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Do tea bags really expire?  If you recently cleaned out your pantry and came across an old package of tea bags, you may be asking this question.  Expiration dates seem logical on many more perishable foods, such as dairy and meat items, but do they really apply to tea bags?  Let’s examine the question, “does tea expire,” in the next few sections to help you decide what you should do with those expired tea bags.

Do tea bags really expire? 

The short answer to this question is that no, tea bags don’t really expire.  If there is a date stamped on your package of green tea bags or black tea bags, that is a “best by” date, not an expiration date.  Manufacturers include a best by date to let users know when the tea may begin to lose some of its flavor, or possibly nutritional value.

However, teas are still perfectly safe to drink well beyond their best by date.  You just may notice that the flavor isn’t as strong or that you need to steep the bags for a while longer when brewing your tea.

In most cases, tea bags, especially black teas, will last at least two years before their flavors begin to decrease.

Does green tea expire?  No, like black tea, green tea doesn’t expire.  However, one of the green tea vs black tea differences is that green (and white) teas often lose their flavor a bit more quickly than black teas, which are oxidized.

Does loose tea expire?

Like tea bags, loose tea can last for a long time before tasting off.  The dates printed on packages of loose black tea and loose green tea are also best by dates that will let you know when the flavor may begin to decrease some.

Compared to tea bags, loose-leaf tea is likely to start to lose its flavor a bit more quickly.  Tea leaves work as an odor absorbent.  So a bag of loose-leaf tea may begin to absorb odors in the room, which could alter its flavor.

Is it OK to drink expired tea leaves?

Is it OK to drink expired tea bags?

Yes, as we shared above, it is OK to drink expired tea bags.  They should be safe to use without any worry.

How long can you use tea bags after expiration date?  The answer to this can depend.  Safety-wise, the teas should be fine for a number of years.  However, the taste may not be as pleasant as the tea bags age.  You may just need to brew a cup and see if it still tastes good to you.

Is it OK to drink expired tea leaves?  Yes, the same rules apply to expired tea leaves.  However, bear in mind that loose teas may absorb some of the outside odors, which could alter their taste a bit more than that of a tea bag.

What happens if you drink old tea?

What happens if you drink expired tea?  Can expired tea make you sick?  These are valid questions, but you shouldn’t be too worried about drinking expired tea.  The printed date on the box package is simply the best by date.  Following this date, the tea is still safe to use, but it may just have a decreased flavor

Do tea bags go bad?

Tea bags lose some of their strength and flavor over time, but they do not technically go bad.  They can last for multiple years past the printed best by dates.

How can you tell if a tea bag is bad?

How to know if tea bag is expired?  Tea bags don’t expire, but their taste may change.  If you are unsure whether an old tea bag is still OK, brew a cup of tea and see if it tastes fine to you.

steeped tea

What can expired tea bags be used for?

If you have expired tea bags that you aren’t comfortable drinking or ones that seem to have lost their flavor, don’t throw them out. 

There are a few different ways that you can use expired tea bags:

  • Take a bath in tea to benefit from its antioxidants
  • Drop some essential oil on dry tea leaves to create a homemade air freshener
  • Use tea bags to clean your toilets
  • Add tea leaves into soil to use as a fertilizer for plants
  • Use loose tea leaves as an odor absorber in the refrigerator or pantry
  • Use weakly-brewed tea to clean windows, mirrors, and glass
WHAT CAN expired tea bags be used for?

FAQs

Can old tea make you sick?

Old tea bags are generally safe to use well past their expiration date.  Old brewed tea, on the other hand, may have bacteria growing in it, which could make you sick.

How long do tea bags last in water?

When steeping tea, you should not leave the bag in the water for more than a few minutes, or it can make the taste bitter.  Black tea generally needs between 3 and 5 minutes to steep, green tea takes about 3 minutes, and white tea takes between 1 and 3 minutes.

Can bacteria grow in tea?

Bacteria may grow in tea after it has brewed, or if the bags become moist.  Brewed tea shouldn’t be kept for more than a few days to prevent the growth of bacteria.

How long do tea bags last after best by date?

The best by date simply indicates how long tea bags should retain their full original flavor.  The bags should be safe to drink for years after this date, so long as you don’t see any signs of mold.  Just be prepared for the flavor to be less strong than when the tea was fresh.

how long do tea bags last after best by date

Expired Tea Bags:  Final Thoughts

Hopefully we’ve answered all of your questions about expired tea bags.  You should be fine to brew yourself a cup of tea with an older tea bag!  If you notice that the taste isn’t as enjoyable, try one of our suggestions for ways to use expired tea bags.

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