When disaster strikes, a hot cup of tea is the perfect way to pass the time while you wait out the emergency, but how do you store tea long-term?
To store tea long-term, use mylar bags, airtight containers, mason jars, vacuum-sealed bags, or the freezer. Use oxygen absorber with any storage method you choose and store the tea in a cool, dry, and dark location that is away from direct sunlight.
After extensively researching food storage techniques and survival skills, I have gathered enough information to determine how to store tea long-term. In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the best storage methods for prolonging the shelf life of tea in your emergency goods stockpile.
How Long Does Tea Last?
Unlike many of the items that you would prioritize in your food storage system, tea is much easier to store. Given that loose tea is dried and often fermented, it has an impressive shelf life of roughly 18 to 36 months.
That said, how long tea really lasts can vary depending on a number of different factors. When you check the date written on the back of tea packages, this is actually just a “Best By Date” and not an expiration date.
Tea tastes best when it's consumed while it's still fresh, which is why you should try to drink it within the first 2 years after it was processed and packaged.
However, if you implement additional food storage techniques, you can push back the shelf life of tea exponentially and make it last for upwards of 25+ years, with some preppers claiming that it has an indefinite shelf life.
Does Tea Expire?
Although tea can certainly go bad, it does not technically expire. Once loose-leaf tea is opened and exposed to air, it will start to lose flavor and aroma, but this does not mean that it’s necessarily bad or unsafe to drink.
If you want to get the most flavor, you should try to consume tea fresh as soon as possible after opening it. Ultimately, the storage conditions of your tea collection will determine how quickly it starts to go bad.
If you fail to store tea properly and protect it from the external environment, it will likely become contaminated and will be unpleasant to consume.
Which Tea Lasts the Longest?
All teas have a solid shelf life of roughly 18 to 36 months. However, some teas can last quite a bit longer than others and may be more advantageous to incorporate into your stockpile.
Fermented tea tends to have the best shelf life and is ideal for emergency stockpiles. That said, proper tea storage can make any tea that you buy last for decades. This is the predicted shelf life of common teas in basic storage conditions:
- Black Tea - 18 to 36 months
- White Tea - 24 months
- Oolong Tea - 24 months
- Green Tea - 18 months
- Nitrogen Flushed Tea - Indefinite
The most common tea that most preppers choose to store is black. Black tea has been fermented and offers the most stable shelf life compared to most other common teas. In addition, black tea is very affordable and can be bought at virtually any grocery store.
On the other hand, nitrogen-flushed tea is less common but offers the best shelf life imaginable. Nitrogen flushing is the process of removing air from food products, and it's becoming quite common with some tea brands relying on this method to preserve the flavor of their products.
If you want the best shelf life possible without implementing any other food storage techniques, nitrogen-flushed tea will last the longest in your stockpile.
Tea Bags vs Loose Leaf Tea
Many preppers can’t decide whether they want to store tea bags or loose-leaf. Both options are great and the method you choose is really a personal choice, but storing tea bags tends to be more convenient for most stockpiles given that they are individually packaged.
You can store tea bags in an airtight container and the expiration date gets pushed back exponentially. While you can also do this with loose-leaf, tea storage is generally more practical with tea bags.
That said, if you are planning on storing large amounts of tea in your stockpile, loose-leaf tea will be a more reliable option.
How to Store Tea Long Term
Whether you are planning for a zombie apocalypse, a natural disaster, or simply want to be prepared for unexpected events, a hot cup of tea is just what you need to hold you over while you wait out the emergency.
Tea is a very popular item to add to a food storage stockpile, which is why many preppers tend to keep a reasonable supply with their emergency goods. Given that tea is dry and very lightweight, storing it becomes much easier than with most other items.
There are a number of methods that are ideal for storing tea long-term, and you can ultimately choose what works best for you based on the amount of tea that you want to store and the shelf life you want to achieve. Consider the following methods when storing tea long-term.
Mylar Bags + Oxygen Absorbers
If you want your tea to last as long as possible, I recommend using mylar bags. This is a highly-praised storage method among preppers given its affordability and ease of use.
This is a lightweight food storage solution that offers the best shelf life possible. All you need to do is pour your favorite tea inside the mylar bag and seal it as instructed on the packaging. Always remember to label anything that you place inside mylar bags to ensure that your system stays organized.
To make the most out of this storage method, remember to place an oxygen absorber inside the mylar bag before sealing it. This will prevent any kind of air contamination and will keep your tea tasting fresh and aromatic.
If stored properly, tea kept in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber can have an indefinite shelf life.
Airtight Containers + Oxygen Absorbers
Airtight containers are an easy go-to approach when storing tea, and many preppers prefer to use this method for its simplicity. You can fill a quality airtight container with tea and add it to the rest of your emergency goods.
