Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some Advice on Tea Storage

I was reading an article on tea storage advice and did a double take when I hit the section about storing tea in the refrigerator.

Do NOT do that!

There are several things wrong with storing tea, even in an air tight container, in the refrigerator. First, refrigerators house other food odors which could be absorbed by tea leaves. It is bad enough that some teas are overly flavored and scented to begin with, would you want your tea tasting like everything else in your refrigerator, as well? Second, if you place tea in an air tight container, you are also trapping room temperature air in the container. Then you place the container in the refrigerator. A couple of days later you are craving some yummy delicious tea so you grab that container from the refrigerator, open it, scoop out what you want, and close the container. What just happened is you introduced warm air into a cold container. When you put the container back into the refrigerator this is going to produce condensation and the moisture will lead to mold.

Thus, the benefits of the slightly extended shelf life versus the potential risks are just not worth it.

Basically what tea storage comes down to is protecting it from its two enemies: light and air. Store your tea in air tight containers (or at least make the container or bag as air tight as possible) and store those containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Be careful when storing tea in kitchen cabinets because the same threat of food odors in the refrigerator can come from the spices in the cabinets, as well. The ideal place in the kitchen is in the cabinet away from spices and away from the oven as smoke and fumes from cooking could absorb into the leaves.

If you have lots of tea (like the tea freak writing this article) the best practical place to store tea is in a cabinet in another room other than the kitchen... for example, the dining room or living room. This way, the tea is safe from light thanks to the opaque bags and containers plus the doors on the cabinet and the precious leaves are far away from any food odors that it could absorb. Keeping the tea at the same temperature as the rest of the house keeps moisture from forming and developing mold. It is not the perfect set up, but it works.

Ok, if you just insist on storing tea in the refrigerator for whatever reason, allow me to suggest something else. Separate the tea leaves into individual serving sizes and place each serving into a small sealable bag. Then, place the bags into the freezer. When you want to use those tea leaves, take out as many servings as you need and use all of the tea you take out. Do NOT put those tea leaves back into the freezer once you have taken them out.


Eric said...

I would have to say that there are some other alternatives to this as well. Storing larger amounts, e.g. unopened packages are fine if the package is non permeable. When you take it out let it sit to readjust to room temperature.

Also dedicated fridges for the truly tea crazy work well to prevent the whole food odor bit.

Steph said...

Thanks for setting the record straight! I always encourage folks to buy in small quantities, if possible, and drink it up!

Brittiny said...

Eric - I almost said something about dedicating a fridge tea, like one of the small ones for college dorms, but I decided not to mention it because of the condensation problem. I can see what you are saying as far as long term storage... just as long as the package is not opened while cold.

Steph - yes, I encourage buying in small quantities. It keeps the tea fresh without having to worry about long term storage.

Thanks for the comments!

Alex Zorach said...

There is one type of "tea" that I keep in the refridgerator, which are fresh leaves of various herbs that I use to brew fresh herbal teas. For example, sometimes I buy fresh spearmint leaves in winter for this purpose.

But besides that odd case (which is not about true tea anyway) this is very good advice. =)

Blooming Tea said...

I'm glad to have found this post, I must admit I store my teas on the refrigerator, no wonder sometimes I get a funny taste of it. Thanks a lot.