How long does tea last in the fridge? We've compiled some advice on how long it will keep in the fridge or anywhere else.
You're rooting around in your fridge, thinking to yourself, “I should really clean this thing out!” when suddenly, you realize that pitcher of tea has been sitting there for several days.
And you forgot all about it.
Does tea go bad?
That depends on a few factors, like storage conditions, how it was brewed and the potential addition of sugar or fruit.
When making tea, be mindful of how long you want it to keep and plan accordingly.
Iced tea, of course, is the most likely kind of tea to end up in the fridge. Especially if you live in a warm climate, having a pitcher of tea handy for guests or for winding down at the end of a long day is lovely.
The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long claimed that iced tea be stored in the fridge for no more than 8 hours. In other words, make it fresh daily and toss any out by day's end.
But that recommendation was given a quarter-century ago, before cold brewing tea bags and bottled tea became a common sight on store shelves.
Since then, both bottled and brewed tea have exploded in popularity, and ways of making it have changed.
So today, how long should you store tea in the fridge?
In The Pantry
Tea leaves and bags can last quite a while in a cool, dry pantry, provided you keep them in a sealed container and away from moisture.
Packaged tea leaves and bags will have expiration dates on them, somewhere. It may be a year or two ahead, but they do expire.
Dry tea doesn't really go bad, it mostly just loses its delicate flavors as it ages, resulting in weak tea when brewed. It's still safe to consume, it won't have a whole lot of taste.
The type of tea can affect how long its flavor lasts and how many health benefits it offers. The longer tea sits, the fewer antioxidants it retains.
- Fully oxidized black tea keeps the longest, especially highly processed types like Earl Grey or English Breakfast. They will often last for a year or two before beginning to lose flavor.
- Partially processed teas such as Oolong or white teas have a shelf life of between 6 and 12 months.
- Green teas, especially high-quality unprocessed ones have a shelf life of between 3 and 6 months.
- Loose leaf tea should be tightly sealed in tea tins or airtight containers to keep them fresh longer. Individually wrapped tea bags should be kept in their wrappings until just before they are used.
Bottled ice teas will have a “best buy” date somewhere on their packaging. This isn't actually an indication that it's no longer safe to consume, but more a brand's estimate of the tea's freshness.
Bottled teas come tightly sealed, and if kept sealed they can last years, although the flavor will diminish the longer they are stored. Once opened, however, they should be kept chilled and consumed within about 3 to 5 days.
Iced tea lasts in the fridge for several days depending on how it's been brewed. The longer it sits, the less flavor it will have, and it should be stored in an airtight container to limit exposure to air.
- Sun tea involves adding black tea to a large jar of cold water and setting it on a sunny porch for a few hours. Either normal or cold brew bags can be used. It's convenient but can harbor germs if not done properly because the water isn't boiled. It should be made with fresh water and scrupulously clean equipment, and be consumed within 24 hours.
- Sweet tea contains a lot of sugar, which attracts bacteria. Make sure to use boiling water when preparing to prevent contamination, keep chilled and drink within 2 or 3 days.
- Fruit teas will start to ferment fairly quickly due to the natural yeasts on fruit skins, so teas made with fresh fruit should be drunk within about 48 hours.
Hot Brewed Tea
If your pot of tea has gone cold, you can heat it back up gently, or your can store it overnight to drink in the morning. Pour it into a jar and add a tight lid.
This will work for green, black, and herbal teas. Heat them gently the next day to your desired temperature, and consume within 24 hours of brewing.
The Last Word In How Long Tea Can Be Stored
Any kind of tea can be stored in the fridge, even your forgotten cup of tea left on the counter during dinner.
If you plan on brewing tea to store for later, use a traditional brewing process: Boil water and then brew in a teapot or on the stovetop before cooling and refrigerating.
This will help prevent bacterial contamination, and the flavor of the tea will last longer.
You should never have to drink flavorless tea!
How Long Does Tea Last In The Fridge FAQs
Can you drink tea left out overnight?
Tea should be refrigerated to prevent bacterial growth if you wish to save it for the next day. Tea that's been left out at room temperature all night should be discarded, and it will likely have lost a lot of its flavor overnight. You're better off making a fresh batch.
Can tea bags grow mold?
Yes. Improperly stored tea can be contaminated with moisture, which will allow mold to grow. If you notice moisture in your tea tin or box, a rotten smell, or discoloration, your tea is likely no longer safe to use. Throw it out and buy fresh tea.