Do Tea Bags Expire: Everything You Need to Know

Alex Ortiz
By Alex Ortiz 8 Min Read
8 Min Read
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Hey there, tea lover! Ever peeked at the bottom of your tea tin or box and saw a date? It’s not an “expiry date” like you might think! Let’s chat about what it really means.

That little date at the bottom? It’s not yelling, “Throw me out!” In fact, the big shots at the FDA, especially their Senior Advisor for Food Safety, said that the “Best If Used By” labels talk about the tea’s quality, not safety. Basically, it’s like a tip about when your tea might not taste its absolute best. But it doesn’t mean it’s bad or harmful.

Some famous tea brands, like Celestial Seasonings (you might’ve heard of them), say that their tea is still good to drink even after the “Best By” date. So, if you’ve kept your tea in a nice, dry spot, what really happens when it’s “past its date”? Stay tuned, and let’s dive deeper!

When do tea leaves and tea bags “expire”?

Tea bags and those lovely loose leaves don’t really “expire”. Yup, you read that right! Your beloved dry tea leaves and bags usually stay all good and dandy for about two years. But after that, they might start losing their charm.

Now, all teas, whether they’re green, black, or somewhere in between, come from the camellia sinensis plant. As time goes by, these teas might not taste as amazing as they once did. Plus, that healthy punch they pack? They might lose a bit of that too. Especially these cool things called flavonoids – they’re like superheroes for our body, fighting off bad stuff. But they might not stay as strong in older tea.

Different teas have different lifetimes. Like, Harney & Sons, a fancy tea company, says that black teas (which are more “oxidized”) stick around in good shape longer than green or white teas. And here’s a fun fact: since tea leaves are like sponges for smells, loose tea leaves might take in moisture and odors faster than the stuff in tea bags.

But, hey, if you brewed that ancient tea bag from your kitchen’s darkest corner and it tastes like, well, nothing… don’t toss it! Old tea bags have some neat tricks up their sleeves.

How do you know if matcha is expired?

Matcha’s a bit of a special case. It’s got its own personality when it comes to showing its age. You know that awesome, rich green color of fresh matcha? That’s the gold standard. But if your matcha looks a little pale or even brownish, it’s waving a flag saying it might be past its best days or it’s just not the top-notch stuff. So, keep an eye on that color to make sure you’re sipping the good stuff!

When does tea steeped at home “expire”?

So, you made a pot of tea but forgot about it and left it sitting on the counter. Should you still sip it? Maybe think twice.

Here’s the deal: when you steep tea and leave it out, it’s like a party for bacteria. Those vitamins in your tea, like vitamin C and E? They start to pack their bags and leave. And the sugars? They’re like magnets for unwanted tiny critters (aka bacteria).

You might’ve heard about sun tea. That’s when folks leave tea outside to brew in the sunlight. But research says that’s not the best idea because it can turn into a bacteria breeding ground. 😟 Want a safer cold tea option? Go for cold brew in the fridge!

Speaking of the fridge, if you’ve stored your homemade tea there, it won’t last forever. It’s kinda like leftovers. You can keep it for a few days, but always give it a sniff and a look to make sure it hasn’t turned into a science experiment.

When does bottled tea “expire”?

Okay, onto bottled tea. You know those dates you see on tea bags and loose leaves? Bottled teas have them too. They’re more like a “best flavor by” date. Bottled tea can taste great for several months, or even a couple of years.

For instance, Tejava, a popular brand, gives a thumbs up for their tea for up to 12 months. And Arizona iced tea? Their bottles and cans are good to go for a whole 24 months from when they’re made. Once you pop them open, though, you’ll want to finish them within about a week if they’re in the fridge and just a few days if they’re out and about.

The bottom line? For the tastiest experience, just check the date on your bottled tea and you’ll be good to go! Cheers! 🍵

How to store tea to maximize its shelf life

Make Your Tea Last Longer

While our favorite teas have a generous two-year shelf life, they still deserve some special care to keep them tasting their best. Think of them as your plant babies – with the right environment, they’ll flourish!

Avoid Common Storage Mistakes

It’s tempting to show off your beautiful tea leaves in a see-through jar, but resist the urge. Keeping tea in transparent glass jars or storing them opened in the fridge are big no-nos. And plastic bags? Skip them too. Remember, tea leaves are like little sponges, soaking up all the scents around them. Imagine brewing tea that reminds you of last night’s spicy curry – yikes!

Top Tips for Tea Storage

Want to give your tea the best home possible? Here’s the rundown:

  1. Darkness is key: Tea doesn’t like light. Storing it away from direct sunlight will help keep its flavors intact.
  2. Stay cool: Avoid places with high temperatures. That means away from ovens, stovetops, and direct sunlight.
  3. No moisture, please: Humid places are a no-go. That’s why areas near the sink or any steamy spots aren’t ideal.
  4. Fresh air (but not too much): While it’s important to have fresh, dry air, tea doesn’t like too much oxygen. Airtight containers will be your best friend here.
  5. Keep it odor-free: Remember, tea leaves can soak up surrounding scents, so it’s best to store them away from strong-smelling foods.


In the end, taking care of your tea is a simple way to ensure every cup is as delightful as the last. With the right storage, you’re not just preserving tea; you’re safeguarding those special moments of relaxation and warmth that each brew brings. So, next time you sip on your favorite blend, remember the little steps you took to make it perfect. Cheers to many more flavorful cups! 🍵💚

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do tea bags expire?

Yes, tea bags can expire. While they do not have an unlimited shelf life, properly stored tea bags can last for several years before their flavor starts to degrade.

2. How can I check if my tea bags have expired?

To check if your tea bags have expired, look for any signs of mold, unusual odors, or a change in flavor. Expired tea bags may also appear stale or have a diminished aroma compared to fresh tea bags.

3. What is the best way to store tea bags?

The best way to store tea bags is to keep them in an airtight container away from moisture, heat, light, and strong odors. A pantry or cupboard is an ideal location for storing tea bags, as long as they are protected from these factors.

4. Can I still use tea bags after they have expired?

While it is generally safe to use expired tea bags, the flavor and quality may be compromised. If the tea bags have been stored properly and show no signs of spoilage, you can still brew them, but the taste may not be as enjoyable.

5. What happens if I consume expired tea?

Consuming expired tea is unlikely to cause any serious harm, but it may result in a less pleasant taste experience. The tea may taste stale, dull, or have an off-flavor. If you experience any adverse reactions after consuming expired tea, it is best to consult a healthcare professional.

6. Can I extend the shelf life of my tea bags?

While you cannot halt the natural aging process of tea bags, proper storage can help extend their shelf life. Follow the recommended storage guidelines mentioned earlier, and try to consume your tea bags within a reasonable timeframe to enjoy their optimal flavor.

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