How Long Does Tea Last? Everything you need to know />

How Long Does Tea Last? Everything you need to know

How Long Does Tea Last? Everything you need to know

Does tea expire?...
How long does it last?...
How can you best preserve your tea?...
If you've ever found yourself asking these questions then you're in the right place, we’ll share with you the best tips and tricks for keeping your tea fresh.
Over the course of this blog we’ll show you everything you need to know about the longevity of tea and how to make your tea last as long as possible. After all, it would be a terrible shame for the delicious batch of teas you ordered to go bad before you or your customers had a chance to enjoy them.

Does tea expire?

Jumping straight in with what most tea lovers wonder about when shopping for tea.
The straight answer is YES!
As a natural product, tea does expire. Tea, regardless of what type, flavor, or manufacturer will always expire and need to be thrown out. Some teas will definitely last longer than others.
A lot of people like to make the argument that there's a difference between a product's actual best before date and the point where it's completely inedible, this applies for tea too. The best before date for teas is an approximation of where the manufacturer believes the tea will begin to lose its freshness. Past this point, your tea will simply never taste as good as it should but it's still safe for you to drink.
Think of this as similar to eating a piece of stale bread. Yes it's technically safe to eat but it isn’t anywhere as good as it was when it was first baked, so you're not going to enjoy it as much.

We at ITI believe tea is to be enjoyed at its best so we’re a firm believer of using the best before date as the expiry date for our teas.

How long does tea last?

There are a few general numbers to give you an idea of the ‘best’ periods of each tea.


  • Loose leaf tea:                     18-24 months
  • Tea bags:                             12-24 months
  • RTD (cans and bottles):      18-24+ months


  • Loose leaf tea:                     6-12 months
  • Tea bags:                             4-10 months
  • RTD (cans and bottles):      2-7 days

Which teas have longer shelf lives?

The major factor that determines which types of teas have longer shelf lives is the oxidation process. Seeing as all teas come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis, the way the teas are processed makes all the difference in their shelf life.
Oxidation refers to how long the tea leaves are left to absorb oxygen after being plucked, the oxygen they absorb reacts with enzymes within the leaves, this reaction is responsible for all the different colors and flavors in teas.

The less oxidation that occurs, and consequently, the more moisture the leaf retains, the less shelf life the tea has.

To counteract this, teas are usually dried by the manufacturers before packaging. Different teas are dried to different levels due to flavor demands and as such, will have lower shelf lives than teas that are dried for longer.

To counteract this, tas are usually dried by the manufacturers before packaging. Different teas are dried to different levels due to flavor demands and as such, will have lower shelf lives than teas that are dried for longer.

The next major factor in shelf life of teas is what ‘form’ the tea is in.

Whole and cut leaves (the type used in loose leaf teas) generally last longer than dust and fannings (tea bags). This difference is due to the likelihood of dust and fannings to absorb moisture and develop mold while on the shelf.

Teas with the longest shelf life:

  • Pu Erh Tea
  • (Darker) Oolong Tea
  • Black Tea
  • Silver Needle tea
  • Some Mixed Teas(Darker Blends of Tea Only)

Teas with the lowest shelf life:

  • Green Tea
  • Yellow Tea
  • (Green) Oolong Tea
  • Herbal Tea
  • Fruit Tea
  • Aromatized Teas

How to keep your tea fresh for as long as possible

Keep away from direct sunlight

You'd think that for all the good it does and the fact that, you know, it's always there… things on earth would have evolved to do well in sunlight but apparently that's too much to ask.

Avoid leaving your tea anywhere the sun can shine, that means no windows, displays or basically anywhere at or near outside.

Keep it dark and cool

Tea loves dark and brooding places. However, cool doesn't mean refrigerated, this is a great way of introducing moisture to your tea, which is terrible for longevity.

A nice dark cupboard, storeroom or warehouse is the perfect environment for keeping your tea fresh and flavorful.

Store away from strong odors and other types of teas

Yes, this seems contradictory to what we just told you but it really does make sense.

Tea loves to infuse and absorb things from its surroundings which is why you don't want them near other items or teas with strong odors, we don't want your tea taking on the flavor of another and spoiling the whole brew. It's best to store teas of similar kinds together and have separate spaces for your more powerful smelling items.

Avoid humidity

Don't store your tea next to where you boil your water, don't put it in the fridge, or out in the open in your kitchen. Tea loves getting wet, it's what it's supposed to do… so every chance it gets, it's going to soak up as much moisture as it possibly can. The moment it starts doing this, it's on a fast track to spoiling.

Use appropriate containers

Jars, ziplock bags and vacuum seals are all fantastic ways of not only keeping humidity out but all those pesky microorganisms just dying for a chance to call your tea stash home. Here are a few more tea safety tips;

  • Be sure your packaging is food-safe

  • Glazed ceramics, non-reactive metals, and opaque, non-leaching plastics all make great packaging materials..

  • The bags that suppliers sell tea in vary widely in terms of quality. For long-term storage, it's best to switch to your own container or for larger, wholesale amounts of tea, invest in a dedicated, climate controlled storage space.

How to tell if your tea has gone bad

Acidic, fermented smell:

Ever smelled a rotten fruit, it's similar to this. This is caused by bacteria decomposing your tea and basically eating your hard bought tea for you

Oozing tea leaves:

Yep, it's about as appetizing as you're picturing it. Your tea leaves are wet or sticky and have a layer of slime on them, this is caused by bacteria making a home on your favorite brew. 


Think moldy bread. Look for any white, yellow or light green mold on your tea or tea container. This is really common with packets of tea bags, especially if you leave them next to where you boil your water.


If your tea ‘was’ green and is now purple, that's a pretty good sign you shouldn't be drinking it. That or you've had your original stash swapped for this new one.
We as humans are great at telling when food’s no longer good to consume, if your gut is telling you that something’s off with this batch of tea then it's best to err on the side of caution and avoid it…
Remember this: If in doubt, throw it out.

What to do if your tea has gone bad

If your stash of delicious tea has gone bad, firstly, we understand the pain. It's truly tragic.
Secondly, there are a few ways to make the most of this terrible situation.
Quick note, If you're a business owner, you need to get rid of tea that's reached its best before date, while it could still be fine to drink, the cost to your reputation when people find out you're still selling them will far outweigh any losses from disposing them off.

Turn it into compost

Throw all those bad loose leaf teas and tea bags into your compost heap and let them return to the earth as nice, sweet plant food, you can then use these for your plants.

If you're a tea business, this is a great way to let people know just how eco-friendly and sustainable you are, which is a huge draw for new customers.

Consider making a few social posts about your tea’s journey from plant to processing plant to being plant food.

Make a face scrub

If it's past due but not rotten (you know the difference), you can grind up your leftover teas and use them as part of an organic face mask. Business owners have a possible new source of revenue by selling organic tea based masks alongside their delicious brews.

Soak in it

If you're feeling particularly poetic, you can double your tea’s dying act with its life’s purpose and have it soak in some water as a herbal bath. This is another great business idea we’re not charging you for and can easily fit in with your store for some added profits. Again, just make sure they're not rotten or moldy.


You came to us, possibly looking for a reason not to throw away that bag of past due tea but instead you move on wiser and with all you need to start an alternative tea skincare business