Freezing food items can be beneficial over long periods of time. You might find a good deal on something, stick it in the freezer, and leave it for another day. But is tea one of those things that you can leave in the freezer for long periods of time?
While you can technically freeze tea, it can sometimes be a good idea and other times it may not be a good idea. It all comes down to not only the type of tea that you have but whether it has been brewed as well.
When it comes to freezing tea, you can take loose leaves of tea that have nothing else added to them and freeze them safely. This is your black tea or simple green tea, for instance.
Not only that, but the optimal way to do this is to use airtight, sealed teas that haven’t been opened and don’t have much in the way of moisture inside of them.
You absolutely should not refreeze any opened tea tins. This is due to the condensation levels that they can contain, making for an ineffective freeze that will just damage and destroy the tea leaves. This will render them completely useless and you’ll have to throw them away.
It is also important that you do not freeze complex tea with tea leaves and herbs or dried fruits. If you were to freeze these types of teas, you can potentially damage their flavor levels.
Any tea leaves that were infused or smoked in a certain kind of aroma, even if they don’t have herbs or fruits added, will also be damaged by the freezing process.
Tea that has been brewed is safe to freeze, just keep in mind that you might lose the best part of the aroma when you go to reheat it. If you keep those brewed teas just a bit warmer than your average slushie, however, it should be alright, but you likely won’t get the same quality as when it was originally brewed.
Basically, any kind of major temperature change will change the quality and taste of the tea.
Simple Tea Leaves
Meanwhile, simple tea leaves can safely be frozen, but only once. They are freezable because their structure is basically the same even after the thawing process. Your average simple tea leaf, whether it is green or black, will keep some of the moisture within it.
Simple tea leaves will freeze once, but after you thaw it, you should not refreeze it. Refreezing will do damage to the flavor and overall structure of the leaf. It will still be drinkable but over time and multiple refreezings, you will notice something seriously different and less pleasing about those tea leaves.
How you store the tea is also extremely important. If you plan on freezing your tea leaves, make sure that you keep your tea in an airtight container. Not only that, but there cannot be any moisture, or as little as possible, inside of the container.
Doing so can be a tricky endeavor. The best way to ensure airtight quality is to get a pre-sealed bag and don’t open it. That is the only way to keep moisture out for certain and preserve the quality of the leaves during the freezing process.
The moisture is essential because it will steep the tea whether or not it has been warmed. When the tea has been steeped, the flavor won’t be quite as strong. Not only that, it aids in the development of mold and bacteria within the tea if you decide to keep freezing and thawing out your tea in long batches.
If you are storing tea for the long-term, the best place to keep it (any kind) is in a dark, very dry, cool, airtight container that won’t produce any sort of condensation inside that could impact the quality of the leaves.
Never Freeze Complex or Combined Teas
While it might seem like a good idea to keep your tea stored and protected from the warmth, it doesn’t matter. In the freezer, there is still moisture. No matter how thin, a layer of ice on the inside of the freezer is meant to keep some of the moisture; this is completely normal.
Combined teas, which are loose leaf teas that have herbs or fruits added to it, should never be frozen. This is because of the aromas and essential oils in each of the herbs and fruits that are added to these combined teas.
The freezing process will damage the oils’ structure; these tend to not be quite as hardy as something such as olive oil or coconut oil, which can freeze and thaw just fine. Simply put, combined teas are not meant to structurally hold up to the process.
Not only that, but any frozen tea product will produce a little bit of condensation whenever it is thawed out. This is what begins the steeping process for the herbs and fruits that are in the tea, and you will wind up with a stale product.
This rule also applies to simple tea leaves that have been infused with aromas or smoked like a black tea that may have been infused with a vanilla essential oil. When the tea is frozen, the essential oil begins to degrade. When it is then thawed, your tea will not taste very good going forward.
For Taiwanese teas, most often silk oolong or milk oolong, the aroma is quite delicate. While they are technically simple tea leaves, they do have a certain flavoring added to them. So, while they might not be classified as a complex or combined tea, they are just as vulnerable to the freezing process.
Freezing Already Brewed Tea
Tea that has been previously brewed is perfectly fine to freeze. Sure, it will lose some of its natural flavor during the freezing process, but it should be perfectly drinkable even after the thawing process has finished. Simply put, don’t expect it to be as good as it once was, especially when it is reheated.
