metal, ceramic, or glass. Tightly close the containers and put them in a dark, dry place. Keep temperatures between 60° to 80° Fahrenheit (15.5° to 26.6° Celsius). Avoid direct light, moisture, and strong odors.
For most situations, tin storage containers like these found on Amazon will do the trick nicely.
In this article, we’ll cover the best way to store tea bags and loose-leaf tea, the best places for storage, and the best containers. We’ll also discuss how to preserve tea, how long you can store different types of tea, and finally, how you can use expired tea bags.
Where Is the Best Place to Store Tea Bags?
The best place to store tea bags is in a metal, ceramic, or opaque glass container with a lid. Keep the container in a dark, dry environment, such as a pantry, cabinet, or drawer. Avoid direct light, moisture, temperature fluctuations, and pungent odors to preserve flavor.
Tea is dry; therefore, it readily absorbs scents and flavors, especially from strong-smelling foods, including spices and other herbs. Absorption of these odors can significantly alter the taste of your tea.
Additionally, the low moisture content of tea makes it susceptible to moisture absorption. Therefore, keep it away from sinks, dish strainers, or other sources of moisture.
The vast majority of people reading this will likely be best served using airtight tin containers, like the ones I recommend.
Or, if you are storing in bulk for the ultra long-term, check out this guide. The topic is storing rice and beans, but the principles are the same. Just substitute tea bags, and you’ll maximize long-term freshness, perhaps for decades.
Consider a Tea Cabinet or Tea Drawer
After placing your tea in a metal, ceramic, or glass container, you’ll need to put it in a dark, dry area for long-term storage.
Consider keeping your tea collection in a cabinet if you have the space to spare. Cabinets offer plenty of room for boxed tea, loose tea, and accessories such as saucers, spoons, and teacups. The only major downside to a tea cabinet is that these spaces often end up overflowing with other items. As such, it’s best to dedicate one cabinet (or at least one shelf) to only tea. Otherwise, your tea may end up hiding behind other items.
If your tea stash is on the smaller side, consider a tea drawer instead. This space allows you to store all of your favorite teas without having to stack them or hide them behind one another. It’s a simple way to see your entire stash, making it quick and easy to find what you need.
Can You Store Tea Bags in the Fridge?
You shouldn’t store tea bags in the refrigerator unless it’s a rare blend of delicate tea. Refrigerators contain moisture, as well as odors that may be absorbed by the tea. Additionally, the temperature variation from being taken in and out of the refrigerator may degrade the tea’s quality.
Delicate teas, including green tea (matcha), may be stored in the refrigerator as long as they’re unopened. Storing these delicate teas in a cool place slows down the oxidation process, keeping the tea fresh for longer. Once the tea is opened, however, it should be kept out of the refrigerator and away from cold, moist areas.
Do Tea Bags Need to Be Stored Airtight?
Teabags need to be stored in airtight containers, preferably opaque containers. This protects the tea from light, moisture, and oxidation, which is especially important for loose teas that don’t come in protective packaging.
You can also store tea bags and loose teas in vacuum-sealed bags for even longer freshness.
Can You Store Tea in Ziploc Bags?
You can store tea in Ziploc bags if you don’t have any airtight containers. Remove the tea from its original packaging (not from the tea bag itself), and place it into a resealable Ziploc bag. Release any remaining air and then seal it. Place it in a cool, dark, dry spot, like a cabinet or pantry.
Is Storing Tea Bags in Mylar a Good Idea?
Storing tea in mylar is a good idea for preserving freshness. Store tea bags or bagged loose tea in sealed mylar buckets. Toss in a few oxygen absorbers or silica packets to retain freshness even longer. Keep the bucket in a cool, dry area. This may preserve some teas for three years or longer.
Some tea blends, such as those that contain citrus, nuts, or grains, have the potential to go rancid after a short time. Adding oxygen absorbers can help retain the freshness of these teas for longer.
Warning: Be sure that anytime you use oxygen absorbers, it is in foods with less than 10% moisture. If the moisture is too high, it can cause botulism bacteria to grow. Please use oxygen absorbers at your own risk and do your due diligence. Survival Freedom will not be held liable for any consequences that might be experienced as a result of the information in this article. It was obtained mainly through research.
How to Store Tea Bags That Are Not Individually Wrapped
Store loose tea in an airtight container made of metal, ceramic, or opaque glass to prevent light from degrading the tea. Keep it in a dark, dry area. If the loose tea doesn’t come in protective packaging, it’s critical that you immediately repackage it to preserve freshness.
Best Loose Leaf Tea Storage Containers
Most loose-leaf tea doesn’t come protectively wrapped (i.e., in aluminum, vacuum-sealed plastic, or another oxidation-proof packaging), so you must place it into an opaque container with a tight lid. If it does come in protective packaging, you can keep it there until you’re ready to use it, but storing it in a designated container may extend its freshness. Keep different flavors packaged separately to prevent them from absorbing into one another.
