How to store your tea

September 24, 2015

How to store your tea

Tea is sensitive. If you want the most from your collection, both in terms of taste and lifespan, you need to keep it away from light, air, moisture, strong smells and extremes in temperature.

One of the worst things you can do to your tea is store it in a decorative or transparent tea container, sit it alongside your toaster or oven, put it on the windowsill or stick it in your pantry near your herbs, spices or seasonings.

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Keep your tea oxygen-free

Air and tea are not good bedfellows. When tea leaves are exposed to oxygen they lose the nuanced flavour structure tea masters work so hard to develop. While black and oolong teas are all deliberately oxidised during processing, white, greens and yellow teas are only very lightly oxidised or prevented from oxidising all together. During processing, the tea master will carefully dry the leaves to make them shelf stable and lock in the flavours, however this makes them vulnerable to any significant change in environment.

Each time you open your jar or pouch of leaves the air will trigger oxidisation. White, green and yellow teas will degrade faster than oolongs and blacks, because the latter are oxidised during processing. An air tight storage vessel is critical for best results and most tea-savvy connoisseurs store their tea this way, however, this doesn’t necessarily mean the tea is oxygen free. There will usually be an air pocket between the lid and the tea and this is why tea has a ‘shelf life’.

Unless all oxygen is completely removed, at some point your tea will undergo flavour changes. Unless this process is managed very carefully, it will usually be to the detriment of the tea. Though in some cases, it can actually help develop flavours over time by mellowing top notes and contributing to a richer cup.

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We have a couple of teas available in our tea library that we’ve carefully aged which means we’ve taken them past the stereotypical shelf life, but we have stored these with keen attention and regularly taste and evaluate them to assess their suitability.

Not too hot, not too cold

Unless you’re an experienced connoisseur, we recommend you store your leaves away from heat, but not in the fridge either. Storing tea at high temperatures makes it oxidise faster and this will negatively change the flavour. Like Goldilocks and the three bears, temperature has to be ‘just right’ – work off room temperature as a guide.

There is plenty of debate in the industry around whether some teas, like greens, whites and yellows should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Our answer is ‘only if you know exactly what you’re doing and have the ability to vacuum seal’. Storing teas this way can extend their freshness, but it does come with risk – moisture. If your leaves aren’t sealed correctly before refrigeration you’ll get condensation as a result of the extreme temperature change.

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This moisture is really detrimental. If tea leaves get wet (before you’re ready to infuse them of course), they become mouldy, start to decompose and decay. This is far from ideal.

If you do fancy yourself as a temperature control guru and store your lightly oxidised teas in the fridge or freezer, make sure you let them come up to room temperature before you open the sealed leaves. If you don’t let the leaves sit for a few hours first, you’ll still get the condensation effect that you may have managed to avoid in the freezer.

If you’re storing your tea in the cupboard, you still need to be conscious of the moisture factor. Tea is hydroscopic – a fancy way of saying that your leaves can absorb or attract moisture from the air. An air-tight container will do the trick to prevent this.

Can you smell that?

If you can smell it, tea can absorb it. It’s as simple as that. That’s why tea is often scented and flavoured. But, a deliberate jasmine scent created by a skilled tea master is altogether different to pepper-scented tea as a result of storing your leaves a bit too close to your peppercorns in the pantry.

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This also goes for storing your scented teas near non-scented teas. If you’ve got your chai or jasmine in a non-air tight container that’s too close to your single origin oolong, the smells will mingle.

Be careful of any smells in your container, tin or canister you use to store your tea. If the plastic of the jar has an odour, if your container is wooden or if there is a rubber seal, this might leave your leaves with a tainted taste.

Into the darkness

Tea should be stored in darkness in an opaque jar that won’t let any sunlight or UV rays pass through. Reputable tea merchants won’t sell or display their tea in clear glass jars. Or, if they do, they will prominently recommend you don’t keep it stored this way once you get it home. Sure, it looks nice, and it’s a lovely way to appreciate beautifully crafted, high quality leaves, but it’s not in your best interests.

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Sunlight is 100 per cent necessary for tea leaves to grow, but once processed, if tea is exposed to light it will make decay more rapidly on a molecular level and this will change the flavour and the tea will visibly fade.

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The perfect solution

We’ve worked with packaging suppliers around the world to develop our state-of-the-art collector tea jars. These jars are the bee’s knees of tea storage. Our artisans have worked so hard to craft exceptional tea so we want to do all we can to preserve its quality to make sure it reaches you exactly as intended and that you can enjoy it this way for as long as possible without having to think about storage.

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Cup Above Collector Jars

Our collector jars are developed using specially formulated European glass. Our black glass provides innovative protective qualities that go far beyond regular glass. Normal glass, whether clear, blue, green, brown or amber, allows visible light to pass through which can damage tea. Our black glass jars block 100% of visible light from reaching your tea. But we didn’t stop there. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the science behind it (though we can if you would like, just ask us!), our glass collector jars have been developed to allow some UV and infra-red light to penetrate the tea. This is ‘good’ light that actually protects and enhances bio-energy.

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On the bush, all tea needs sunlight to grow, but, once the tea is picked and processed if it continues to be exposed to sun the effect of the light changes and accelerates the molecular decaying process. Our collector jar glass acts as a natural filter only letting in the light that protects and improves the quality of premium and sensitive substances, not the light that is harmful.

There is plenty of complex biophotonic research that explains the benefits of this glass, but to keep things simple, we like to use our chive test. Here’s how some chopped fresh chives fared in three different jars stored on a windowsill over two months.

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The chives stored in the brown and white glass jars are bleached and experienced significant colour loss. The opaque glass collector jar kept the chives fresh, the colour was retained and the aroma was far superior to that in of the white and brown jar.

Smart, beautiful and a wise investment

You can repurpose your collector jars to store all sorts of things like herbs, spices and other small produce like cherry tomatoes. Not only are these jars working hard to keep the good things in and the bad things out, they’re actually aesthetically pleasing too. This means you can keep them on display for everyone to see without compromising the quality of your tea at all, just don’t put them somewhere too hot or too cold.

Collector jars are a versatile and sustainable investment.

You can buy your own collector jar with your next tea purchase via our tea library by selecting the collector jar option when you add to your cart.

They can be reused again and again, and when you’re tea jar is empty and you want to top up but don’t need another new jar, simply select our ‘refill service’ when you purchase your tea. We’ll send your refill out in a food-grade, barrier protected resealable pouch ready for you to transfer to your collector jar.

It's as simple as that.

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