. . . There are many similarities between shopping for fine wines and fine teas, so if you are a serious wine buyer, you will be able to apply much of what you know to your tea shopping.
To get to the point on how to properly store your Specialty Tea, we will assume that you have introduced yourself to many teas by attending tea tastings and discussions with a qualified tea representative. You will also have selected one or two teas that you would like to enjoy at your leisure. Obviously, you will not be steeping all the tea you have purchased at one time, so let us talk about how to properly store your Specialty Tea to maintain it's quality for the next time you steep a cuppa. Properly stored quality tea can retain its magnificence for at least a year . . . should it last that long!
To properly store tea we must first look at the enemies of tea -- light, heat, and moisture. Therefore, you will need to select a container that will keep it away from light in a cool, dry place with consistent temperatures. A critical point to remember about storing tea is that tea is "hygroscopic" (It absorbs moisture from the air and odors and fragrances in the surrounding area.) Keeping all this in mind, your tea storage device will need to be air and light tight. My personal preference to container material is either tin or ceramic.
I always try to purchase, whenever possible, tea in sealed foil-lined pouches to insure that I am bringing the tea home as fresh as possible. After initial purchase I usually select a tea tin that will accommodate the tea without crushing it -- the Agony of Leaf being a moment of peace for me. I will keep the tea in the pouch inside the tin to keep my tea as protected as possible. I normally try not to purchase more than 4 ounces of a particular tea because each time a pouch of tea is opened the tea is exposed to the moisture in the air and odors and fragrances from the surrounding area.
As is the case, there are always exceptions to the preferred. If you discover a tea that you like and want to try in your environment but it is not stored in ideal conditions; go ahead an purchase the tea but once it is in your control store it the very best you can. You must remember that many retailers display their teas in a manner that will provide the most aromatic and appearance information for you to make a decision. Do not criticize these retailers but work with them to obtain the best product possible. Remember when you do get these teas home do not store them in the refrigerator, spice cabinet, or near your coffee.
Now for the tea exceptions to being stored in light controlled, air-tight, dry containers. The first would be Matcha (finely ground green tea leaves). I have been taught that Matcha should be stored and purchased in small/sealed containers. Once Matcha arrives at my location I immediately put the tins in the freezer and until I open the tin for use and then it is stored in the refrigerator until used.
Another exception is Dark tea (Puer) which go through a fermentation process. Dark teas actually contain probiotics which should be stored in a cool place with a small amount of humidity and circulating air so they can breath but the surroundings must still be free of other orders.
Here's to retaining excellent taste by proper storage of all your teas!
The Tea And Hat Lady