Can tea bags go bad? (+5 Ways to use expired tea bags)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can tea bags go bad?”, and how to store them safely to prevent spoilage along with the ways to use expired tea bags.

Can tea bags go bad? 

Yes, tea bags can go bad but it is rare unless stored improperly. The shelf-life of tea depends on the type of tea. Green tea, due to higher moisture content, is highly prone to spoilage but black tea is less susceptible because of the low moisture levels. While the white tea tastes better with passing time.

Green teas contain higher content of catechins [(−)-epigallocatechin gallate, (−)-epigallocatechin, (−)-epicatechin gallate, and (−)-epicatechin] than both Oolong, pu-erh and black teas because fermentation process during the tea manufacturing reduced the levels of catechins significantly (2). For this reason, the chemical compounds in green tea are more susceptible to oxidation. This oxidation occurred during the production process, in the case of black tea. It was reported that tea catechins are not stable during long-term storage. During 6 months’ storage of green tea bags in their original containers at room temperature in the dark, the average content of EGCG decreased by one-third and ECG decreased by half (3).

According to industrial estimates, contribution of tea bag segment in total tea sale is only about 3–4% but at present, this is the fastest growing segments in tea industry which is experiencing about 50–60% growth per year in India (1).

How to store tea bags safely?

Always store your tea bags in a cool place and do not let the moisture anywhere near them. A humidity level that is greater than 65% and 50% will lead to fungal growth and staling of tea bags, respectively. Because of its composition, tea is not susceptible to spoilage, when stored in a dry, cool and dark place (4). However, tea can be contaminated with microorganisms, such as Aspergillus niger, during storage. The risk associated with tea bags is probably low, as the tea is usually prepared in the kitchen by the addition of boiling water, which likely kills the spores, although this has not been clearly demonstrated (5).

If you are storing your tea bags in the pantry, keep away from the spice containers to prevent the tea bags from absorbing other flavors while losing its own flavor in the process.

Store the tea bags in an airtight container.

Is freezing tea bags a good choice?

Freezing or refrigerating tea bags is not recommended due to the high humidity levels. If stored in the freezer, tea bags must be safe from moisture (3). Moisture is going to degrade the quality of your tea bags and make them dry out quickly lose their flavor and aroma.

If necessary, always use in freezer bags and squeeze out all air from the bag.

What happens if I drink expired tea bags?

No, drinking expired tea will not make you sick unless it was spoiled. Under proper storage conditions, expired tea will just lose its flavor and aroma and you might want to throw it out for quality reasons.

But to be on the safe side, brew your expired tea with water that is at least 175°C hot. Doing this will kill any potential bacteria in the teabag (5). If you are not going to consume immediately after brewing, store it in the refrigerator, no more than 8 hours.

The great influence of packaging material on storage stability is evident. The shelf-life of the products usually depend on packaging material used (glass, PET, and retortable pouch) (3). 

How to tell if the tea goes bad?

Let your senses guide you in this case.

  1. You can tell by the appearance if there are any clear signs of mold growth or the tea looks clumpy.
  2. Sniff it. If the tea has a stale and sour smell, discard the tea.
  3. Look for the signs of any insect. If you see something moving in the tea bag or if the tea bag has tiny holes in it, throw it out,
  4. Off-flavors described for old tea are: medicinal, musty/new leather or grain flavors, or they became higher in characteristics such as tooth-etch (6).

How long are tea bags good after the ‘Best by’ date?

The expiration date is not to be confused with the ‘Use by’ or ‘Best by’ dates. Best by date only indicates that the tea bags will brew to their full potential till the best by date. After that date, the quality degradation will be a lot quicker. Black tea bags will be good for 2-3 years past their expiration date if you store them properly, but the tea will certainly lose its properties and develop off-flavors. Green and herbal tea bags will be good to use for a year or two after the ‘Best by’ date. According to the USDA, Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will be safe past the ‘best by’ date, although they may eventually become stale or develop an off flavor. You’ll know when you open the package if the food has lost quality. Many dates on foods refer to quality, not safety. 

Other FAQs about Tea which you may be interested in.

What liquor goes with tea?

Can tea make you constipated?

How to use expired tea bags?

There are plenty of ways to use expired tea bags if you don’t want to brew tea from them for quality purposes (7).

Use tea bags as a deodorizer 

Teabags work as an excellent deodorizer. You can use dried teabags mixed with baking soda to get rid of stinky carpets. Just spread it out on the carpet and vacuum clean it. If you cut garlic or onion and want to get rid of the stench, dip your hands in brewed tea and wash your hands with soap. Use it in your restroom to get rid of an unpleasant smell.

Make tea a part of the skincare regime

Make tea a part of your skincare regime. Brew the tea bags and add them to liquify the dry masks or fill in a spray bottle and use it as a face mist. The powerful antioxidants in tea help rejuvenate your skin and prevent wrinkling.

Use tea as a cleaner

Use brewed tea as a cleaner. Add some detergent and hot water and use it to clean the greasy areas in your kitchen.

Enjoy a relaxing bath

Toss the tea bags in your bathtub. It is even better If the tea bags were flavored like jasmine or chamomile. The subtle aroma will help your muscles calm down and the powerful anti-oxidants will hydrate your skin.

Use it as a compost

Bury your tea bags in the soil for plants that require an acidic environment to flourish. Tea provides tannic acid and a lot of nutrients to make the soil fertile.


In this article, we answered the question “Can tea bags go bad?”, and how to store them safely to prevent spoilage along with the ways to use expired tea bags.


  1. Bassi, Pratishtha, et al. Importance and prior considerations for development and utilization of tea bags: A critical review. J Food Proc Eng, 2020, 43, e13069.
  2. Zuo, Yuegang, Hao Chen, and Yiwei Deng. Simultaneous determination of catechins, caffeine and gallic acids in green, Oolong, black and pu-erh teas using HPLC with a photodiode array detector. Talanta, 2002, 57, 307-316.
  3. Kosińska, Agnieszka, and Wilfried Andlauer. Antioxidant capacity of tea: effect of processing and storage. Processing and impact on antioxidants in beverages. Academic Press, 2014. 109-120.
  4. Friedman, Mendel, et al. Stability of green tea catechins in commercial tea leaves during storage for 6 months. J food sci, 2009, 74, H47-H51.
  5. Bouakline, Adel, et al. Fungal contamination of food in hematology units. J clin microbiol, 2000, 38, 4272-4273.
  6. Lee, Jeehyun, and Delores H. Chambers. Flavors of green tea change little during storage. J sens stud, 2010, 25, 512-520.
  7. Guo, Shasha, et al. Current understanding in conversion and application of tea waste biomass: A review. Biores Technol, 2021, 338, 125530.