How Long Can Tea Bags Be Kept?
I enjoy all types of tea. Many of us, on the other hand, have multiple boxes in our pantry and there’s no way of knowing how long they’ve been there. So, how long do you think you can keep teabags?
Teabags can be stored in a sealed container (such as a zip-lock bag) in a cool, dark area for up to two years. However, they will be at their freshest and most tasty within four months after purchase.
Teabags dry out and lose flavor as they age. They do not expire or go bad unless they are exposed to dampness or insects.
But it’s not relatively that straightforward.
So we’re going to look at teabags and how long they last in this article. However, we’ll look at how to determine when they’ve gone wrong as well. We’ll also look into whether it’s okay to utilize them past their expiration date.
Will drinking expired tea make you sick? Yes, we’ll respond to that as well!
Even the distinctions between standard tea bags and various herbal and green teas are being investigated. So let’s get this party started!
Do tea bags expire or go bad?
Teabags, in general, can become deficient and expire if they are stored incorrectly or exposed to moisture. However, when stored properly, most only lose flavor and are still safe to drink even 1-2 years after purchase.
When I looked for information on the internet, I generally discovered a lot of forums and opinions, so I went straight to the manufacturers to see what they had to say.
Even though there are dozens, if not hundreds, of tea companies, I concentrated my research on the most well-known. Here’s what I found out:
Earl Grey English Breakfast Earl Grey Iced Tea Brew Cold Brew Tea Herbal Black Flavored Teas
They recommend using their Powdered Iced Tea blends within 12 months after the date of manufacture.
SEASONINGS WITH CELESTIAL INGREDIENTS
Celestial Seasonings use a date code to indicate when the product should be eaten by.
Here’s how to decipher it. It simply depicts the day, month, and year running together. For instance, “09FEB19” stands for February 9, 2019.
However, in Canada, the year is the first number, and the month is followed by the day.
However, they say that, like Lipton, their “Best By” date is a gauge of taste and quality, not safety. “While we cannot guarantee that a tea will match our criteria for flavor after the “Best By” date has passed, it is safe to drink after that date has passed,” they write.
“Tea does not “go bad like a jug of milk,” Tetley said.
They propose a two-year shelf life from the date of manufacture. They also include a “Best Buy” date on their containers.
They also state that their tea can be consumed up to two years after the best date. Just know that it won’t be as tasty as it was when it was younger.
Bigelow, like the others, claims that “our teas have no health or expiration problems.”
They utilize a date code, much like Celestial. This is usually located on the bottom of the box and each tea bag, next to the bar code.
There are nine or ten characters in their manufacturing code. The year is represented by the last of these numerals, and a code that ends with 9 indicates that it was created in 2019.
However, they have recently begun including a “Best by Date” on their packaging.
How can you determine when your tea bags are past their prime?
If they were exposed to moisture, tea bags that have gone bad will have an unpleasant odor and may show mold symptoms on the paper wrapper or bag. Additionally, minor holes in the tea bags may indicate that they have been tampered with by bugs.
As stated previously, practically all of the most well-known tea makers accept that their goods are still good long after the best-by date printed on the packaging.
However, they have no knowledge of you, your kitchen, or how the goods have been stored.
However, if you store your tea bags in a ziplock bag in the pantry or kitchen cabinet, they will dry out (like that container of All Spice you have with your spices). After all, dried spices were originally fresh herb plant leaves.
Tea isn’t all that dissimilar.
However, if your tea bags have ever been damp, moist, or exposed to the sun, they may have gone “bad.” So, if you have some old tea bags that haven’t been used in 5 years and can’t bear to toss them out and replace them, look for the following:
- Examine the tea bags for any unpleasant, musty, or sour odors. (Toss them out.)
- Look for signs of pest infestation (movement in the tea bags, holes in the tea bags)
- Mold or mildew that is visible
- If in doubt, toss them out. In most circumstances, a few dollars for a replacement container will be significantly less expensive than the cost of potentially treating foodborne sickness.
How long do tea bags last after they’ve passed their best-by date?
Even after the best-by date, tea bags don’t go wrong if stored correctly. When used before the best-by date, they will be the freshest and most flavorful.
When I was researching each particular manufacturer and their recommendations, I mentioned this.
