You just added to your tea stash, perhaps you bought a few at a go so you can enjoy sampling them. But you are worried the tea leaves will lose their fragrance or worse spoil. How can you maximize the storage time for your tea leaves?
Simply put, there are 5 main enemies for tea leaves, namely sunlight, heat, moisture, odor and air- well, at least that is applicable to all except pu-er which needs air to age further (but more on that later).
Here are some practical tips for storage of tea leaves:
i) Don’t store them in clear containers or packages. Opaque containers or packaging blocks out the sun and prevents degradation.
ii) Store them in a dark, cool cupboard.
That means far away from your stove or other sources of heat like the fridge coils and somewhere away from direct sunlight.
iii) Store in airtight and odorless containers (except Pu-er).
In addition, it is clear so you need to ensure there is an opaque packaging for the tea stored inside.
Another note, keep your teas away from Tupperwares or other airtight plastic containers. Plastic emit a faint smell that might not seem much, until you taste them.
iv) Where possible, go for smaller packs, buying 3 packs of 50g will definitely ensure freshness longer than a pack of 150g.
v) Don’t use your hands to pick out tea leaves to be brewed. Your hand emits oils which will spoil the teas stored inside. Use a 茶测 （spatula) instead.
vi) Resealable bags are very useful and ‘push’ out the air before sealing them.
vii) If you are drinking Tie Guan Yin or most green teas, store them in a fridge at somewhere around 4 degrees Celsius. Make sure you store them in an airtight bag unless you want your tea leaves to smell like chicken or seafood.
Beware of moisture though, so you need to seal it properly.
Note: I have read a lot of articles saying storing tea leaves in fridges are a bad idea but equally manner which recommend it. Tea vendors though store them in fridges so that settles the argument for me.
This does not apply to other types of tea leaves though.
viii) Make sure your cupboard is free of odors though.
To get rid of the smell, keep brewed tea leaves in the cupboard overnight (stored in a cup or some receptacle) and it absorbs the smell.
Storage Tips for Pu-er
You will notice airtight usually helps to keep out odors and moisture but pu-er needs air to ‘age’. So how do you resolve the conundrum?
The answer is in a porcelain ‘pot’ like storage.
These are opaque and keeps away heat as well. Store them in a cool dry area away from sunlight and the material is quite conducive to helping pu-er age.