Do Tea Bags Go Bad or Expire? (And How Long Can You Keep Them?)

Teas are special drinks. You hardly visit any home or office without finding boxes of them. But since the boxes always contain a relatively large number of tea bags, there are often questions about whether they go bad/expire or not.

The most accurate answer is yes. Teabags can expire and go bad. The expiration of tea bags, however, depends on the producers. These producers often take responsibility for attaching an expiry date, popularly referred to as the “best taste date,” to every tea bag.

You will likely find “best taste date” on tea bags rather than “expiry date” because the producers feel that the tea tastes better when used before that date. So, what happens after the best taste date? Do the tea bags go bad?

The short answer is also yes. However, this does not mean that the product is not fit for consumption. Also, you must know that each type of tea has its tea shelf life. While some bags of teas are designed to last for as long as 18 months before they go bad, some do not last for as long as 12 months. Thus, the type of tea bag influences the lifespan of each tea bag.

How Long Can You Keep Teabags?

We did some research and found that tea bags can last for as long as 1-2 years even after their best taste and expiring dates, if and only if they are properly stored. As they become older, tea bags gradually lose their flavor after drying out.

So, unless you expose them to bugs or moisture, they will remain as fresh and tasteful as you got them initially. Storing them in a sealed container such as a ziplock bag in a dry, cool place can improve their lifespan significantly.

This means that tea bags, if not properly stored, can lose their flavor, dry out and go bad, especially if they have gone past their best taste date. But there are some guidelines that you can choose to adhere to if you want your tea’s flavor to still be intact even after the best taste date/expiry date.

Usually, the more fastened the tea leaves are tied and rolled, or the larger the leaves, the longer the tea bags stay fresh and decent. You should also know that cheaper teas often have larger and fresher leaves.

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Cheap teas with smaller and broken leaves often get stale quickly because the tea is largely exposed to air. Therefore, if you intend to keep your tea bags for a long span of years without them getting spoilt, you should endeavor to opt for tea bags whose tea has a larger leaf.

Another thing you need to hold dear is that tea bags are not suitable for refrigerators. This is because moisture causes a lot of harm to tea bags.

In all, how long you can keep your tea bags depends largely on how you choose to store them.

How Do You Know When Tea Goes Bad?

We have made it clear above that tea bags can last beyond their best taste or expiry date. But since neither the tea company nor the producers know you, your kitchen, or how and when you store these items, they may not be able to adequately provide information that will allow you decipher when they go bad, due to varying conditions. So, the big worry is how to know this.

In the subsequent paragraphs of this post, we will be exposing you to some things to watch out for in your tea. If you notice some of these things about your old tea, you should know that it has gone bad. Below are some of the things you need to put into consideration.

Release of Pungent Smell From the Tea

This can be quite offensive. It is the first and clearest sign you will notice about tea bags that have gone bad.

Usually, when you buy tea from a store, you will be aware of the taste, smell, and even how it feels in your hand. This is often the same case with all types of teas. What causes this pungent smell is not far-fetched. When you keep your tea in a high humidity room, it is prone to release such odor.

Your tea might not look different on the surface, and when you take it out of the box, you may not be able to notice any changes. The ability to smell is essential here because you won’t be able to tell if the tea is still good or not without it.

Presence of Molds in Your Tea

This is another way to check if your tea is bad or still in good shape. In some cases, you might find these molds on some leaves. Unlike the pungent smells, finding molds on your tea means a lot of harm to your health. This means that you should discard any tea that you have found molds on.

Loss of Scent and Flavor

You want to know if your tea is bad? Check if the scent and flavor are still intact. When your tea completely loses its flavor and scent, you should know that it is gone. Even if the tea doesn’t produce a pungent smell or has molds growing on it, you shouldn’t consider taking it again once it loses its scent and flavor.

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Loss of scent and flavor can be due to several things. One of such is contact with air. When you fail to close your tea tin/box properly, it gets exposed to air which makes it lose its flavor.

Can Old Tea Make You Sick?