Here are some of the best loose-leaf tea storage containers (all available on Amazon):
- Tea Tin Canister with Airtight Double Lids – Available as a single, set of two, or set of four, these tea tin canisters are airtight, making them perfect for storing your favorite tea blends. The sleek design measures 2.9 x 2.9 x 4.5 inches (7.4 x 7.4 x 11.4 cm).
- Tianhui Mini Small Tin Can – These tea storage containers come in a set of five, and sets are available in two different sizes (small and medium). Each container stores up to two ounces (56.6 grams) of loose-leaf tea. The tight-fitting lids maintain the freshness of the product.
- Dahlia Embossed Five Blessings Porcelain Loose Tea Tin – This beautifully designed porcelain tea tin features an airtight lid to protect your tea, keeping it fresh, dry, and away from light sources. The container features blessings for wealth, health, love, peace, and a long life. The volume of the container is 4.25 ounces (120.4 grams).
- Jessie Loose Tea Tin Tea Storage Tea Caddy – The 2.3-ounce (65.2 grams) tea canister comes in eight different designs. It’s made of ceramic, which is one of the best materials for preserving loose-leaf tea. The airtight lid maintains freshness, and the unique designs make it perfect as a decorative home addition.
How Do You Preserve Tea Bags?
Preserve tea bags by keeping them in their original packaging (if it’s aluminum or oxidation-proof). Place those packages into airtight containers and store the containers in a dark, dry area that remains around 60° to 80° Fahrenheit (15.5° to 26.6° Celsius).
Even if you store your tea in the best possible environment, it’ll always taste better fresh. So, even if your favorite tea is discounted or sold in bulk for an incredible deal, it’s best to stick to small amounts for the freshest brew possible. Once your stash begins to dwindle, you can purchase more.
If you’re storing for preparation purposes, however, then it’s recommended to buy in bulk — but know that it’s unlikely to taste like a fresh bag, even when meticulously stored.
How Long Can You Store Tea Bags?
You can store tea bags, on average, for around one to two years. Pu-erh tea is fermented, allowing storage for decades even without protection from moisture and oxidation. Green tea or matcha has the shortest shelf life, expiring after a year with proper storage.
|Type of Tea||How Long It Lasts|
A tea’s expiration date doesn’t necessarily mean that the tea is “bad” past that date (in the sense that it could harm you). It essentially means that it’s likely lost its flavor, freshness, and overall quality. As such, if you’re storing tea to maintain an emergency stockpile, then a tea bag that’s lost some of its flavor is hardly worthless. In fact, according to the University of Georgia, tea may be stored indefinitely in the proper conditions.
On the other hand, if you’re storing tea so that it remains as fresh as possible, keep track of when it was purchased. Take note of it and rotate out the old tea whenever necessary — but don’t throw out the expired tea! There are many uses for old tea bags, which we’ll discuss toward the end of this article.
Overall, in most cases, with proper storage, tea is drinkable as long as it doesn’t show rare signs of spoilage, as we’ll discuss in the next subsection.
Do Tea Bags Go Bad or Expire?
Teabags have expiration dates and can “go bad” in certain circumstances. Expiration dates typically correlate with freshness. Since dried tea leaves have a very low moisture content, they’re less likely to spoil. It will still absorb moisture and strong odors, though, so keep it away from both.
Some teas last much longer than others, whereas some last up to a year or less. Matcha powder, in particular, absorbs far more moisture and odors than regular loose-leaf tea. Even then, it’s not necessarily harmful to drink — it likely just won’t taste very good.
How Do You Know if Tea Bags Have Gone Bad?
You’ll know if tea bags have gone bad if you notice a foul odor, the tea lacks scent or flavor, there is discoloration or fuzzy patches on the leaves, bag, or container, or if the tea bag feels moist to the touch.
Tea Smells Bad
If you open your tea container and notice a foul, musty, or rancid odor, then it’s definitely bad and should be tossed. This typically happens when tea is exposed to moisture, such as in a humid environment. While the tea may not look bad, the odor is enough to toss it out.
Tea Doesn’t Smell Like Anything
When you take a whiff or sip of your tea and notice that it’s weak and flat, then the tea has likely gone stale. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tea is harmful, but it’s probably dull and unenjoyable. This happens if the tea is left in a canister that’s not been properly sealed or if it’s caught in direct sunlight.
Discoloration and Fuzzy Patches on Tea Leaves
Exposure to humid environments increases the moisture content of tea leaves. These moisture levels, especially when combined with a dark environment, create the perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria. As such, you should toss the entire batch right away to prevent any health implications from drinking the contaminated tea. This is likely mold, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Tea Bags or Loose Tea Feels Moist
If you pull out a tea bag or a pinch of loose-leaf tea only to notice that it feels wet or damp to the touch, then it’s best to get rid of it. Not only could nasty things be growing, but moisture practically begins the brewing process of the tea, degrading the quality — and it’s always better safe than sorry.
