According to the Tea Association of the USA, more than half of all Americans drink tea on any given day. If you are one of them, chances are that you have some expired sample tea bags or loose leaf tea in your pantry. Should you throw them away or keep enjoying them?
Drinking expired tea is more of a quality concern than a health one. While perfectly safe to consume, expired tea is no longer as delightful and potent as tea that’s well within the best-by date taste- and aroma-wise. Expired tea may also no longer offer as many health benefits as non-expired tea.
But before anything else, let’s get one thing straight: expired tea is not the same as spoiled tea — it’s okay to drink the former, although you might not be pleased with its taste, while you should throw away the latter.
Throwing away tea that’s past its best-by or best-before date may or may not be done.
Whether you hate to flush money down the drain or you are in dire need of a cup of your favorite beverage, read on. Below, you will learn when it’s fine to drink expired tea and when it’s a much better idea to ditch it.
We will also quickly talk about drinking old, expired and bad tea types, including herbal, iced tea, iced tea mix and milk tea.
What Happens to Tea When It Expires?
Tea doesn’t really have an expiration date. The fact that it’s out of the dried leaves of the camellia sinensis plant keeps it from harboring bacteria and mold, provided that it’s stored properly. Tea, however, can go past its best-by date, which means that it has already lost much of its oils and flavor.
Expired drugs and medicines should be discarded because they can no longer serve their purpose. Meanwhile, expired food products should be disposed of because they can give you food poisoning.
It’s a different story for tea — it may go beyond its best-by date alright, but it doesn’t necessarily expire.
What makes tea practically impervious to becoming expired is that it’s devoid of something that bacteria and mold love: moisture. And when tea is stored in an airtight container, it’s even more unwelcoming for microorganisms that can make it go bad and thus no longer safe to consume.
Tea that’s no longer within the specified best-by date is no longer as delightful to the taste buds and nose as one that’s fresh from the store. That’s because it has already lost much of the potent oils that give the beverage its unique properties and health perks, too. Still, it’s completely safe to drink it.
And speaking of which, if you love tea for its health benefits, such as its ability to lower heart disease and obesity risk, consider drinking tea that’s still within the best-by date. This helps ensure that every cup you brew and sip still has much of its powerful antioxidants and other potent molecules around.
Related Article: Is Mint Tea the Same as Peppermint Tea?
Can You Drink Expired Herbal Tea?
Like true tea, herbal tea does not have an expiration date. It’s for the fact that it is devoid of moisture — it’s from the leaves and other parts of an herb instead of the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. It’s safe to drink herbal tea that’s beyond its best-by date, but it will no longer taste and smell optimal.
What’s nice about herbal tea is that it’s caffeine-free, which is why you can consume it before bedtime.
But before you brew your favorite herbal tea, check that it’s completely dry and free of mold. If it has an unusual smell or growths, it’s a much better idea to dispose of it.
Can You Drink Expired Bottled Iced Tea?
Makers of bottled iced tea put best-by or expiration dates in their products to ensure the satisfaction of customers. Some can be safely consumed up to 18 months after the production date, provided that they are unopened. Bottled iced tea that’s been opened can keep in the fridge for seven to ten days.
It’s not uncommon for bottled iced tea to contain many ingredients other than just tea. Some of them are meant to improve the product’s appearance and taste, such as fruit juices, flavorings, colorants — artificial or all-natural.
Bottled iced tea has preservatives, too. But after opening, they are no longer as potent as before.
Can You Drink Expired Iced Tea Mix?
Unlike loose leaf tea or tea bag, iced tea mix has an expiration date, which is printed on the packaging. What makes iced tea mix susceptible to going bad is that it contains moisture and sugar, both of which can promote mold and bacteria formation. Improper storage can also cause iced tea mix to go bad.
An unopened package of iced tea mix generally stays in excellent condition for 18 to 24 months.
The moment you open it, make sure that you store it in an airtight container as well as where it’s cool and dry. That’s because it can collect moisture, which can cause the product to end up clumpy.
What’s more, moisture can encourage the growth of mold and bacteria. This is especially true since iced tea mix contains sugar, which is something that microbes love.
Expired iced tea mix is no longer enjoyable to drink. Moldy iced tea mix is no longer safe to drink as it can give you food poisoning.
Can You Drink Expired Milk Tea?
As the name suggests, milk tea contains milk, which is something that can go bad quickly. This is true even if it’s stored in the refrigerator. It’s because of the fact that milk tea can spoil in no time why it should be consumed right after it’s served. If refrigerated, it’s best to consume it within 24 hours.
Milk goes bad within two hours at room temperature — it’s down to an hour in the summertime.
Because milk tea has milk in it, obviously, it goes without saying that the beverage loved by many tends to go bad quickly, which is why you should consume its entirety as soon as you get your hands on it. Any remaining milk tea may be stored in the refrigerator, but it should be consumed within 24 hours.
To be safe, carefully observe leftover milk tea before you attempt to drink it. If it looks clumpy, throw it away. If there’s mold on the surface, dispose of it. If it smells sour, get rid of it.
Just Before You Drink Tea
Refrain from assuming that tea past the best-by date should no longer make it past your lips. While it may no longer be as potent and health-giving as when it was still in its prime condition, expired tea is still safe to drink.
However, it’s a completely different thing if tea, whether in loose leaf or tea bag form, has mold due to exposure to moisture or water — there is no doubt that you should not drink moldy tea. You should also not consume bad bottled iced tea, iced tea mix and milk tea. Otherwise, you may end up with food poisoning.
Can you store brewed tea in the refrigerator?
Brewed tea will last longer in the refrigerator due to the lower temperatures inside it. Refrigerated, brewed tea can last for up to five days. Make sure that you store brewed tea in the fridge in an airtight container to keep it from absorbing refrigerator odors, which can impact both its aroma and taste.
Can you freeze brewed tea?
In the freezer, brewed tea can stay in excellent condition for up to six months. Consuming brewed tea stored in the freezer can be done in various ways. For instance, it can be served hot or cold. When placed in an ice cube tray, frozen brewed tea can be consumed as ice pops or used to chill various kinds of beverages.
Read Also: Are Tea Leaves Edible?