How to Store Fresh Tea
Rather than pick up ordinary tea from the local supermarket, you have gone to great lengths to track down a fine
fresh tea that, like any agricultural product, will go stale if it is not stored correctly. In fact, finer teas
often contain fewer or no artificial preservatives and can decay the quickest. But keeping your tea stored properly
can keep it fresh for as long as a year.
A proper tea caddy or chest is your best defense against the aging effects of air and light. You can find them
in different materials and hundreds of stylish designs. But the two chief characteristics they need to have are to
be airtight and light-proof.
Ordinary sunlight and indoor lighting both have a UV component. That energetic light wave can break down the
molecules in tea, stripping color and flavor over time. Keeping your teas in the dark may not allow you to enjoy a
display of the multi-colored fine leaves from around the world. But it is preferred in order to preserve the flavor
and appearance of the brew.
Air contains oxygen, which readily combines with a wide variety of organic molecules, altering them. The result
is rarely an enhancement of the flavor of tea. That oxidation breaks apart molecules and changes their flavor
But air has more than just oxygen. It also carries odors from foods, air pollutants like hydrogen sulfide (a
component of smog) and other compounds. Those readily find their way into both the water and the tea leaf and bag.
Keeping air out during storage keeps those chemical reactions to the minimum. Those will happen on a very small
scale when the tin or chest is opened, but not enough to cause a change that most can detect.
Air also contains moisture, water molecules that float around. Higher humidity climates have more, desert
climates have relatively less, but all but the most extreme environments have some. Moist air carries odors,
enhances the effect of oxidation and can itself produce chemical changes. It can also form an environment that is
friendly to the growth of mold and other organisms that can ruin your tea.
Keeping the interior of the tin or chest moisture tight and dry helps your tea retain the optimum flavor. Get an
airtight tin or chest, then add a small desiccant to absorb water that gets within the container.
Since tea leaves themselves will evaporate a certain amount over time, it's best to keep each one separated. The
flavor profile of your favorite oolong can be altered if it's exposed to the same air as a good rooiboos. Whether
you use individual tins, or a type of container in which each cubical is closed off is a matter of convenience.
A good tea caddy is your first and best line of defense. But help it along by keeping teas away from spices,
heat and other things in the kitchen that can rob your tea of flavor. Storing the tea in a cool, dry area away from
pungent foods - and away from other teas - will reduce the chances of your fine leaf being exposed or degraded.