Even when due for expiry, teas aren’t harmful to your health. They do not make you sick. Drinking old and expired tea does not have any health implications. As the tea advances in age, it gets drier and contains little or no flavor. However, you must be extra cautious about consuming these old drinks to not put your well-being at risk.

What happens when you choose to be extra careful with them? What are the things you should do? Below are some good recommendations you should adhere to if you choose to be extra cautious about drinking old teas.

  • Make sure you brew your tea for a minimum of 5 minutes in water at 170° at most. This will get rid of all the bacteria contained in it.
  • Once steeped, do not store brewed tea for a period longer than 8 hours.
  • If you are not ready to drink the tea immediately, you can do well by placing the brewed tea in a refrigerator.
  • Do not make tea by using hot water from the tap or by sun brewing. The heat generated here will not be enough to get rid of the bacteria.

Can Tea Bags Grow Molds?

With tea bag collections in every part of your home, you will sooner or later be having more tea bags than drinks. The question that comes to your mind is, “will the old tea bags grow mold?” Do you throw them away once you notice that molds are growing on them? Several factors are responsible for the growth of molds on tea bags, and the environment is the key factor.

In the paragraphs below, we will be looking at some other environmental factors that contribute to mold growth.

Temperature: Temperature between 32°F (0 °C) and 120°F (49 °C) can cause mold to grow. Although the optimal temperature responsible for mold growth lies around 80° F (27° C), molds are known to survive in the given temperature levels. Any temperature below or above the one specified above will prevent molds from growing.

Humidity: The humidity of the container in which you keep your tea bags can be responsible for mold growth. With the humidity level increasing from 60% to 75%, molds have more chances to grow.

Airflow: Like humans and other living creatures, molds also require air to live and survive. Without air, mold cannot survive. The only thing that you are likely to find is tiny spores. Teabags that are stored under nitrogen atmosphere and vacuum will neither go bad nor grow molds. The tea will be good for several years, and the flavor will still be there.

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How Do You Know If Tea Bags Have Gone Bad?

Knowing if tea bags have gone bad is not a difficult thing to do. If you decipher when teas are bad, you should also tell when tea bags have gone bad. But for the sake of a better understanding of this subject, we will be providing you with simple things to look out for to know if your tea bags have gone bad. They are listed below.

1. Look Out For Bugs

If there are holes in the tea bags or you notice some movements within the bags, you should know that bugs are probably present in them. Such tea bags are bad.

2. Perceive The Tea Bags

Try to smell the tea bags. Do you notice any unpleasant and poignant odor come out of these bags? If yes, they have gone bad.

3. Presence of Molds And Mildew

These are other things you need to look out for to determine if your tea bags are still in good shape or not. A bad tea bag will have molds and mildew all over it.

What Can You Use Old Tea Bags For?

Rather than throw tea bags into the environment and let them mess up everywhere, you can choose to be creative with them. There are myriads of things you can choose to do with your used and old teabags. Here, we will be looking at some of the things you use your old tea bags for. They are listed and explained below.

1. Meat Tenderizer

This is one of the creative things you can use your old tea bags to make. After steeping the old tea bags for some time and creating a strong tea out of them, you can pour it over your meat before cooking. This will tenderize your meat and soften the tannins.

2. Getting Rid of Unpleasant Smells

Do you have a stinking refrigerator or shoes, and are you wondering about how to get rid of the smell? You don’t need to worry. All you need to do is dry out your old tea bags, put them in a container, and place the container where the smell is worst.

3. Alternative To Mulching

Get your old tea bags buried at the root of your plants. Apart from adding nutrients to the soil, it will also help in conserving moisture for the plants.


Making sure that your tea bags have no harm attached to drinking them is quite essential. This is why you have to watch out for signs that show that your old tea bags are bad. Don’t be quick to throw them away, as there are a handful of other things you can choose to do with them.

About Sylvette Brown

Sylvette is a homemaker and is passionate about cooking and other kitchen-related stuff. She also loves to do home improvement related tasks and keeps on writing about food and cookware on her blog. When she is not writing, she keeps herself busy with her 2 little kids. :)