How Long Can You Keep Oolong Tea?
Oolong is a partially oxidized tea that have much longer shelf lives relative to green tea. To understand how long you can keep oolong teas, we've to make an important distinction between light and dark oolongs.
- Light oolong teas, such as Tie Guan Yin, have more water content left in the dry tea relative to dark oolongs. These teas should ideally be stored in an airtight vessel in the freezer.
- Dark oolong teas, such as Da Hong Pao, on the other hand shouldn't be stored cooled at all. Instead, they should be ideally airtight stored in room temperature.
How long does oolong tea last?
When stored properly light oolongs can last for up to as many as 5 years, with minimal lost of flavor and aroma. It's important to note that this assumes that the storage vessel isn't opened often. Every time you open the vessel, humid air will enter, reducing the shelf life of tea. It's therefore important to divide your tea stock in multiple portions, which you can then store separately.
Dark oolongs on the other hand have very long, sometimes unlimited shelf life. In fact, some tea lovers prefer to drink aged dark oolong. When stored properly, dark oolongs can continue to age naturally. Just make sure the tea leaves aren't exposed to excessive humidity and oxygen.
Can expired oolong tea make you sick?
Since tea is a dry product, it won't go bad as long as it doesn't come in touch with humidity. However, it doesn't mean it will be tasty to enjoy (especially in case of light oolong).
It's the same with spices. Take for example rosemary. When it's just dried, the aroma is still very rich, and when you season meat with it, it will smell wonderful. However, when you keep the rosemary for many years, it hasn't gone bad, but it won't be as fragrant as it was before!
So, tea doesn't really expire or make you sick, as long as it was stored correctly. The story is however completely different when it comes to already brewed oolong. We discuss this in the next chapter.
How long does brewed oolong tea last?
The good thing about oolong is that it can be brewed very very often. A high quality one generally last for as many as 13 brews. The downside of this is that you may only have appetite or time for less than the maximum amount of session. Because of this, tea lovers frequently wonder how already brewed tea can last.
While you may continue to brew the tea for the rest of the day, we do not recommend to keep the tea over night. Even if it's stored in the fridge. Tea leaves that have come in touch with water can grow bacteria. It might be not that much, and it can't really hurt you. But why take the risk?
What you alternatively can do is to finish brewing the tea, and store the tea in a bottle in the fridge. You can drink it the next day as a delicious ice tea!