Tea Culture

How Do I Store My Tea? How the Factor of Storage Relates To Your Japanese Green Tea and Other Teas

We sometimes get this question from our customers: how do I store my tea? This is an interesting topic and, depending on the tea you are talking about, it can vary. That being said, there are some general guidelines we offer regarding all of our teas. Let’s dive in.

The Timing of Tea Storage

All of our teas have a shelf life as 12 months from the shipping date. Most of our tea is Japanese green tea. Green tea is usually produced in such a way that it is best to be consumed within a year of drinking. After it passes its shelf life, it is not that it is unusable (i.e. it is poisonous or something like this). We say that our tea has a shelf life of 12 months because you may notice a change in its quality over time, just like with anything else in nature. It is still drinkable but the flavor and aroma might not be as lively. You might compare this to bread–eating freshly baked bread versus bread that has been sitting on the counter for a week. The latter is most likely edible but you might notice a difference between the two.

The one year guideline could very well extend to other green teas you would buy from other vendors. Because of the fixation process (known as shāqīng (殺青) in Mandarin), the enzymes that allow for oxidation in the tea plant are deactivated. This basically means that your green tea, though it will change in its quality, will not oxidize any further. A part of the process of making sencha, for example, is steaming the leaf to deactivate the enzymes.

Other teas, such a sheng pu’er and white teas, do not go through this fixation process and therefore will appreciate with time. Pu’er leaves will go through some heat treatment but so much so that oxidation stops completely. Unlike green tea, these types are tea are actually celebrated for their age and there is a whole culture surrounding this which we will talk about later.

To Freeze or Not To Freeze, That Is the Question

Okay, so you have received your sencha from us. You haven’t opened it yet and you want to save it because you are still working through the last of your guricha. You can store your unopened package of tea in a refrigerator or, even better, a freezer. This is true of any package of tea that you buy from us. Our 1lb packages are vacuum sealed and our 2oz packages come with an oxygen absorber with will help to maintain its freshness. Again, both have a shelf life of 12 months.

A chunky pound of our vacuum sealed Organic Sencha Uji

If you have opened your package of tea (1lb, 2oz size, etc.,) then it is best to store it in a cool, dry place, away from the sunlight. You can discard the oxygen absorber, though you should try to remove as much air from the inside as you can (don’t hurt yourself) and then keep it sealed using a clip or by simply folding the opening over. For tea in which the packaging has already been opened, it is best not to store in the refrigerator. This is because the development of moisture (from taking it out of the refrigerator and putting it back in repeatedly) will have an effect on the quality of the tea. Usually with green tea, we are not necessarily looking to age it but are looking to consume it relatively soon (within a month or two).

Additionally, it is also best not to store it in glass as sunlight will affect the quality of the tea. Also, you can store it in a relatively odorless container (not a container that was used to hold garlic or spices, for example, and still has a strong aroma). If your tea is a 2oz or 1lb size tea from us (i.e. it came in a bag that is not transparent and only has the odor of the tea) you are welcome to just keep it in the bag.

This is the basic idea for storing your tea from us. These guidelines can be applied to your other teas as well.

The World of Aging Tea

This is a juicy subject. Like wine or cigars, there is a culture of aging white tea and pu’er tea. As mentioned above, these teas do not have the enzymes responsible for oxidation deactivated. Because of this, color, flavor, and texture will change over time. While you could probably age these similarly, let’s take a brief look at the world of storing and aging sheng pu’er

Storing and Aging Sheng Pu’er

There are many different opinions surrounding the storing and aging of sheng pu’er (shēng chá, 生茶, lit. raw tea). In a video made 7 years ago, Scott Wilson of Yunnan Sourcing seemed to imply that people tend to overcomplicate the storage of pu’er. Still, there are a fair amount of sheng pu’er fans that seek to control as much of the aging process as possible, artificially increasing the humidity of the storage area, monitoring it, etc. It makes sense as well; hotter, more humid places (such as your bathtub) will develop different molds because of such conditions.

A cake of shēng chá (Source: brahmi_boi)

Similar to aging cigars, people will invest in what is called a pumidor. People who age cigars will use a humidor while people who age pu’er use a pumidor. They will get a large plastic bin, unplugged refrigerator, or something like this, and store many cakes of pu’er in it with a way to manipulate and monitor the humidity. People age shou pu’er (shóu chá, 熟茶, lit. ripe tea) as well but the discussion for storing tea seems to revolve mostly around sheng pu’er as sheng, much like wine, appreciates over time. People will try to store it in such a way so as to get a specific character out of the tea.

A cup of shóu chá (Source: brahmi_boi)

The storing and aging of white tea, according to Paul of white2tea, seems to share similar rules as sheng and shou pu’er: that you can’t control everything but that types of tea should generally be stored together, should not be stored in overly dry or overly humid conditions, should not be stored in a place with other things that have a strong odor (such as spices), to store them in a place that avoids sunlight, and overall to consider your natural environment and adjust accordingly. Aged white tea seems only recently to have gained popularity and aged whites, for the most part, will at most be about 10 years old.

We hope this post has cleared things up regarding storage as well as introduced you to some types of tea where storage is quite and important factor. Follow our instagram and tiktok for more content like this. Also, you can subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email address in the designated area at the bottom of any page of our website.