Can tea go bad If left out? (+3 Tips)

In this article, we will answer the question “Can tea go bad If left out?”, and what is the shelf-life of different types of tea?

Can tea go bad If left out?

Yes, tea can go bad If left out. The deterioration process will be much after If the tea contains perishable ingredients like milk or cream. Milk tea that has been sitting for more than 2 hours should be discarded. 

Plain black tea will stay good for longer. But any tea that has been sitting out for more than 12 hours should not be consumed.  

Before consuming any old brew, make sure It does not give off an acidic or strange smell. If it smells and looks fine, reheat it to at least 190 °F (88 °C) to kill the microbes and ensure safety. Moreover, the safety of old tea also depends upon the brewing methods. 

If you used cold or room temperature to make tea, It wouldn’t last long. However, If you used boiling hot water to brew your tea, chances are It will be good to drink even after a day

There are some uses for overnight tea

If the tea is past its expiry, it is likely the tea has lost most of its flavor and aroma. If the black tea turns grey or the green tea turns yellowish and loses its overall vibrancy, it’s bad. Do not worry because we have a tip for you. 

This spoiled tea might have bacteria and fungi growing in it but It is full of essential nutrients that the plants can utilize. Yes, you guessed it right. You can use this overnight tea as a fertilizer for your plants. Make sure you dilute the tea before giving it to your plants.

The shelf life of different types of tea

The shelf life of tea varies with the type of tea namely black, white, green, and oolong tea. All these types of tea are derived from the same plant i.e Camellia sinensis but differ in their processing. Some are oxidized/fermented while others are not. The more oxidized and unbroken the leaves are, the longer will be their shelf life.

Green Tea

Green tea will stay fresh from 6 months to 1 year after its purchase. This tea is not fermented, hence a shorter shelf life.

Black Tea

Fermented teas like black will stay aromatic for 2-3 years if stored in the right conditions.

Oolong tea 

A lightly oxidized unopened oolong tea pack will last up to 5 years. If opened frequently, shelf life reduces.

White Tea

White tea is cherished for its medicinal properties and is more expensive than other types. It is recommended to use white tea within 2 years of its purchase.

Storage of Tea

  1. Always store your tea in a cool place or at room temperature. Keep it away from the stovetop and sunlight. Heat can damage its flavor.
  1. Keep your tea in a sealed package or an airtight container. Do not let it come in contact with air frequently. Air will remove the volatile compounds of tea and deprive it of its aroma and flavor.
  1. Keep your tea container in a dark place preferably in a cabin.
  1. Do not let water get into your tea pack. Avoid using wet spoons to take tea.
  1. Do not store the tea in the fridge or freezer unless you are not going to use it for a long time after the purchase. The container or pack to store it in the fridge or freezer should be vacuum packed or else the humidity will destroy its quality.

Other FAQs about Tea which you may be interested in.

Can tea get you high?

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 its 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.

How to tell if the tea goes bad?

  1. You can tell by the appearance if there are any clear signs of mold growth or the tea looks clumpy.
  1. Sniff it. If the tea has a stale and sour smell, discard the tea.
  1. 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.

No, drinking expired tea will not make you sick unless it was spoiled. 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.


In this article, we answered the question “Can tea go bad If left out?”, and what is the shelf-life of different types of tea?


Hello, I'm Sana Ameer. I'm a student of Food Science and Technology at UVAS. I like to bake and I aspire to become a Food blogger.