Tea 101 - Stale Tea?

A common question among tea newbies: how long do the leaves last?  Is there an expiration date?

Yes…in a matter of speaking.

In all honesty, you should be drinking your tea shortly after you purchase it.  Don’t buy copious amounts unless you plan on drinking it quickly.  How quickly?

Well, according to some, green teas last a season while some blacks can last two.  On the other hand, there is Pu-erh tea which improves with age.  There have also been reports of some oolongs lasting a decade.  While there is no exact science that pinpoints an expiration date, it is safe to assume that unless stored properly tea does not last long.

How do you know if you have stale tea? Only one way to find out: experiment with a cup.  It won’t hurt, I promise.  If you properly stored your tea, you may be pleasantly surprised.

However…if you do find yourself with some stale tea…what do you do?

The popular thing to do is to use the leaves as potpourri or perhaps pillow sachets.   There are even reports of making eye pillows.  You could also, continuing on the topic of relaxation, make a bath out of the old tea leaves for a little aromatherapy.

I managed to find a recipe or two on making cocktails from tea.

Reader’s Digest wrote an interesting article naming at least 5 creative things you could do with your tea:

  1. Relieve razor burns
  2. Reduce foot odor
  3. Tenderizing meat for cooking
  4. Helping your roses grow
  5. Reducing puffiness in eyes

The possibilities are endless.  This shows you that tea is more than just a beverage and the adventures of tea do not end when it is no longer drinkable.

What do you think, dear readers? What other creative ideas do you have for your stale tea?

  4 comments for “Tea 101 - Stale Tea?

  1. November 12, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    I took a great workshop on roasting tea this year at the Northwest Tea Festival (taught by Shiuwen Tai of http://www.floatingleaves.com/ and another guy who's name I don't remember).

    Roasting (or re-roasting, as the case may be) works better for some teas than it does for others; but if you've got, say, some stale wulong, giving it a little heat can be a pretty quick and easy way to refresh the leaves.

  2. November 12, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    That's good to know David!

    Would the other gentleman happen to be Michael Coffey? I know he was giving a workshop there this year.

  3. Stephanie
    January 7, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    You never elaborated on how you will know when your tea is stale. When you steep it, what results should you expect? something like the picture?

  4. January 9, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    Great point Stephanie! I'll look to fil that gap with a future post! I'll put a link here when I do! 🙂

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