If you are anything like me, you love a big cup of steaming hot, fragrant tea. Sometimes I get so carried away that I brew a huge pot of it and then can’t finish it all in one sitting. It’s always tea time in our household, but sometimes tea goes to waste. Sometimes I expect friends and family to be as much of a “tea pot” as I am and then I am left with cups and cups of wasted tea, which as you know is a tragedy! This got me thinking about how long I can keep brewed tea and if it even goes bad at all. I wanted to know if I could keep reheating it and expect the same healthy cup of tea I anticipated having, or if I should throw it away and waste all that lovely tea in the name of health safety? I absolutely had to know and so the investigative work began!
Does brewed tea go bad? Yes, brewed tea that is not stored correctly can go bad. Brewed tea that is not kept in the fridge in an airtight container will go bad in as little as 8 hours. Brewed tea with added fruit and sugar will also go bad. If stored in an airtight container in the fridge, brewed tea can last as long as 72 hours. According to the CDC, the optimal amount of time to store tea is no longer than 8 hours.
I found a variety of interesting things about storing brewed tea while doing my research on this particular subject. I discovered that some people consider tea “bad” when it loses its flavor or tastes funny. Others consider tea bad when it is starting to grow mold. I must say that I personally consider tea bad when it is no longer enjoyable to drink and for me, that is when it loses its flavor and no longer has the capacity to add value to my day. I thought I would provide a bit more information on what I found about storing tea in different conditions. You can find all this info below.
The Center for Disease Control & Prevention on Brewed Tea Going Bad
While I can provide you with some useful advice and tips on storing tea for up to 72 hours, I must bring to light that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention actually states that tea should not be kept for longer than 8 hours in the fridge. While this is probably erring on the safe side, it is good to take note of this advice. I can confidently tell you that tea can last for a much longer period of time when sealed and stored in the fridge. I would however only be comfortable leaving a pot of tea on the counter for 8 hours and not much longer. Why does the CDC release these health warnings? That is a simple one to answer. Bacteria exist all around us and can contaminate tea and make people sick if the correct hygiene and storage methods are not used. In short, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Why Brewed Tea Lasts Longer in the Fridge
When you think about the nature of tea, it probably does not make much sense that it goes off so quickly, but it is actually quite logical. When you store food and beverages in the fridge, bacteria growth is slowed. The temperature of a fridge will slow or delay the growth of bacteria but it will not kill them. The flavor may be maintained in a cold environment, but as the food ages, the flavor will naturally dissipate. Tea that is stored in the fridge will, therefore, have less chance of bacterial contamination and will maintain its flavor a while longer than tea that is stored on the counter. You will find that tea that is going bad looks a bit darker than normal. This is because of the process of oxidization. The cold temperature of the fridge is also able to slow down oxidization but not stop it completely.
Why You Should Not Store Tea in the Fridge for Too Long
Most of us choose our teas according to the flavor and the expected health benefits. Within tea wonderful anti-oxidants called Polyphenols exist, which promote a healthier system. Most people choose tea as their hot beverage of choice for this very reason. Here is where it gets interesting. The health value in tea’s anti-oxidants does not last forever. You can store your tea for 4 days and it might look and taste fine, but the anti-oxidants may no longer be present. The best time to drink tea for its health benefits is shortly after it has been brewed. If you can’t you can store the tea, but the anti-oxidants do not last much longer than 48 hours, even when stored correctly.
How You Brew Your Tea Dictates its Lifespan
How quickly brewed tea goes bad also relates to how you brew the tea. Was it cold-brewed or hot brewed? When the tea is hot brewed, it becomes more vulnerable to bacteria that thrive in a warm or hot environment. Cold-brewed tea does not suffer the same plight and will sometimes last as much as 24 hours longer than hot brewed tea.
Can I Store Brewed Tea Uncovered in the Fridge?
You might have noticed that it is mentioned that tea must be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Why is that? Unfortunately, bacteria have a way of ruining a good cup of tea. While you might not think so, bacteria exist in your home and even in your fridge. If the tea is uncovered in the fridge, it may absorb the smells, tastes, and bacteria from other open food containers. It will most likely lose its flavor which will be evaporated out of the unsealed container while it is stored.
Why Do Sugar and Fruit Make Tea Go Bad Quicker?
For some, adding sugar and fruit to tea turns an already great cup of tea into a delectable treat. I, on the other hand, prefer my tea fairly unadulterated, but I do get the value in adding a few sweet bits and bobs here and there. When you add anything to tea, a chemical reaction takes place and this is the main reason why tea with sugar and fruit added generally goes bad quicker.
When you add sugar to tea, the nutrients are broken down. The longer the fruit and sugar are in the tea, the more opportunity there is for nutrient break down. This can cause the tea to change the flavor and also turn bad quickly.
Summary of Tips for Storing Brewed Tea for Longer
Of course, we all like to have a cup of our favorite tea, whether it is hot or cold. If you wish to ensure that you can store tea for longer in the fridge, consider some of these summarized tips:
- Always use a sterilized container that seals airtight for storing your brewed tea.
- Choose a high-quality tea. The better the quality of tea is, the longer it can last when brewed and stored.
- Leave sugar out of the brewing process as sugar boosts the fermentation process and that leads to more bacteria activity. That does not mean you can’t sweeten your tea, just do it glass by glass or cup by cup.
- Cold-brew your tea to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.
As you can see from all the interesting information I found, brewed tea can, unfortunately, go bad, but that does not mean that you can’t store tea at all. By using the correct storage methods, your brewed tea can last a while longer. By brewing and storing your tea in the fridge, you can ensure that your batch of tea lasts for around 2 to 3 days. I would not recommend storing tea for much longer than that, even if it appears to be fine – it probably will not taste as good as it should and that can be disappointing (and maybe even put you off your next cuppa!).