Can Tea Bags Grow Mold?
Teabags can grow mold, especially when exposed to moisture. Any tea that contains mold on the leaves, container, or tea bag should be thrown out. It is not suitable for drinking and could potentially cause health issues.
Even if you notice a tiny patch of mold in the corner of the tea canister, the entire batch must be disposed of. It’s likely that mold spores have infiltrated the entire stash.
If you suspect mold, look at the whole leaves on a clean white cloth or paper towel. If you’re dealing with loose tea, inspect a few pinches at a time very closely. For tea bags, move the tea around with your fingers, looking for any signs of mold, discoloration, or dampness.
Check the tea at least once every two months to ensure that there’s nothing growing, and always ensure that the lids are on tight.
Can Old Tea Make You Sick?
Old tea is unlikely to make you sick unless it has a strange or foul odor, feels moist to the touch, or contains fuzzy patches or discoloration. If you notice these signs of spoilage, throw it out. Expired tea with no outward signs of spoilage or mold may not taste fresh, but it’s not harmful.
What Can You Use Expired Tea Bags For?
Don’t toss your expired or used tea bags in the trash!
Here are five ways to use them:
1. Deodorize Carpets, Rugs, Shoes, and More
As mentioned throughout this article, tea bags have a very low moisture content making them more likely to absorb moisture and odors. As such, they make excellent deodorizers!
Use the stale tea bags to deodorize carpets, rugs, closets, and even your refrigerator.
Here’s how to use tea bags to remove odors from your carpet or rugs:
- Open up 10 tea bags (if you’re using prepackaged tea).
- Dump the loose tea leaves into a jar with a lid.
- Add one cup of baking soda to the jar.
- Pour one cup of borax into the jar.
- Add 20 drops of essential oils, if you’d like.
- Put the lid on the jar and shake well.
- Sprinkle the powder liberally onto the carpet or rugs.
- Allow the powder to sit for around 20 to 30 minutes.
- Vacuum the area thoroughly.
You can also place expired, dry tea bags in dresser drawers or closets to remove foul smells.
Do your shoes smell a little funky? Well, toss a couple of tea bags in each — it’ll also absorb any excess moisture from sweaty feet! Replace the bags every night for extra fresh footwear.
Create Fire Starters
Creating an emergency stockpile? Then you’ll benefit from a teabag stash because expired tea bags create handy fire starters.
Here’s how to make these teabag fire starters in five simple steps:
- Melt wax (i.e., beeswax, soy, candle wax, crayon wax, etc.) over a double boiler.
- Dip a dry, expired tea bag into the wax.
- Place the tea bag onto a sheet of parchment paper to harden.
- Repeat for the remaining tea bags.
- Store the fire starters in a cool, dry place, away from heat and fire sources.
These fire starters are inexpensive, and convenient, and they light up quickly.
Add Tea Bags To Your Compost Bin
Instead of sticking your old tea bags in the garbage bin, toss them into your compost bin! Not only can you use expired, dry tea (bag and all), but you can also use brewed tea bags once you’ve squeezed out the excess moisture!
As a bonus, you’ll find that dried tea bags may even absorb any unwanted odors from your countertop compost — it’s a win-win!
Improve Your Garden and Repel Pests
Tea bags have the potential to increase soil acidity, which is good news for plants like tubers, some herbs, and azalea shrubs. To utilize tea bags for this purpose, toss a tea bag around the base of the plant and then water it thoroughly. The acidity lasts for approximately a week, so replace the tea bag as needed. However, be careful — not all plants like a low pH.
Another garden tip is to use tea bags to repel unwanted visitors, such as ants, caterpillars, and beetles. Tea of the mint variety is best for this purpose. Peppermint keeps beetles away (but keep in mind that many ground beetles are beneficial insects), while spearmint deters ants and moths. Hide a few tea bags around the plants, or sprinkle loose-leaf tea around the garden.
Polish Wood Surfaces
Is that expired tea tasting pretty weak? Don’t toss it — put it to good use around your home! Grab a tea bag or two and steep it in warm (not hot) water to brew a weak, transparent tea. Squeeze the excess moisture out of the tea bag and toss the bag into the compost. Next, dip a soft cloth into the weak tea and use it to buff doors, tables, chairs, or even wooden wall decor.
Once you’ve finished up, the wooden furniture should be restored to a lustrous shine.
Storing tea bags and loose-leaf tea for the long term is an excellent way to stretch your dollar and have a backup stash for emergency situations. After all, having a warm cup of tea in the morning can boost your mood and energy levels.
However, properly storing tea means keeping it away from five different things: Air, light, moisture, fluctuating temperatures, and pungent odors.
If you use the tips throughout this article, your tea should last as long as possible — and you’ll have several other ways to use expired tea bags if you’d like.
For more, don’t miss How Long Does Tea Last? | Proper Storage Guidelines.
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.