Can Teabags Go Off?

We’ve been clearing out our kitchen cupboards. 

You’ve probably done the same yourself: finding things you don’t remember buying or items that fell out of sight long ago. Before you know it, the use-by date has come and gone, and you’re left wondering if they’re safe to eat or drink.  

We’ve recently found a box of chamomile tea from three years ago. We don’t remember buying it, but it had clearly been stuck at the back of the drawer and forgotten. 

We were in two minds about what to do. On the one hand, we hate waste. On the other, can teabags go off? Is old tea safe to drink or not? 

Can Teabags Go Off?

Teabags can go off.  If moisture gets into the bag or the box, mold will grow. You don’t want to be drinking tea that’s moldy. It’s bad for your health. It’s going to taste pretty awful, too.  

If the tea bags have been stored correctly, then it’s unlikely the tea will have gone off in the same way; it’s far more likely there’ll be a loss of flavour or aroma. It simply won’t taste as nice or as strong.  

What’s key here is understanding the difference between a use-by and a best-before date.  

Use-by dates are on perishable products like meat or dairy; they show the cut-off date for when a food item is no longer safe to consume. Eating or drinking something beyond its use-by-date can be bad for a person’s health and should be avoided.  

Best-before dates are used for quality control. The date is the best guess by the manufacturer as to how quickly a product flavour will degrade once it’s left a factory or distribution centre.  

Some people drink tea years after the best-before date has passed. This is because they’ve stored in correctly, and they don’t mind the fact that the taste is slightly impaired. Some people refuse to use anything past this date. The decision is yours. You should use your best judgement.  

Of course, the best way to ensure your teabags don’t go off is to ensure that they’re stored correctly. Airtight containers are your friend because these will keep moisture away and help retain freshness for longer even after the best-before date. 

How do you know if tea bags have gone bad?  

One of the easiest ways to see if tea has gone bad is to look for mold. If you see it, then it means moisture has got into the leaves. Don’t drink tea bags with mold on them. Throw them out.  

If there’s no mold, then smell the bag. Sometimes the smell of other items in the cupboard can transfer onto the teabag over time. When you make a cup of tea you may also notice that it’s not as strong as normal.  

How long do tea bags stay good? 

It’s around a year after the best-before for sealed teabags. Less if you’ve opened the box and packaging. Some teas decline faster than others. Quality tea lasts longer but strangely, processed tea has a better shelf-life. Some teas decline faster than others. Black teas are a fairly good bet as they tend to be more processed than green and white tea.   

The best way to keep them longer is to put them in an airtight container and store them correctly. Keep them away from light and away from other strong-smelling products. This is usually the difference between teas that retain strength and those that don’t – it’s all in the storage.  

does herbal tea expire 

Herbal teas can dry out and this will make them unpleasant to drink. They tend to absorb moisture, too, which can lead to mold.  

Does chamomile tea go bad? 

All teas can go bad if moisture is allowed to seep onto the leaves. Chamomile is the same. It can also begin losing aroma and taste the older it gets. As with others, storage is key: keep it in an airtight container away from heat and light. 

Teabags can and do go off. Often this isn’t anything too dramatic. You’ll notice a decline in smell and flavour. People drink it even many years after the expiration date printed on the box. Use your common sense. Look out for mold or bugs. If in any doubt, throw the tea away and buying something new (with a promise to store it better next time). 

That’s what we decided to do with the box of chamomile we found.  

Life is too short for bad tea.  

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