Do tea bags expire? This question is one of the many that run through the minds of tea lovers and the answer to this is yes, they do. When stored in the pantry, you can enjoy fresh tea bags for close to a year and when they are in the freezer; they can last for up to two years. If you store the tea bags or loose leaf tea in the right conditions, you can drink the tea long after they have expired without encountering any problems.

You should note though that the taste would be quite bland owing to a loss in flavor. If you ever asked yourself; does tea expire then here are some interesting facts on the same.

Tea can stay fresh for years as long as you have it in an airtight container which should be in a cool and dry place away from direct light. Tea bags tend to lose their flavor much faster than loose leaf tea because they have much more exposed surface area owing to their dust-like appearance. As such, the fine particles break down with ease and over time, you realize that they have lost most of their flavor to the air.

I once had expired loose leaf tea in my pantry which I decided to drink one day, and I have to say that its taste was quite good. I had myself a beautiful afternoon as I wondered why I had long feared to drink some of this tea. From that point onwards, I sought to drink all kinds of expired tea, checking the conditions in which they got stored of course. It was not long before I discovered that tea bags that shared the same expiry date as tea leaves did not taste quite so good. The best way to describe their taste would be bland.

What’s more, the storage conditions of tea also affect how good they taste in the long run. If the loose leaf tea or tea bags were not in an airtight container, they would have less taste. You should also avoid such teas as they are more likely to have some form of contamination.

Studies prove that it is quite safe to enjoy expired tea. However, when doing so, you should ensure that the tea leaves are dry and that there is no mold present. Failure to do this can have you consulting your doctor sooner than you had hoped.

How Long Is Tea Good For?

Different teas have different shelf lives and what works for one variety will not necessarily work for another. Here are some of the shelf lives which I hope will help you in gauging how fast you need to organize tea parties to finish the stock in the kitchen.

It is no secret that people look to tea as a healthy beverage which has various positive effects on our wellbeing. Over time, people have regarded tea as a way to welcome visitors, keep warm in the cold weather, as a breakfast component as well as other vital areas of our lives. As such, it is a part of our routine, and often, people question how long this delicacy can last without going bad.

Experts state that if tea is not kept in proper conditions, it develops mold over time. It is also likely to develop mold if kept for longer than its expiration date. The quality of tea changes over time and the nearer the expiry date is, the less flavor that tea has. Generally, you can enjoy sealed tea for as long as one to three years.

You should note though that exposure to the environment allows the tea to absorb odors and moisture which in turn affect how fresh it is. When it comes to green tea, I advocate for people to buy small quantities which they can consume within a year. Typically, your tea should remain fresh for a year when stored at room temperature in an airtight container. The faster you drink the green tea, the more flavor you enjoy.

Tea is excellent when it comes to absorbing moisture, and you should, therefore, take caution as to the conditions to which you expose your leaves. High temperatures, access to adequate light, oxygen as well as humidity, combine and together they initiate chemical reactions which in turn make your tea go stale before the expiry date. That is why manufacturers advocate for Pu-erh teas as well as green teas to be in proper conditions throughout their shelf lives.

Can I Use Expired Tea?

Tea bags usually last longer than a year in storage. They’re still safe to consume even long after that. The color or flavor might change, but it’s still safe to drink. If your tea packaging contains the tea expiry date, it’s mostly for best quality and has nothing to do with safety.

Green tea

Green tea can last for eighteen months when placed in an airtight container at room temperature. Once this period elapses, you will notice that its flavor begins to fade with time and after a long time, it becomes bland. However, you can adhere to some conditions which can help you extend its life to over three years. As long as you keep moisture, light, odor, heat, and air at bay, you will have protected your tea from going bad. It is safe to drink expired green tea, as long as you are sure that the storage conditions were right.

Yellow tea

Yellow tea is a lightly fermented tea whose production process is quite close to that used in making green tea. The difference comes in due to an added sweltering process that takes place before or after the drying procedures. As such, you will find that this brand can last longer than green tea.

If you store it at room temperature, you can enjoy it for a year before the flavor begins to fade. However, you can enjoy it for two years or more if you keep it in an airtight jar at room temperature. Provided that the tea does not have any exposure to air, water, odors, and heat, you can have it for years.

Black tea

This brand undergoes full fermentation, and it thus has a longer shelf life than that of green tea. Depending on the manner in which you store the tea, the shelf life varies.

For example, if you choose to store the tea in bulk under room temperature conditions, the tea should remain fresh for about eighteen to twenty-four months. You can decide to prolong its shelf life by having it in paper bags which will keep it fresh for two years. In aluminum foil bags, the tea remains fresh for three or more years.