This method alone will secure the shelf life of your tea and prevent contamination from moisture and air. However, if the lighting conditions of the room are not ideal, I recommend an airtight tea tin instead. Tea tins are generally quite small, but they are perfect for preserving the quality of the tea in the long run.
Regardless of which method you choose, adding an oxygen absorber to the container will help prevent the quality from deteriorating due to air contamination.
Mason Jars + Oxygen Absorbers
One of the most classic prepper storage methods you can opt for is mason jars. These traditional food storage containers have been used for over a century, and they are still popular today.
The main thing that you want to keep in mind is that mason jars are transparent and incredibly fragile. If you have a secure storage location for your stockpile, this should not be an issue. However, if the mason jar receives even a minor impact, there is a good chance it will shatter.
In addition, mason jars are transparent and let in light. I suggest keeping the tea in a dark place away from direct sunlight to prevent the quality of the tea from deteriorating. Provided the storage conditions are ideal and the mason jar was contained properly, the tea should have an indefinite shelf life.
Vacuum Sealed Bags + Oxygen Absorbers
Vacuum sealing is a very popular storage method among preppers. If you want to use this approach, you will need to have a vacuum sealer at home, as well as vacuum sealer bags.
You can drastically improve the shelf life of any product with vacuum sealing, but many preppers would argue that you need oxygen absorbers for the shelf life of tea to be secured. Simply vacuum sealing leaves a bit of air inside the tea, which will affect its quality over time.
However, by placing an oxygen absorber inside the bag, you can prevent contamination and preserve the quality of the tea. Keep in mind that vacuum-sealed bags are quite easy for rodents to penetrate.
I highly recommend placing the vacuum-sealed tea bags into additional containers such as plastic boxes or food-grade buckets.
If you have freezer space and want to prioritize preserving the flavor and quality of your tea, there is no better place than the freezer. You still need to use a container or storage method that will prevent moisture and air from getting in, but the freezer will ensure that your tea never goes bad.
You can safely freeze tea bags and even loose-leaf tea without needing to worry about the expiration date. In addition, you can even freeze freshly brewed tea if you want to have some pre-made. For the best results keep tea leaves in tea storage containers that are airtight in your freezer.
The only downside to using the freezer is that you don’t know whether it will be reliable for every emergency. Many disaster scenarios result in power going out, which can potentially sabotage the goods in your freezer. If you are confident that you can keep the power on, you can’t go wrong with keeping tea in the freezer.
Best Locations to Store Tea Long-Term
After you choose a preferred storage method for your tea, you still need to consider the storage location. There are plenty of places suitable for storing tea long-term, but you want to prioritize a place that is dry, cool, moisture-free, and away from direct sunlight.
Each prepper has a different system for their stockpile, and you can ultimately choose a storage location that is convenient and logical for your home. In general, these are the most reliable places to store tea long-term:
- Kitchen Cabinets
- Wine Cellar
How to Tell When Tea Has Gone Bad
Although tea has a very long shelf life, it does not last forever, especially if it's not stored properly or becomes contaminated.
Drinking bad tea should not pose any serious health risks, but it's still something that you want to avoid. You can tell if tea has gone bad by watching out for the following symptoms:
- No Smell
- Dull Taste
- Visible Mold
Tips for Storing Tea Long-Term
Tea may not be essential for your survival in an emergency, but a hot cup is a great way to cope with any rainy day.
This is a relatively easy item to store and incorporate into a stockpile, which is why so many preppers keep a reasonable supply with the rest of their emergency goods.
With that said, despite how convenient tea is to store long-term, you still want to take measures to preserve its quality and prevent contamination. Keep the following tips in mind to secure the shelf life of your tea.
Check Up On Your Stock
If you’ve chosen a reliable storage location and container for your tea, you should not have to worry about contamination.
However, it’s easy to set up a food storage stockpile and neglect it. It’s important to check up on your emergency goods to ensure that they are intact. Scan the area for anything that can sabotage your goods such as leaks and pests.
Use Oxygen Absorbers
Although oxygen absorbers are not always mandatory to prevent contamination, they are a great way to guarantee that your tea stays fresh and aromatic, even after years of storage.
I recommend using oxygen absorbers in combination with every storage method as they are affordable and very easy to incorporate.
Rotate Your Stock
Do you drink tea regularly in your routine? If so, one of the best ways to have fresh tea in your stockpile at all times is to rotate your emergency goods.
When you buy tea from the store, consider swapping what you have in storage with what you bought. You don’t need to do this every time you buy new tea, but doing so every year or so will keep your stockpile fresh.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker