Can Tea Go Bad After Brewing?

Tea is consumed to refresh the tired mind or awaken one’s sleepy self. It is often accompanied by social media scrolling. These circumstances make it easy to forget that the teacup even exists, making it one of the most forgotten beverages worldwide. But does that mean you have to pour it down the sink?

Tea can go bad after brewing if the tea bag or tea leaves are left in it for a long time. It can also taste bad if it loses its intended consumption temperature. It can also go bad if exposed to an unhygienic environment.

In this article, we will cover the exact steps you can take to prevent the tea from going bad and how to store brewed tea if you make too much of it. But first, let’s go over the two main ways tea is degraded in a little more detail.

How Does Tea Go Bad After Brewing?

Tea goes bad in two ways, one of which is entirely avoidable. If the tea leaves are in the brew, they start releasing too many tannins and bitter oils into the beverage after a while. Tea left for over fifteen minutes can be significantly more bitter and might make one nauseous.

The second way tea goes bad is by losing its temperature. When tea, like the English breakfast tea or chai tea, meant to be served hot gets cold, it cannot be consumed to the same effect. Reheating can cause some of the water in the beverage to evaporate, resulting in more concentrated, different-tasting tea.

You should make note of both these methods of tea degradation because they can inform how you store your tea. If you filter out the tea leaves and store the tea in a vacuum flash, you can keep it for over 24 hours without it going bad. But is fresh tea safe? There is research that casts doubt on the safety of over-brewed tea.

A journal of toxicology article reports that 73% of the tea samples brewed for over 3 minutes and 83% brewed over 15 minutes had lead levels unsafe for pregnant people’s consumption. The key here is the increase in lead levels with an increase in the brewing time. According to the UK’s Food Authority, there is a negligible amount of lead in brewed tea, and a significant percentage is too low to even scientifically detect. 

Given that the British are known for their love for coffee, their version of the FDA can be trusted in its analysis. But when you combine this with the study showing how overbrewing can extract more lead, it further emphasizes the need to get tea leaves out as soon as possible.

There’s no need for alarm, though. Even with 15 minutes of brewing, the tea doesn’t have enough lead to be unsafe for individual consumption. It is unsafe for consumption during pregnancy. To be safe, you should still brew tea for less than three minutes and get it in a vacuum flask like the Simple Modern Kona Thermos.

This is a minimalist flask that isn’t too “poppy” for the office or too “serious” for casual get-togethers. Like most thermos products, it can keep warm things warm and cold drinks cold, which makes it perfect for tea-lovers. It can keep your iced tea and warm tea fresh for well over 12 hours.

What sets it apart from other flasks is its apart from other flasks is that it has an excellent leak-proofing cap and lid mechanism. Its twist-and-open lid can be removed entirely for refills and snapped open while covering the flash-mouth for drinking without spilling.

So you can use it for storing 16 ounces of tea if you prefer pouring it into a cup before consuming it. And if you don’t feel awkward drinking the tea directly from the flask, you can do that too. It can also be used to regulate the temperature of literally any other beverage, so it doesn’t become useless if you lose interest in tea.

That can be said about any personal vacuum flask, but very few have the kind of rating and reviews that Simple Modern Kona has. With over 2300 reviews and ratings, it stands at a global average of 4.6 out of 5 stars, with the highest specific ratings being for its value for money proposition and its ease of holding.

Should You Brew and Store Tea?

If you are busy and use loose tea to brew your morning beverage, you might not want to put in the effort to prepare tea every morning. The thought of brewing all your tea together might have occurred to you, but before you adopt or dismiss it, you need to know its advantages and disadvantages.

You should not brew and store tea because a major flavor element of tea has to do with its initial serving temperature. To store more than one serving of tea at once is to commit to making the tea cold by the second serving. 

You can store one cup of tea for the evening, but given how easy it is to prepare tea with teabags, storing brewed tea as a time-saving measure doesn’t make sense. The only time I recommend using a flask to keep your tea hot is when you need to have a cup on the go and aren’t sure you’ll have access to hot water.

But I can understand that if you already have a large bag of loose tea leaves, you might not be very happy throwing it away to get teabags. While the greatest perk of getting loose tea is that it doesn’t cost as much as teabags, its greatest disadvantage is that it can leave a mess in the kitchen.

In contrast, the greatest perk of teabags is that they are almost entirely mess-free and very portable. Their greatest disadvantage happens to be their price. You can actually buy paper filters used for coffee and fill tea leaves with stapled paper filter pockets. But I would recommend this only if you already have a large bag of tea leaves.

How to Store Tea for Maximum Freshness

Now that you know that storing brewed tea is out of the question, the next best option is to store tea leaves. But just like brewed tea can go bad, loose tea can go bad too.

To store tea properly, you need to keep it in a ziplock bag inside a jar. The ziplock bag should be folded to ensure that there is no air gap between the top-most layer of tea leaves and the lid of the jar.

Exposure to humid air is what leads to the rapid degradation of tea. This is because of caffeine’s tendency to interact with air and water while leaving behind its stability source. Teabags generally don’t need to be stored so strictly. As long as they are in a box, they can retain their freshness, mainly because the bag/filter creates a barrier to direct interaction.

The Biggest Tea-Storing Mistake

The greatest mistake you can make when storing tea is to store a lot of it. Tea should be bought in an average of 40 to 60 servings’ worth of loose leaves at once. If you get teabags, you can store 100 at once. Both of these directions assume that you consume two cups of tea a day. If you don’t take tea as regularly, you might need to buy 30 servings worth of loose tea or 50 teabags at once. Storing any more leads to poor quality tea towards the end of the box/batch.

Final Thoughts

Tea, once brewed, should be consumed while hot. But as long as you remove the tea leaves from the beverage, it won’t go bad (become unhealthy), though it might lose its initial taste after getting cold.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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