Aside from water, tea is the most popular drink in the world. That shouldn’t be a surprise though. Delicious in hot or cold brew form, it’s the ideal drink to warm your soul on a cold winter’s day or cool you down on a blazing hot summer’s day.
Whatever your tastes, there’s a version you’re sure to love. Perhaps you prefer Oolong tea, loose leaf tea, sun tea, herbal tea, or one of the wide varieties of flavored tea available. There’s something for everyone, even if it’s just plain black tea!
Apart from its wondrous taste and aroma, tea is packed full of healthy nutrients and properties. Polyphenols, for example, are a main health benefit of drinking tea. They contain antioxidants, have beneficial effects on gut health and immune system, and have anti-cancer properties as well. Also, tea may lower your bad cholesterol levels as well as decrease the chance of heart disease thanks to the flavonoids it contains.
However, all of the great qualities of tea can turn into a terrible food poisoning mishap if you’re not careful about how you store your tea after you brew it.
In this article I’ll show you how to store brewed tea properly to prolong its shelf life.
How Long Does Brewed Tea Last?
It’s easy to get carried away and brew more tea than you and your guests can consume in one sitting. If you’re like me, you’ll be reluctant to throw it away – after all, who wants to waste perfectly good tea?
Luckily, brewed tea is quite easy to store.
There are some crucial steps to follow, though. Since tea is so delicate, how you store it drastically changes its quality and shelf life.
Let’s take a look at the different conditions in which you can stored brewed tea.
At Room Temperature
Leaving your tea at room temperature for longer periods of time is not ideal for its quality, nor is it safe.
Brewed tea will only last for 8 hours at room temperature.
If you left your tea out at room temperature overnight or longer than 8 hours, I strongly advise that you discard it. A sip of stale tea is not worth the visit to the doctor, trust me!
In the Fridge
Your fridge is the ideal spot to store brewed tea.
In the fridge, it should be stored in an airtight container such as a mason jar. This is so that it won’t interact with other volatile and fragrant compounds which can alter its taste and aroma. You don’t want your tea tasting of onions, for example!
Another benefit of a tightly sealed container is that it will ensure minimal contamination and bacterial growth.
Using a sealed container, you can store brewed tea in the fridge for up to 5 days.
In the Freezer
If you want, you can always freeze your brewed tea in your freezer. This isn’t the ideal method of storage if you are a stickler for quality, though.
That being said,it’s a great way to have homemade ice-cold tea at hand. After all, you never know when a craving will kick in.
As with the fridge, you should freeze your brewed tea in an airtight container.
You can freeze your brewed tea safely for up to 6 months.
|Storage Method||How Long Does It Last?|
|Room Temperature||Up to 8 hours|
|Airtight Container in the Fridge||Up to 5 days|
|In the Freezer||Up to 6 months|
Hot Brew vs Cold Brew Tea
As you’ll no doubt know, tea is a delightful beverage whether you consume it hot or cold.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s little real difference between hot brewed and cold brewed tea. After all, they are both tea, right? Well, at a chemical level, they’re not exactly the same and water temperature plays a big role in this.
This difference impacts the taste of the final product but also the shelf life when stored.
Taste Difference Between Hot Brew vs Cold Brew Tea
First of all, there is a big difference in taste.
Cold brew tea is made with fresh, cold water and steeped overnight in the fridge. Because of this the natural tannins in the tea are only extracted slowly at a very low level. Tannins are responsible for that astringent, bitter tea flavor when it is over-steeped. As a result of the low level of extraction, cold brew tea has a less bitter taste.
On the other hand, hot water brings out a much higher level of tannins and polyphenols out of tea leaves. Because of this, it’s more bitter than cold brew tea, which is known for a smooth and delicate taste.
Shelf Life of Hot Brew vs Cold Brew Tea
The way tea is brewed also impacts the shelf life when stored.
The cold water use when preparing cold brew tea isn’t hot enough to kill off all bacteria or potential mold in the tea leaves. Because of this, cold brew tea is more prone to harmful organic growth and has a shorter shelf life than hot brew tea.
Cold brew tea will last in the fridge up to 4 days, while hot brew tea will keep well for up to 5 days, as mentioned above.
Whichever method you use, the brewed tea should always be kept in the fridge in airtight containers.
