How long does tea keep?
Good quality tea is going to be drinkable for about a year from the time it is harvested and processed. However, since all tea is imported and transit times can vary, by the time the tea reaches you it may already be a few months old. It's a good idea to try to use your tea supply within about six months if you want to be sure it's fresh. If it takes you a year to use it, it will probably still taste okay, although you may be able to tell a slight difference in flavor. (And life is really too short to drink bad tea!)
The Best Way to Store Tea
Tea is susceptible to air, moisture and light. If exposed to any of these elements for even a fairly short time, tea will begin to degrade. The most effective way to keep your tea fresh is to use a storage container that is tightly sealed against air and moisture, and also keeps all light out. A tea tin is ideal, but it must have a tight fitting lid. A ceramic canister is also fine, again as long as the lid is snug. Glass containers are usually not the best choice because they allow light in.
We package ArtfulTea in bags or tins. The bags are specially made, three-ply bags that keep moisture, air and light out as long as they are properly closed. Your tea will be fine in one of these bags for several months. ArtfulTea is also available in reusable tins (with a special, snug lid!) for more permanent tea storage. Consider ordering your first batch of ArtfulTea in the tin, and when you re-order choose bags for decanting into the tin!
Types of Tea: Camellia Sinensis
You can see from our tea collection that there are several types of tea. Black, Green, White and Oolong teas all come from the same plant: the camellia sinensis (cousin to the garden camellia). Each tea looks and tastes different because of the way the leaves are processed.
Black tea leaves have been fully fermented (or oxidized), giving them their robust flavor and their higher level of caffeine.
Green tea has had little or no fermentation (oxidation) and has less caffeine than Black tea. It can vary from quite mellow in flavor to more "grassy" tasting.
Oolong is somewhere between Black and Green tea. It has had just enough fermentation for a darker exterior while the interior remains green, giving it a wonderfully complex flavor. Oolongs are often described as "orchid-like" in taste.
White tea is made from only the tea plant's newest "downy" leaves. It has not been fermented at all but merely dried, so you'll often see little white hairs or down on the leaves. White tea has a very subtle flavor, and minimal caffeine.
Types of Tea: Herbal Infusions
Herbal tea is really not "tea" at all. It is more properly called an "infusion" or a "tisane" – but you nearly always see it referred to as "tea". It contains no part of the camellia sinensis plant, but is made entirely from herbs, flowers, berries or other leaves. Because there is no "tea" in it, it has no caffeine.
Rooibos is also an herbal infusion. It comes from a plant that is native to South Africa, where it has been enjoyed for centuries. It has no caffeine and is very high in antioxidants.
Mate is an herbal infusion that, strangely enough, contains a "caffeine-like" compound that creates an effect much like caffeine does. It is native to South America and was traditionally used by people of the Andes to keep them warm and alert.
Preparing the Perfect Cup of Tea: Water Temperature
The temperate of the water when you pour it over the leaves really affects the way tea tastes. You'll want to use the best quality water available and always start with fresh water (so please don't reheat previously boiled water as it will taste very flat).
Black tea, Herbal or Rooibos – heat water to a full boil (212° or lower depending on your elevation)
Oolong tea – heat water until just off the boil (approximately 195°)
Green or White tea – heat water until "steaming briskly" but not boiling (approximately 175-180°)
Mate – heat water until steaming but not boiling (approximately 150° - 160°)
If the water has reached a boil but you want it cooler, you can wait a few moments until the temperature comes down a bit and then pour it.
Preparing the Perfect Cup of Tea: Amount of Tea
It can vary by tea, but generally you'll be safe with these guidelines. For a standard mug (which usually holds 10 to 12 ounces), you'll just double the amount recommended for a 6 oz. cup. If you're using a teapot, it's a good idea to measure how many ounces it holds.
Black tea, Green, Oolong and Rooibos – use one level teaspoon per 6 oz. of water
Herbal tea – use a heaping teaspoon per 6 oz. of water
White tea – use two teaspoons per 6 oz. of water
Preparing the Perfect Cup of Tea: Steeping Time
Everyone has their own ideas about how long to steep tea, but the main rule is not to "stew" the tea by letting the leaves steep forever, resulting in a bitter, unpleasant drink. Beyond that, feel free to modify these suggestions to suit your taste.
Black tea – usually steep for 3 - 5 minutes.
Green tea – generally, steep no more than 2 minutes. Many will taste best after only one minute (note: if you think you don't like Green Tea, it may be because you've only had it after it steeped far too long).
Oolong – steep about 2 minutes (most Oolongs can also be infused again).
White tea – steep about 3 minutes, unless it's flavored (in which case you may want to steep if for a shorter time). White teas can also be infused more than once.
Herbal, Rooibos and Mate – steep for 5 minutes or longer. Because these "infusions" don't contain any tea (see above "Types of Tea: Herbal Infusions"), they won't get bitter when steeped longer and often the benefits of the herbs are maximized by steeping for about 10 minutes.