However, as they all pointed out, their teas do not go wrong if properly stored, and they dry up and lose their flavor. However, as a general rule, here are some tips to follow to ensure that the flavor remains good even after the best by or expiration date has passed.
The longer the tea leaves keep fresh, the larger the leaf or the more tightly rolled. The less expensive the tea, the less likely the leaves are to be larger and fresher. Because more of the tea is exposed to air, less costly teas with smaller, broken leaves are stale sooner.
However, don’t put tea bags or loose tea in the refrigerator because moisture isn’t good for them.
Is it okay if I drink tea bags that have expired?
Teabags that have beyond their expiration date can be consumed if there are no signs of mildew, and they’ll be colder, drier, and less tasty as a result.
Teabags will keep for well over a year after their “best by” date if stored correctly in an airtight container in a cold, dark place.
Black tea will retain its flavor even after it has passed its best-by date. On the other hand, green and white teas, which rely more largely on oils for flavor, will lose flavor faster.
In terms of flavor loss, herbal teas, which are technically not tea, are arguably the most variable. So utilize it before the expiration date rather than black, green, or white teas.
Just resist the urge to steep the tea for longer in the hopes of improving the flavor.
While it’s true that older tea bags produce less tasty tea, steeping time increases the bitterness of the tea. However, it does bring out caffeine as well as healthy flavanols. Over-steeping isn’t always a bad thing.
However, unless you see any of the indicators of rotten tea described above (bugs, mold, mildew, or an unpleasant odor) brew away, you’ll probably be alright.
Is it possible to become sick from old tea bags?
Teabags or loose tea that have passed their expiration or “best by” date are safe to consume and will not make anyone sick. As long as the tea is stored correctly in a dark and dry environment, it merely becomes drier and less delicious as it ages.
So it’s the same as the old pumpkin pie spice jar you bought last Thanksgiving (or the one before that?)
However, if you want to be extra cautious, here are some suggestions:
- Make your tea for at least five minutes in 175° water. This kills any microorganisms that could be present.
- Avoid storing brewed tea for more than 8 hours once steeped.
- Place brewed tea in the refrigerator unless it’s going to be drunk right away.
- Tea should not be made by sun brewing or simply using hot tap water since the temperature will not be high enough to destroy bacteria.
Is it necessary to keep teabags refrigerated?
Teabags and loose tea should not be kept in the refrigerator. The moisture and condensation in the refrigerator can quickly mold the tea and cause it to spoil.
Tea should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, just like olive oil (and all oils).
That cool and dark place isn’t the refrigerator, either. So, instead of leaving the box or tin open on your kitchen counter, use it. Heat and light are not your friends here, so don’t keep them near a window or the stove.
A kitchen cabinet or pantry is an excellent storage option. However, because you don’t want any flavors to leach into the tea, even if it’s in a sealed container, I’d keep them separate from your spices.
Most manufacturers do not advocate storing tea bags in the refrigerator or freezer, contrary to popular perception.
While it might extend the shelf life of the tea, condensation, particularly from the refrigerator, can alter the flavor. Once the box or tin has been opened, a ziplock bag in the pantry is a perfect place to store them.
How long do herbal or green tea bags last compared to regular tea bags?
In comparison to green or black tea, herbal teas have the shortest shelf life. This is because it isn’t made with tea and the risk of mold is higher. However, if the tea bags are older, black tea will have a more robust flavor than green tea.
Green tea, like white tea, is primarily reliant on the release of oils when hot water is applied. Black tea does not contain the same components as green tea. As a result, as the green tea bag ages, it becomes increasingly dried out. As a result, there are fewer oils in the tea when it is brewed, resulting in a less flavored cup of tea.
Herbal teas, as I previously stated, are dried flowers or fruits rather than teas. They may be more prone to mold than “genuine” teas because they are dried flowers and fruits.
Herbal drinks, like green tea, will lose their flavor after the expiration or “best by” date.
Finally, some thoughts
We conducted a deep dive into the world of tea bags and expiration dates in this post.
We looked into how long they last, whether they’re safe to use after they’ve expired, and how to detect if they’ve gone wrong. But we also looked at several types of tea bags to determine if one had a longer shelf life than the other.
Finally, we looked at some techniques to keep teabags fresher for longer.