How to Make Brewed Tea Last Longer
Tea is such a staple beverage thanks to its heartwarming and comforting effects, some people, including me, can’t get enough of it.
This is why it’s common to end up with a big batch of tea that you can’t finish.
If you are an avid tea drinker and wondering if there is a way to make your brewed tea last longer so that you can enjoy it whenever you desire, I’m here to put your mind at ease.
The most important step you can take to make brewed tea last longer is properly storing it as outlined above. However, there are factors that can make brewed tea go bad more quickly. You should take steps to avoid these to prolong the shelf life of your tea.
What Can Make Brewed Tea Go Bad Faster?
As it is the case with most food items, you should refrigerate your brewed tea. After letting it cool to room temperature store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Left at room temperature, brewed tea can go bad in less than 8 hours.
You may have just bought your tea leaves or tea bags recently, but still, if your tea pot, utensils, containers, or your hands are contaminated with something, it doesn’t matter.
They can potentially cause your tea to go bad earlier than you expect.
It’s important to always maintain proper kitchen hygiene to ensure that your kitchen and your tea is clean and uncontaminated.
Not Using Airtight Containers
You should always refrigerate your brewed tea in an airtight container such as a glass jar with a screw lid.
Otherwise, it will not only degrade in quality much faster due to its volatility, but also can potentially be contaminated with bacteria or mold.
Incorrect Water Temperature
When you are brewing your tea, it is important that the water temperature is at least 195° F. (90° C.) to properly kill all the bacteria and mold that can potentially make you sick or make your tea go bad at a faster rate than expected.
It is a crystal-clear fact that most bacteria love sugar or other sweet foods, this is basic fermentation.
If you like to add sugar to your tea but are planning to consume it later, you should avoid adding the sugar or other sweeteners – including fruit or honey – before storing it.
Instead, add them once you are ready to drink your tea.
Otherwise, your tea will ferment and go bad quicker.
How to Properly Store Brewed Tea
Seeing a big batch or tea pot of good tea go to waste is every tea lover’s nightmare and unfortunately, it’s pretty common.
It’s very easy to overlook some safety measures when you are storing your brewed tea, because more often than not you think you will be drinking it soon. I know I rarely brew a pot of black tea with the expectation of saving it until later.
Unfortunately tough, things don’t always go as planned. You may forget about your tea entirely or may not have the opportunity to drink it in time and it can go bad in the blink of an eye. So, it’s always ideal to properly store your brewed tea after you are done drinking.
As mentioned, brewed tea can be left out at room temperature for up to 8 hours before it goes bad.
Ideally, though you should store it in the fridge in an airtight container to avoid possible contamination. Using this method, your brewed tea should keep well for up to 5 days in the fridge if you have completed every step correctly.
Alternatively, you can opt to freeze your brewed tea in your trusty old freezer if you want to consume it much later. It should keep well in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Though, keep in mind that it will be degraded in quality and taste, and the thawing process dilutes it a little bit.
How Can You Tell if Brewed Tea Has Gone Bad?
You may have brewed some tea and couldn’t drink it in time for some reason and now you may be wondering whether your tea has gone bad or not.
First of all, don’t worry about it. It happens to the best of us.
Luckily, it’s relatively easy to notice the signs of spoilage in brewed tea using just your senses.
As I mentioned above, if you added any sweeteners to your tea before storing it and now it smells unpleasantly sour, it’s highly likely that it started to ferment. If that is the case, you should discard it immediately.
Also, if you have stored it for too long, even if you did it properly, it may lose its aromatic smell and will probably have no smell or aroma whatsoever.
You can try to add some aromas to it, but I would advise you to throw it away. It’s just not worth the risk.
If your brewed tea has an unusually or unexpectedly thicker texture, it’s a telltale sign of spoilage.
It means it has enough bacterial or organic growth in it to the point that it changes its texture, and you should safely discard it immediately.
Another obvious sign of spoilage in brewed tea is the nemesis of all foods, mold.
If you see colored little spots floating on the surface of your tea or inside the container, then it has definitely gone bad.
You should never risk tasting it and safely throw it away, making sure that you are not contaminating other surfaces in your kitchen.
Last but not least, ropey, string-like strands are one of the most obvious signs of spoilage in brewed tea.
If you see any, then it is apparent that your tea is teeming with bacterial growth and has definitely gone bad. I strongly advise you to discard it in a safe manner.