Because tea leaves are a shelf-stable product, it is commonly assumed that their quality does not degrade over time. However, through the process of oxidation, tea begins to deteriorate as soon as it is picked from the plant. Luckily, proper storage is a simple way to interrupt that process and keep your tea fresh and delicious.
There are five main “enemies” of tea that should be avoided: light, heat, moisture, odor, and air.
Light promotes the decomposition of chlorophyll, which causes tea to brown. To prevent this, store tea in opaque containers or in dark cabinets.
Heat expedites oxidation, so tea should be kept in a cool place. To retain freshness, unopened tea can be stored in the refrigerator, or even the freezer! Just be sure to allow it to return to room temperature before opening. Otherwise, the tea leaves will absorb condensation formed by the temperature difference.
Moisture also hastens the decomposition process. If you live in a humid area, sealed containers are recommended to block out moisture. Additionally, keep tea away from appliances that emit steam, including dishwashers and ovens.
Odors are easily absorbed by tea. In order to keep the flavor of your tea pure, steer clear of placing it near anything with a strong scent, such as a spice cabinet or trash can. Opened tea should not be placed in the refrigerator, where it is likely to absorb the smell of other food.
Air exposure increases the likelihood that tea will be affected by moisture and odors. Remember to squeeze out any excess air in the packaging before sealing, or invest in an air-tight container.
By strategically avoiding the five “enemies” of tea listed above, you can ensure that your tea will retain its quality for as long as possible. Happy brewing!
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