It’s not entirely absurd to fret over how you store your tea. Especially if you’ve spent good money to acquire it. And no, we aren’t just talking from an aesthetic point of you, although it’s right up there with all the other reasons for obsessing over the right way of tea storage and handling.
Functionally speaking, tea storage – a topic quite rarely talked about – plays a key role in determining how the tea eventually tastes (Also read – How to make better tea). Poorly handled, you run the risk of letting out the volatile flavours and aromatic compounds all too quickly.
And the least you’d want is to have a tea – especially the finer ones – see you through a couple of good months, tasting as well as it did on day one. So, here’s everything you need to about storing and handling tea properly, directly from the horse’s mouth.
The 3 enemies of tea
Loosely speaking, the process of making tea is all about removing moisture from the fresh leaves in order to develop and increase the concentration of their aromatic flavour compounds in its place. The moment you introduce moisture to the equation, the flavours loose effect and turn stale.
Tea is a temperamental product and easily affected by its surroundings. Kept in close proximity of items with strong odours, such as spices, soap, and fragrance, a tea will take to the scent(s) and imbibe it. When steeped, such a tea will let out both inherent and acquired aromatic notes, the latter overriding the tea’s inherent flavours and fragrances all too obviously.
While, to some extent, sunlight helps keep moisture in check, prolonged contact with direct sunlight will eventually fade the leaves, speed up their natural oxidation, and destroy the volatile flavours.
The right way of storing and handling a tea
Use an air-tight container
Tin-lined containers are the norm in the industry. Containers or boxes made of wood often make the tea taste and smell a little too woody, and clear glass jars expose the teas to sunlight. Tin-lined containers, however, are clinical, so to speak. They do not add or take away from the tea and keep the inherent qualities of your teas better intact. Glass jars are easy alternatives, but advisable only if they are air-tight and you keep them away from direct sunlight.
Keep the tea in a cool and dry place
As with any dry condiment, it’s best to keep a tea in a cool and dry place, away from sources of moisture and heat, such as taps and kitchen cooktops. No need to refrigerate tea; keeping it in your kitchen cabinet will do just fine.
Keep the tea away from direct sunlight and strong odours
In order to prevent a tea from acquiring other often undesirable smells, keep the tea-filled jars and containers away from spice cabinets and broad-stocked pantry areas.
Avoid touching the teas with your hands
There’s never a good reason to pick the tea leaves directly with your hands, even if yours are clean and dry as a bone. Use a spoon instead. And if you can, keep this spoon aside just for teas.
Buy fresh and buy in small lots
The best way of making sure your cup tastes delicious every single time is to buy tea fresh and frequently. Teas are made throughout the year, and much like Halmari, some producers go the extent of stating the season and the year in which a tea was made.
The fresher the teas, the better the intensity of flavours. If you consume teas frequently, avoiding hoarding all of it in one place. Take out enough for a couple of days and keep the rest of your stash away, in an airtight container, kept in a cool and dry place.