Here’s something to sip on.
If you’re a frequent tea drinker, you probably value keeping your collection of fine herbal tea leaves as well preserved as possible. Whether you keep a selection of tea bags and loose tea in a desk drawer at work or at your home, there’s one way—and one way only—to store your tea.
According to Ottilie Cunningham, Tea & Coffee Buyer at Fortnum & Mason and Global Tea Expert, the best way to store tea is in a tin or dark jar with an airtight lid, placed in a dry pantry or cabinet. Unless it’s a rare blend, tea should not be stored in the refrigerator.
Cunningham explains that dried tea leaves have between 3 percent and 5 percent moisture content, which prevents them from spoiling in the same way as fresh food does when dried. “Because it is dried so well, this does mean that tea is very hydroscopic—i.e. it will absorb water readily like a sponge if left in a humid environment,” she says. That’s why it’s so crucial to store tea in a clean, dry, airtight container to help prevent the tea from absorbing excess moisture.
Regardless of whether you prefer tea bags or loose tea leaves, both should be stored the same way, says Cunningham.
When it comes to storing tea with other pantry items, always keep it away from anything strongly scented or flavored. “Tea will readily absorb other flavors," Cunningham says. "A common mistake is to store tea in the same place as herbal infusions, which can result in an accidentally minty English Breakfast!"
As far as preserving and enjoying the flavor of your tea, Cunningham says “the fresher the tea is, the better it will be, regardless of how well it is stored.” So even if your favorite variety is on sale or sold in bulk, you’re better off buying it in smaller qualities and only refreshing your stash once you’re running low.