Are you a tea lover? A cup of tea is the perfect way to unwind and relax after a long day, right? But have you ever wondered if your herbal tea can go bad?
It’s a valid concern, as herbal tea can lose its flavor and potency over time. But it very rarely actually goes bad.
Here we’ll explore the shelf life of herbal tea, how to tell if your herbal tea has gone bad, and any potential risks of drinking expired tea. By the end of this post, you’ll have all the information you need to feel good the next time you grab a cup to cozy up with.
So fellow tea drinkers, let’s dive in!
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Different Types of Tea
Did you know, tea is the second most popular drink on the planet? (Water is the first). And there are many different types of tea.
Traditional tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. It’s available in several varieties including black tea, green tea, white tea, and oolong tea. Traditional tea generally contains caffeine.
Unlike traditional tea, herbal tea can be made from a variety of herbs, spices, flowers, fruits, and other plant materials. It is generally not caffeinated.
Herbal tea, also known as tisane, is made by steeping these various plant materials in hot water.
Because tea comes from a plant, it has all the health benefits of other plant foods like fruits and vegetables. Herbal tea is often consumed for its medicinal properties.
Popular Types of Herbal Tea and Their Health Benefits
Chamomile tea. Promotes relaxation making it easier to fall asleep (1).
Peppermint tea. While most research is on peppermint oil, peppermint tea may aid digestion.
Hibiscus tea. Hibiscus has anti-inflammatory effects that may be helpful in preventing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and obesity (5).
Rooibos tea. Packed with antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Do Tea Bags Expire? Shelf Life of Herbal Tea
The typical shelf life of herbal tea can vary. It will depend on several factors, including the type of herbs used, the processing method, and how it’s stored. In general, properly stored herbal tea can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.
Some herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint, have a longer shelf life than others due to the natural preservative properties of their ingredients.
On the other hand, herbal tea blends that contain fruit pieces or flowers may have a shorter shelf life due to their moisture content.
Factors That Can Affect the Shelf Life of Herbal Tea
Humidity. Moisture can cause tea to become moldy or degrade, reducing quality and shelf life.
Exposure to air. Exposure to air can lead to oxidation, causing tea to lose its aroma and flavor.
Temperature. Extreme temperatures can damage the quality of tea and reduce its shelf life.
Light. Sunlight or fluorescent light can cause tea to break down and lose its flavor, aroma, and color.
Quality of the tea. The quality of the ingredients themselves can affect the shelf life of tea. Good quality teas are less likely to spoil quickly compared to lower quality.
And then of course, how you store it is important!
How to Properly Store Herbal Tea to Extend its Shelf Life
You bought that yummy herbal tea, so let’s make it last! You want to maintain the best quality and longest shelf life of your herbal tea.
To keep it fresh, store it properly in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place. Keep it away from direct sunlight, moisture, and strong odors.
This is the best way to store both tea bags and loose-leaf tea.
Additionally, be sure to check the best-by date on the package. While most herbal tea is not actually spoiled, it will be less tasty after the expiration date.
And, if you are drinking it for an upset stomach or to help you relax, expired tea may be less effective.
But don’t store your herbal tea in the fridge! Here’s why…
How Long Does Herbal Tea Last in the Fridge?
You might think that keeping your tea in the fridge is a good idea, because colder is fresher, right?
However, there is moisture in the fridge that is not great for maintaining freshness. While it is good to store your herbal tea in a cool place, the refrigerator is not that place!
As noted above, store in an air-tight container, in a cool dark place, away from direct sunlight. With proper storage, your tea will last a long time!
But what about those of us who prefer iced tea you ask?
How to Store Brewed Tea
So the fridge might not be the right place to store your dried tea leaves, but it’s great for storing iced tea!
Store iced tea in an airtight container to avoid having it pick up other odors from the refrigerator. It will also keep fresh longer without fruit, sugar, or other sweetener added.
But how do you know if your brewed tea has gone bad anyway? Just watch the color, smell, and taste.
And the same with your tea leaves and tea bags!
Signs that Herbal Tea Has Gone Bad
So does tea expire? Herbal tea can go bad over time, especially if it’s not stored properly.
Although herbal tea typically has a longer shelf life than other beverages, it can lose its flavor, aroma, and potency. This happens if it’s exposed to factors such as moisture, air, light, and heat.
However, just because the expiration date has passed, doesn’t necessarily mean your herbal tea has gone bad.
The signs that herbal tea has gone bad include a musty or sour smell, a change in color or taste, or the presence of mold or other visible signs of spoilage.
And if it does smell or look funny, is it dangerous to drink?
Risks of Drinking Expired Herbal Tea
Drinking expired herbal tea is unlikely to cause you any physical harm. The tea will just not be as flavorful or have the same effectiveness as when it is fresh.
However, if tea is moldy or otherwise spoiled, it is best to discard it.
To ensure that your herbal tea is still safe and enjoyable to drink, it’s important to store it properly, check its expiration date, and discard any tea that has spoiled.
If in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and throw out any herbal tea that you suspect has gone bad.
But don’t you hate to waste expired tea?
What Can I Do With My Old Tea Leaves?
If you have decided that the tea in your pantry is no longer worth drinking, what can you do with it?
Well, loose-leaf tea can be composted (yay!). And most old tea bags can be composted also (yay again!), with a few caveats (6).
If the tea bags are made with any plastic content, they cannot be composted. And if they have staples or adhesives, those need to be removed. If you are unsure, you can open the bag and at least compost the tea leaves.
So, Can Herbal Tea Go Bad?
Good news! It’s very unlikely!
To keep your tea fresh and flavorful, be sure to maintain good storage conditions. For best results, keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place away from moisture, air, light, and heat.
By following these simple tips, you’ll get the maximum flavor and freshness of your tea. It’s a great way to ensure that your herbal tea remains a delightful and healthy beverage for you to enjoy!
Kate is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a Master’s in Public Health. She loves to share what she has learned about nutrition and yoga to help people live healthier, more balanced lives. When not working on this blog or teaching yoga, Kate is usually spending time with family and friends or reading a good book.