Have you ever wondered if teas have an expiration date?
I did the other day as I unearthed a can of loose black tea from China from our trip to Shenzhen 7 years ago. I think it was knocked over at some point by the peanut butter and it rolled itself to oblivion until today.
It was stored in a cupboard in its original packaging and the leaves packed in an airtight plastic bag. I weighed the pros and cons and debated whether I should take the risk. Plus I was mildly curious. I mean what’s the worst that can happen, right? Tea is tea, right?
The good news is I am alive and well writing this article in the wee hours of the morning. Yep. No horns sprouting from my head, no genetic mutation happening, yet - not even a rumbling tummy. The tea tastes like tea, although noticeably weaker. Hilariously, it was only after the third sip that I thought to check for molds but there was nothing to report so I enjoyed the rest of the cup.
Does it mean that tea can be aged?
But remember that eventually, like anything else, it will succumb to time and end up with what I had – a weaker version of its original self. However, it has been claimed high-quality teas can be aged much like wine - think Pu-erh tea which can be over 100 years old.
The Process of Aging Tea
Before you go and age your loose tea stash you need to follow a few basic guidelines otherwise after two years your tea might turn to mush!
- Start with high-quality tea.
Most teas have a standard shelf life of two years however after that time frae the taste with diminish. High-quality teas, like the ones we sell at BRUU, technically do not diminish over time. Their flavors get more complex and depending on how the tea is processed or where it originated from, you will end up with a uniquely flavored tea.
- Keep it sealed, in an airtight
Air is one of the things that can damage your tea. Exposed tea leaves are subjected to what the air contains which can be absorbed by the leaves. Moisture can lead to molds developing so keeping the tea airtight and dry will safeguard your tea.
- Store it in the right place
If you are aging teas, it will help if you keep it in a dark place, at around room temperature away humidity. Humidity encourages moisture; moisture can affect your teas’ temperature and can encourage mold growth. Try to keep it from anything that has strong odors or smell. The leaves will absorb any flavor, keep it from spices or from anything that exudes a certain smell. Can you just imagine drinking a cup of black tea with a hint of that flowery room spray or garlic (yeech!)?
And that’s about it, well apart from heeps of patience. I’m going to BRUU my own aged teas, so in 3-4 years’ time I’ll let you know how they taste.