How to Store Loose-Leaf Teas
Loose leaf tea is usually an expensive proposition. Hence you need to take care of its storage, making sure it's freshness and flavour remains intact. Nothing is better than fresh, flavourful loose leaf tea. Nothing is worse than good tea gone bitter and flavourless due to oxidation. Fortunately, it is easy to properly store loose leaf tea to ensure freshness.
Let us start with the basics here:
The purchase. Make sure you buy it from a tea vendor that you trust. The tea merchant should be knowledgeable about the origin, age, and quality of the tea they are selling and fast turnover should be evident from clean shelves and sales of stock nearing its use-by date.
Storage basics. Air, heat, light, and moisture are the biggest enemies of loose leaf tea. Each of these will cause the tea to deteriorate or to go stale. The best way to store tea is at room temperature in an airtight tea canister. Tea will lose its flavour and scent quickly if kept near a heat source, such as a stove or next to the toaster in your kitchen. A kitchen cabinet is a good location. Loose leaf tea absorbs moisture like a sponge. If tea gets damp, it begins to mould and decay. Do not store your loose leaf tea in a refrigerator or freezer, this will introduce moisture and prematurely age your tea. Sunlight robs tea of flavour hence shelter it from direct or indirect sunlight.
The right container. An airtight canister is the best way to keep your loose teas safe and fresh. Place the loose leaf tea in an opaque, non-plastic container. The best tea containers are stainless steel ones as tea tins made out of stainless steel block sunlight, don't absorb odors and can be made durable for everyday use. Colored glass containers are also beneficial because they block most sunlight, don't absorb odors, and are easy to clean. This ensures that the tea maintains its freshness, flavor and aroma. The worst tea container is probably a plastic one because it absorbs odors. Clear glass is not a good option either because it doesn't block sunlight. Tea will lose its flavor and scent quickly if stored in fancy, purely decorative tea container. If you bought your tea and it came in a paper bag, transfer it into a more permanent container, unless you intend to consume the tea within a month or two. After usage, tightly close or seal the container every single time.
Keep flavored tea away from plain varietal or pure teas, else the flavored tea will flavor all the other teas it is stored next to. Blended teas may have a flavor that is overwhelming. It is a good idea to keep smoky teas well separated as well.
Essentially, loose leaf tea should be stored in a dark, cool and dry place. The freshness and flavor of loose leaf tea will maintain if you follow the three L's- location, location, location!