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Lala said

Do you pay attention to expiration dates on tea?

I generally don’t pay attention to expiration dates on tea as tea is a dried product. So if stored properly, it will never expire. I do understand that tea can go stale if kept for long periods. I have some teas that have expiration dates on the packages, and some that don’t

I’m just wondering how everyone else feels about expiration dates for tea? Am I maybe missing something?

In the interest of full dislosure: I am the type of person that smells “expired” dairy products before I actually get rid of them. Sometimes it can last a lot longer than the expiration date :P

26 Replies
Lazey said

I tried some tea that had an expiration date of 5 years prior meaning it was somewhere in my cupboard for around 10 years… It didn’t kill me but tasted pretty lousy so I tossed it. It was really cheap tea though. A higher quality tea might still hold up.

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K S said

As a fellow sniffer, I pay more attention when I am buying tea than I do in my tea drawer. I found a couple Bigelow teas still sealed in their envelopes that were years out of date. They tasted just fine. However – tea not sealed goes stale or loose their flavor in a short period. Unless it looks funky, age would not stop me from trying it. I mean does mustard ever go bad? Expiration date people won’t understand.

Lala said

Ha ha. Your post just made my day!

I think mustard would survive an apocolypse.

gmathis said

Expiration dates are recommendations, not regulations :)

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Not really, but if I own some tea for a long time, I pitch it.

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James R said

Not really. The flavor just degrades.

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Mr Steep said

I only open a few teas at a time and store them in canning jars in a dark cupboard. I drink them before they get stale or old. If some should linger around a bit too long, it is of no consequence.

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Usually teas can be kept in 2 years in a vacuumed foil bag in its good original flavor. Once I opened the vacuumed foil bag, I separate several bags and vacuumed them. After I finish one bag, and open another. This can keep the tea with its original smell and flavor better. I use tea foil bag clip to seal the foil bag every time I use it, and put into tea caddy without exposing sunlight and humidity. Teas taste the best within 2 months after the bag is opened, so I usually finish my teas in 2-3 month.

For matcha green tea powder, I have a individual small fridge to keep some of my teas and matcha green tea powder, which is to ensure my teas do not absorb other smell in the usual fridge.

As for some specific types of teas, I preserve them on purpose for years to make into aged oolong. For example, Muzha Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong and maroon oolong from Taiwan. Its taste changes to even richer and smoother, and also the price gets much higher as the tea gets more aged.

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James R said

I try not to put any tea in the refrigerator. As you open and close the fridge door, condensation can build on the leaves.

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lteg select said


^ That is a great article on expiration dates and how they actually have very little to do with safety or even quality. As long as I know my tea has been sealed well I don’t care when it’s from.

They may not be quite as flavorful as they originally were, but I have tins tea from a year or two ago that taste similar enough to what I remember that I can’t tell the difference.

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Erin said

No, I definitely do not pay attention to dates on a packages of tea.

The scent/flavor aromatic compounds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aroma_compound) volatilize off or break down over time, and when they are gone the teas do not taste as good as they once did. But it is purely a function of taste. These compounds can permeate (escape through) plastic, but not metal/glass, this is why it is best to store tea in tins or glass. It truly holds the flavor in.

Though I have wondered about any tea flavored with actual dried milk proteins (like chai mixes that have powdered milk in them)- in theory they could go rancid. That would taste rather foul. But I have never been big on them, so have never had any older ones to see what happens.

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forsythia said

The expiration dates on tea tins can be “shelf life”, but I still check. So yes I pay attention to teas past their expiration dates, loose and in teabags – at least the teas I buy can taste bitter to me when too old.

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