Is Expired Tea Still Safe To Drink?

Move over, coffee. According to Statista, tea is the second-most-consumed drink in the world, following water. While many people reach for a cup of coffee in the morning, tea is often considered a better-for-you alternative. With countless varieties and flavors (some of which still contain caffeine!), tea also boasts a variety of immune-supporting antioxidants.

If you're someone who regularly wakes up with a cup of tea, you probably have your preferred method of steeping it down to a science. Whether you opt for a green, black, white, or oolong tea, it's worth the extra care when you take the first sip. 

Maybe you already know how to brew a perfect cup of tea. But what happens if you stocked up on too much tea, and it's been sitting in your pantry for months or even a year? Is it still safe to drink past the date printed on the box?

You can drink expired tea — but it won't be your best cup

When you take something out of your fridge and see you've reached the food's expiration date, you might throw it away. While this is a safe recommendation for refrigerated foods, such as dairy and produce, there's more wiggle room when it comes to tea. 

According to Artful Tea, tea can last a long time when stored properly. The so-called "expiration dates" on tea packages are usually a "best if used by" recommendation, indicating more of a quality control thing than a safety warning (per Steeped Dreams).

If you find yourself brewing a tea bag that's a little old — maybe one or two years past the printed date — you likely won't have any problems. You might find that your cup of tea is just a little less flavorful, and it may also have less antioxidants (per Verdant Tea).

How to store tea properly

Both tea bags and loose-leaf tea can stay fresh for years when stored properly. The key word here is "properly" — but what does that mean, exactly? 

According to Artful Tea, tea's worst enemies are sunshine, heat, moisture, and air. To keep your tea fresh, store it in a dark, airtight container, such as a designated tea tin. (Just don't keep it in the refrigerator, which is too humid, notes Eco Cha.)

While all tea should be stored away from heat and moisture, some varieties will keep longer than others. According to Steeped Dreams, more oxidized teas, including black teas and roasted oolongs, can stay fresher longer — up to a whole two years. And if you enjoy using more loose-leaf tea, which isn't packaged in a bag, it can be easier for moisture to get to them, making them more susceptible to a shorter shelf life.