Proper tea storage is essential to maintain freshness and flavor in loose leaf tea. Purchasing a large amount of loose tea can be quite an investment, and you obviously do not want it to immediately begin to lose its essential flavors right after purchase, but that is exactly what will happen if you do not store tea properly. Loose tea has four enemies; these are moisture, light, heat, and odors, and it is necessary to consider all of these when storing tea.
Though it may be tempting to store your newly purchased tea leaves in a beautiful glass container on the counter, this is a very bad idea. Exposure to light can fade tea of its color, and it can begin to break down and lose its flavor. Instead, tea should be kept in a dark location, such as a cool cupboard. In addition, it is necessary to store tea in a proper airtight container.
Many stores sell tea tins specially designed for this purpose. In addition, ceramic containers with rubber seals that are able to latch closed are another great way to store tea. Both of these give tea protection from light and air; the oxygen in air is able to alter the molecules of the tea, again potentially changing the subtle flavors.
When tea is placed inside a sealed container, that container should then be kept in a cupboard away from heat and strong odors. The cupboard should remain a relatively steady temperature all the time; room temperature is best. This means the cupboard should not be located near the oven or toaster, and it should not also be used to house spices or other strongly flavored items which could potentially impart their flavors to the tea. In addition, the heat and steam from the stove could potentially create moisture in the tea storage container, which could cause mold to grow, ruining the tea.
It is not possible to store tea in the freezer or refrigerator. If you have purchased tea in bulk, it may be a good idea to store most of the tea in a large container, and transfer smaller amounts to another container for everyday use. This will limit exposing all of the tea to light and air every time the container is opened. When you store tea properly, it can last from six months up to more than a year, retaining all of its original freshness and subtle flavors, and protecting your investment for later enjoyment.