The good news is that tea can be enjoyed cold, whether it is herbal, rooibos, or green tea. Simply keep in mind that you will be sacrificing some of the flavor when you brew hot tea and then eventually cool it.
Perhaps the best way to keep your tea from going bad is to store it in the fridge. When you brew cold tea, the flavor may be slightly different, but it won’t be lost completely as it can be during the freezing process.
A good idea can be to freeze your tea into iced cubes. The ice will form from the water that is in the tea and will contain the leaf infusion. So, if you were to brew some plain tea without any sugar added to it, adding the tea iced cubes can be great for adding flavor to your tea or for cooling a warm tea.
Just be careful about freezing tea that has sugar in it. When you freeze that kind of tea, it won’t be frozen into a cohesive single ice chunk. The sugar will mingle with the water and then eventually separate when the freezing process starts.
What does this mean? You will get tiny ice crystals throughout your tea. These crystals will be where the water of the tea will be and then there will be a sort of sugary syrup where the sugar will be.
While there’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, just don’t expect sugary tea to freeze the same way. If anything, you can create a tea that has a slushie-like texture to it or any kind of blended item with the tea flavoring.
Storage Is Key
While there are several guides out there that will tell you that there are a number of ways to store your tea leaves, there really is only one good one for freezing your leaves. Remember that the freezer will keep your tea cold, but the moisture trapped within will eventually leave the tea stale no matter what your tea is stored in.
Using a ceramic container or cup will release the flavor since it’s not totally airtight. The tea will go stale far quicker and could even go bad altogether. If you have to use this type of container, only do so for really short periods of time.
Some tea shops will give you either plastic or paper baggies when you buy your tea. You can use those baggies for storage purposes. Those baggies usually seal using a metal clip and you can even see through them to gauge the look and quality of the tea without having to open it.
These baggies are probably best used for under a year but if you don’t buy large amounts and go through a couple of cups of tea per day, they will hold up just fine.
Tins are another option. These tend to be favorable because they come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, some of which are decorative. These are okay but you should remember to store these tins when almost completely full to limit the amount of oxidation within.
If you decide to go with a tin, the key is to get smaller ones that can hold around 1.7 oz of tea at the most. You might have to refill it regularly, but you would run less of a risk of the tea going bad or losing its flavor.
With a larger tin, you likely won’t be able to keep it properly full and the oxidation process will degrade the overall quality of the tea.
Whatever container that you choose, just make sure that you keep it in a dry, dark, cool place. Going into the freezer is not optimal but a properly filled tin will do just fine for regular freezing.
The freezer is one place to store your tea, but it isn’t the best place. When you have tea and want to maximize the shelf life, the best place to keep it is in the fridge. When you store it in the fridge, you can keep the leaves cool enough to properly keep for three to five days.
The key for optimal storage, as listed above, is an airtight container. Ziploc bags will do just fine, but make sure to minimize the free space within as it is an opportunity for condensation to infiltrate the container.
The important thing about storing tea in an airtight container is that the tea can develop bacteria and mold over time if improperly stored. When using an airtight container, it restricts the amount of moisture within and not only spoils the tea but can make it potentially unhealthy to consume.
Loose tea, meanwhile, when it is stored properly can last anywhere from 18 to 24 months. One good way to tell if the tea is well past its time is if the aroma and flavor are weak even after you have steeped it for the recommended three to five minutes. It cannot be emphasized enough that you need to keep loose tea in an airtight container.
Storing unprepared tea in the freezer will cause condensation, which affects the taste, consistency, and flavor of the tea. Prepared, meanwhile, can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer and is good for anywhere from six to eight months.
Since loose tea is expensive, it only makes sense to want to try to reuse it. Thankfully, there may be a little bit of flavor left over in those leaves after the initial use. The best types of leaves to reuse are black tea, white tea, green tea, herbal tea, flavored tea, and maybe even a few others.
The resteeping process is simple, just add on a couple of minutes to your original steeping time and make sure that the water is at the proper temperature. A good rule is to reuse the leaves within three hours or so of making the first cup of tea to maximize freshness and flavor.