Back in 2017, we traveled to India as part of our first-ever tea sourcing trip and also to gain some knowledge about the tea industry. Our itinerary included stops in two of the main producing regions of the country – Assam and Darjeeling.  Tea from Assam comes from the Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica and is often described as full bodied with a distinctive malty flavor. It is very versatile and can be drunk with or without any additives.  I personally like Assam tea in the morning with a little bit of sweetness added and a splash of cream. Darjeeling tea known as the champagne of tea is a more delicate one and is best drunk in the afternoon with a light fare.

While staying at GoomteeTea Estate, on our way to Darjeeling,  one of the guests recommended we visit Margaret’s Hope Tea Estate, which was not too far from where we were staying. From what we’ve heard, this tea estate has been selling tea close to 1000.00/Kg at the tea auction. Margaret’s Hope is located in Kurseong en route to the actual village of Darjeeling.

According to Goodricke Tea, owners of the estate,  the tea lounge overlooking the tea garden has a perfect blend of elegance, offers incomparable experiences with a dose of heritage and mystique, appealing to gourmet tea specialists and inquisitive visitors alike.

Our driver – Mr Kurseong 2010

Once we arrived we sat with our driver at a table and ordered one of their teas. My fresh cup of first flush Darjeeling was nothing like I ever tasted before. I immediately fell in love and decided to bring a sample back home and wanted to keep it for a special moment. Months later having forgotten about it, I decided to brew myself a cup. Following the recommended instructions I realized after my first sip that the tea tasted nothing like it did back in Darjeeling. Why was that? It is as simple as some tea can be aged and others are best consumed fresh. After that incident, I realized that even though tea doesn’t really expire, its organoleptic qualities (taste, smell, appearance, and texture) can definitely be affected if not stored properly.

How to store your tea for freshness

Most of the major tea companies have an expiry/best before date on their packaging. Rest assured, tea will still be good for consumption after the recommended date, but it might have a bland taste. Especially for the less oxidized ones (the ones you cannot age) like white, yellow, and green tea. But there is a right way and a wrong way to store tea so it stays fresh.

Tips for keeping your tea as fresh as possible

  1. Keep it away from light. Storing loose leaf tea in a glass jar can be part of a design statement but is definitely not recommended if you want to preserve its freshness. Photodegradation caused by sunlight (blue and UV light) and fluorescent lights can result not only in the discoloration of the leaves but also in some loss of flavor, aroma, and nutrient contents (vitamins and proteins). So storing tea in a dark spot is the best practice.

  2. Keep in a dry place at room temperature. Fridge and freezer preservation are required for many food items such as milk and meat. Tea, according to certain sources, not so much. Tea processing involves a drying step in order to stop the oxidation process and reduce its moisture level between 2% and 3% to make it shelf stable. Getting your container in and out of the fridge/freezer exposes your tea to a variation of temperature which further exposes it to moisture and condensation. Soggy tea? Not for me!

  3. Tea bags, metal, ceramic glass, or plastic? Tea can absorb odors when stored inappropriately. A loose lid container will let the air circulate and expose your tea to oxygen and different odors, especially near some strong smelling food like spices or near a cooking area. Remember that oxygen is necessary for any “live being” but not so much for dry loose leaf tea. So an airtight container preferably made out of steel or ceramic is what you should be using if you want to preserve the quality of your tea.

Sarah + Chris

What is your preferred way to store tea? Let us know in the comments below.

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