When to get rid of it.

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As the new year gets rolling, I’ve found it a good time to dig through the baskets and drawers and shelves full of tea and decide what to keep and what to toss.

Judging by the odor of my desk drawer at work, some of my stash had gone stale. Others were just abandoned in favor of other varieties – especially in the last several months, as I’ve developed a more discerning palate.

But how long do you keep tea, and how should you store it? This is a question that is asked over and over, so I did a little digging to see if I could find an answer that most people agree on – and that’s no easy feat. But there were some good guidelines to go by:

  • Store in a dry place.
  • Keep out of direct light – light will degrade tea.
  • Please don’t store in the freezer or at any other extreme temperature.
  • Store away from spices and other strongly-scented items.
  • Outside of an air-tight container, tea loses its quality after 2-3 weeks.
  • In an air-tight container away from light, tea should last six months to a year.

So, about half of my collection has been thrown out, with a group set aside to be brewed soon, or not at all. I got rid of a lot of grocery store varieties, and I’ve been collecting small tins from a local Indian market for loose tea storage.

I usually buy in quantities of 2 ounces or less. This gives me enough to try it several times and even share with friends, and I get to go back to the teashop on a regular basis and pick out something new – and now I have the room for it!

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