Does tea spoil?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does tea spoil” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not tea spoils. Moreover, we are going to discuss why different types of tea have different shelf lives.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Does tea spoil?

Yes, like any other food item tea tends to spoil after a certain time as they lose their flavor, aroma, color, and overall quality. Different varieties of tea have different shelf lives.

The more fermented the tea is, the longer will be its shelf life. 

Once the tea gets brewed its shelf life also decreases considerably. The brewed tea without milk can last for about 2-5 days when kept in an air-tight container or jar inside the fridge while it lasts for only 8 hours if kept covered at room temperature. Moreover, it can last for up to 6 months in the freezer.

But if the brewed tea has milk in it, it lasts for about 4 hours at room temperature without going bad. 

Moreover, the shelf life of iced tea is different from the brewed tea so it can stay for about 3-4 days in the fridge in an air-tight container at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit without the risk of spoiling.

Dry tea has a longer shelf life as compared to the brewed tea. The shelf life of dark oolong tea and that of black tea is about 3 years when they are kept in cool, dry, and dark places. The shelf life of the light oolong tea is approximately 2 years. After this time the flavor and the aroma of the tea start to fade. 

When it comes to tea bags,  it is recommended to use them within 6-12 months. The smaller the size of the tea leaf is the faster the rate at which it expires. Teabags mostly contain fannings that are the small pieces of the leaves and the dust (the remains that last at the end of the barrel in which tea leaves are stored) as they brew quickly. As it is difficult to vacuum seal the tea bags therefore they lose their freshness and flavor at a faster rate. You should always read the labels of the teas for the best before dates.

According to some users, white tea is that type of tea whose flavor enhances as it ages while for others white tea has 1 year as its prime quality time. So this thing entirely depends upon the taste preference of people. 

Why different variants of tea have different shelf lives?

Different variants of tea have different shelf lives depending upon their composition and how they were processed so the different steps that are involved in the processing of different variants of tea are the level of dryness, processing, oxidation, and roasting.

  1. The shelf life of the tea leaves directly depends upon the extent to which they are dried. If the tea leaves are dried thoroughly then the tea will have a considerably longer shelf life. On the other hand, if the tea leaves are not dried thoroughly then they will have moisture in them because of which they will lose their flavor and aroma quickly and will have a short shelf life.
  2. The more processed the tea leaves are, the easier will it be to dry them thoroughly and the longer will be their shelf life. That means that the shelf life of the black tea is more than that of the green tea as the former is a more processed one.
  3. Oxidation is the process that brings out various flavors in the tea and also plays an important role to stabilize the otherwise volatile flavors and constituents of life. 
  4. Roasting further helps in drying the tea leaves thoroughly, thus it helps to further stabilize the constituents of tea. Roasting also enhances the flavor profile of the tea. 

How to spot spoiled tea?

The absence of the characteristic aroma or the weak aroma of the tea is the indication that it has spoiled. Moreover, the color of fresh-brewed black tea is bright amber so if you notice dull and grey color hues then it means that your tea is past its prime age. The tea that has spoiled will have a dull taste and its flavor will be weak.

Last but not least if you spot an organic growth or a mold on your dry tea leaves then it is an indication of a spoiled tea. The presence of mold is not a common phenomenon and you will only be able to spot a mold on those tea leaves that have been stored in a humid place for too long. 


In this brief guide, we answered the question “does tea spoil” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not tea spoils. Moreover, we discussed why different types of tea have different shelf lives.