Oolong tea

For people who love semi-fermented tea, oolong is one of their favorite drinks. This drink can last up to two years in the pantry. You should note, however, that the shelf life of this tea is also dependent on how fermented it is as well as the storage conditions. For best results, opt to store this tea in a sealed tin which is away from light, moisture, and odors.

White tea

People look to this tea for its medicinal benefits. There is a belief that the longer that one stores the tea, the higher the healing benefits are with time. As such, it is a treasure to tea lovers.

If you store it in the proper conditions, you can enjoy it for as many as two years. If you choose to store it for much longer than this, you should be ready for the tea to lose most of its aroma with time even if you keep the tea sealed and in the right conditions. However, though the fragrance will fade, the value of your white tea will increase based on the period for which you have held it.

If you have come across raw pu’erh, you know that it gets a more vibrant and mellower taste the more that it gets stored. White tea also works like this. As such, it also goes by the name ‘one-year tea, three-year medicine, and seven-year treasure.’

For the first one to two years, you are enjoying tea which though it has some medicinal benefits, is yet to reach its full healing power potential. As from two years, the date on the packaging will read that it is time to move on to another packet and you will notice a decrease in the aroma.

However, it is from this point that the tea begins to exhibit more medicinal benefits and thus more healing power. By the time it gets to three years, your loved ones will be angling to sip this fantastic drink. If you let it get to seven years, well then, you have yourself a treasure which you can sell at quite a profitable price, provided that the storage conditions are right.

If you go to a tea shop or the market looking for an aged white tea, you will realize that most of them lie in the ranges of five to six years. As such, if you are lucky enough to get hold of a white tea aged more than ten years, you have a valuable item which you can auction at a handsome profit. If you do choose to enjoy it, you will get much more out of the tea than you would when it was two years old, regarding medicinal benefits.

Dark tea

This tea also goes by the name Hei Cha, and it is quite a favorite drink. Pu’erh falls in the line of Hei Cha. There are two kinds of pu’erh, and it all depends on the production method used. You will find that some people produce it while raw while others use it when ripe. When it comes to the maximum allowable time for the storage of Hei Cha, the answer is not entirely clear.

Some people will advocate for five years while others will go for fifty years and it is evident that it is a matter of personal preference. If you store the pu’erh properly, you will notice that its quality of taste and aroma will increase over time.

Storing Tea

When reading the instructions on packaged tea, you will find that the manufacturer will direct you to store the tea in a cold and dark location. You should also use a dry and airtight container when storing the tea. The reason behind these conditions is that heat and sunlight work in not only breaking down the chemicals present in the tea but they also reduce the flavor and aroma in the tea.

Exposure of the tea to air makes it vulnerable to losing its fragrance to the atmosphere and exposure to water encourages the growth of mold. It is thus essential to keep your tea safe from such elements. When storing your tea, it is best to use metal tins as they not only keep out air but they also prevent the entry of light. If this option is not available to you, using a glass jar is okay as long as you keep it in the dark.

Pu’erh and other aged teas require different storage conditions from other such drinks. This deviation results from the presence of live bacteria and cultures which work in developing their aroma as they age. As such, they must have exposure to air. However, you must also ensure that they are in a cold, dark and clean area. You can use an open top container with a cloth over the lid area or a porous ceramic container to provide these conditions. It is best to keep them away from aromas unless of course, you wish to have the scents incorporated in the tea.

Some aged teas call for roasting at given intervals as a means to eliminate extra moisture, and these processes depend on one’s preference. The shelf life of tea bags is more or less that of loose leaf tea. Though refrigeration proves helpful when dealing with most foods, it is not necessary when it comes to tea bags. It can end up causing more harm than good through the retention of moisture which in turn makes it dangerous to take the tea upon tea bag expiration.

Drinking Stale Tea

You can drink expired tea if the conditions in which the tea got stored are favorable. Drinking old tea may not be easy owing to the bland tastes exhibited by some types, and you can always mix the drink with some flavors to make it drinkable.

Now that you know that no harm will come to you on drinking expired tea, you can go ahead and store your tea bags and loose leaf tea in the proper conditions as you ready yourself to enjoy them over the decades. The next time someone asks you ‘does tea expire,’ you have a wealth of knowledge to share.


Peter's path through the culinary world has taken a number of unexpected turns. After starting out as a waiter at the age of 16, he was inspired to go to culinary school and learn the tricks of the trade. As he delved deeper, however, his career took a sudden turn when a family friend needed someone to help manage his business. Peter now scratches his culinary itch on the internet by blogging, sharing recipes, and socializing with food enthusiasts worldwide.

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