Today we are going to talk about the best way to store loose leaf tea at home.
Tea can be stored for two purposes:
- For ageing to intensify the flavour
- To preserve the taste from changing
The guidelines discussed in this article are Suitable for green tea, black tea, most oolongs. In fact, you can go further with green tea, but everything here still applies.
Why is it important to properly store loose leaf tea?
The primary purpose of properly storing loose leaf tea is to avoid the taste of your beloved tea changing with time.
Picture this, you go, buy tea, get home, and you sit to enjoy a delicious cup of tea. You probably will want it to taste the same the next time you reach for it. Learning how to store your loose leaf tea will help you keep the taste of your teas just as when you first bought them.
Moreover, is a good thing to remember is that drying has been part of different tea processing methods for thousands of years. It’s also one of the oldest ways of preserving food.
Therefore from the tea perspective, drying fulfils the function of extracting the water content from the leaves. Depending on the tea type, it would have undergone different levels of water extraction.
In other words, the less water content the leaves have, the longer the taste and aroma can be preserved.
Remember that your main objective is to isolate the tea from the environment and the factors that can affect its taste.
Key requirements for storing loose leaf tea
There are four key requirements for storing tea.
1. Keep it away from heat & moisture:
Temperature refers to storing tea in hot and cool conditions. Cool storage is best when you are trying to prevent the effect of ageing, just like you would do with the food you put in the fridge to prevent it from spoiling.
For this purpose, room temperature is a comfortable temperature range indoors, usually considered 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C).
Therefore you should avoid placing your tea by a window that gets direct sunlight the whole day.
Moreover, the more water there is in the air, the more your tea will be affected. This is because water is a crucial element for most earth processes such as fermentation, oxidation, and so on. For instance, it is not a good idea to store your tea in a cellar.
2. Keep it away from sunlight:
Light can have a dramatic impact on tea. Because light is a source of energy, it will facilitate degradation reactions on your tea. As a consequence, it will turn the tea’s delicate flavours into lousy tasting compounds.
Therefore you need to keep tea isolated from the light. To this end, you have two options, you can find a dark room or space like a cabinet, or you can have a container that keeps the tea inside isolated from the light.
For example, not all bags will keep light away. You can do a test to make sure that your favourite tea is not getting any light is to put the bag directly in the sunlight. If you can see even a little bit of light through, then your tea does too!
3. Keep it away from odours:
A tea that has gone through the proper process has a moisture level between 3 to 6%. Thus, making it a powerful absorption agent.
Because of this, you want to isolate it from other odour sources that might affect its aroma & taste. Unlike popular belief storing your tea in the kitchen cabinet next to the spices is not a good idea! Furthermore, your tea could absorb all of the kitchen odours from food when cooking.
4. Keep it away from the air:
The oxygen in the air favors the oxidation process of teas’ many tasteful, aromatic and healthy properties. Additionally, the more tea is exposed to oxygen, the higher the chance it will absorb odor and moisture from the air around it.
On the other hand, you don’t want to isolate your tea 100% from the air. For instance, you shouldn’t leave your tea on a closed jar for months and months without any air circulation because this will create stale air inside, affecting the tea.
Loose leaf tea storage Do’s & Don’t
Finally, I know that this can feel like a lot of information. Who would have known that the kitchen is the least convenient storage when it comes to tea. Right?
So here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts that summarizes the information above to help you maintain your tea’s quality and flavour.
- Store scented tea with pure tea
- Store loose leaf tea in rooms or spaces where it might come in contact with other odours. For example, the kitchen
- Keep your tea close to a window or direct sunlight
- Leave the jar of the bag open after using it
- Keep your tea in a hot & humid space
- Use plastic residual chemicals in the plastic can react with tea leaves
- Store your tea separately by pure & scented
- Find a dark room or cabinet to store your tea
- Use light-proof containers if you are planning to keep your tea out in the open
- Keep your tea in an airtight container. Furthermore, sealing is crucial to avoid most of the factors that deteriorate tea
- Store your tea in a cool & dry place
Best Container Options for Storing Tea
Stand up bags
- The majority of tea shops already sell the tea in these bags, hence they are one of the most affordable options.
- Easy to close and seal. Therefore they are airtight.
- Easy to store, due to their convenient size and shape
- Only for short term storage
- Comes with two leaves making it very airtight.
- The long tall shape that protects the tea efficiently
- Odourless and light-proof
- Not aesthetically pleasing
- Beautiful display
- Odour neutral
- Airtight depending on the lid design
- Can produce greenhouse effect that will affect the tea
- Only to be used inside a cabinet or dark environment
- Wide range of design options
- Need to look for the right lid design to make sure it is airtight
- You can’t change the container’s volume. For instance, if you only store a small amount, the rest would be air, affecting the tea.
Note: this article doesn’t discuss the storage conditions for dark teas and pu erh teas. Those teas have ageing potential and should therefore be stored entirely differently.