Can tea leaves go bad? (+ 5 ways to use expired tea)

In this article, we will answer and how tea leaves go bad along with different ways to prevent spoilage.

Can tea leaves go bad?

Tea like any other food product will go bad in improper storage conditions. Tea is a shelf-stable product and It does not go bad that easily unless exposed to water, high temperatures, and mold spores. However, it will gradually lose its prime quality once it is past its ‘Best by’ date. The deterioration process will be quicker If stored improperly. Therefore, it is important to store your tea properly to preserve its freshness and enjoy its brew for a longer period of time.

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 Camelia 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 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Keep your tea container in a dark place preferably in a cabin.
  4. Do not let water get into your tea pack. Avoid using wet spoons to take tea.
  5. 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.

Does green tea go bad?

Does iced tea go bad

What does chamomile tea taste like?

Does brewed tea go bad?

How is the tea made?

Traditionally, tea is made in a process that involves the following steps:


Flushes are hand-picked with the utmost care and sent to the factory for processing after sorting.


Withering reduces the moisture level of fresh leaves to facilitate rolling.


Leaves are rolled with hand or in a rotor vane. Rolling facilitates oxidation


This is the most important step in determining the flavor, aroma, and strength of the tea. This step allows the oils and the enzymes in the tea leaf juice to interact with air and release tannins. This process requires warm temperature and is also called fermentation.


Semi/highly oxidized leaves are now sun-dried or pan-fried to reduce the moisture to 2-3%.

How do I know If my tea has spoiled?

If the tea is past its expiration date, then 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, then the tea is of no use. 

Give it a sniff and If you smell no odor, throw it if you want. Brew yourself a cup of tea, you will notice that the tea will not impart color, will have no pleasant odor and will taste bland and dull.

How to use expired tea leaves?

There are plenty of ways you can put expired tea leaves to good use.

  • Use them to get rid of bad odors. Place expired tea/tea bags in bathrooms or refrigerators to deodorize the area.
  • Use brewed expired tea and use it to control bad breath. This makes a perfect mouthwash.
  • Put it in the soil. Expired tea can enhance soil acidity. Plants like sweet potatoes and peppers flourish on such soils.
  • Tea has a good amount of tannic acid in it. So use some brewed expired tea to wipe and clean grease stains and dirt from mirror and windows.
  • If you have worked with onion, garlic, or made some seafood, and now your hands stink. Then do not worry, let your hands sit in a brewed cup of tea before washing.


In this article, we answered how tea leaves go bad along with different ways to prevent spoilage.