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How Long Does Tea Last? — The Life Cycle Of Tea

Posted by Angelina Kurganska on

A piece of crucial knowledge for those entering the world of cha — age is everything. We've seen it too many times, picking up a few hundred extra grams of your favorite tea during your travel to China or Japan. Just to find it tasting subpar a year later straight from your cupboard. It's not always the best idea to stock up! Or perhaps the other way around? Completely forgetting about that pu-erh cake your friend gifted you, to find that after years of laying around in the drawer, it tastes better than ever! The thing is, age is crucial. Furthermore, when we understand the life cycle of cha, we can use it to our advantage. So how long does tea last? Let's find out! 

how long does tea last

What Is First Flush Tea?

We say first flush to refer to the very first harvest of the year. This usually happens anywhere from February to May, depending on the growing region and tea type. Read more.

You'll most likely see the term first flush attached to green tea. First flushes are exceptionally delicious. They're crisp, refreshing, and sweet without a hint of bitterness. They carry the essence of spring's awakening, of renewing energy. This is perhaps why we cha enthusiasts love it so much!


How Long Does Tea Last? — New Tea and First Flush 

First flushes, naturally, are scarce. The farmers pick only the youngest buds of the bushes, often still in chilly morning weather. The yield is not as high as summer harvests. Furthermore, first flushes only come around once a year! Without a doubt, cha lovers wish to purchase as much of this sublime product as they can.

However, be careful. Only purchase as much as you can drink or gift it to your friends. It's best to consume first flush green teas within a year of harvest. Not to mention, they're at their prime within the first three months or so. Getting more than you can handle will just spoil this delicious tea.

Even if it's not a first flush tea, most green and yellow teas follow the same rule — consume within a year, max. Many white teas, however, are great aged. We'll get into that in a bit. Furthermore, there are also first flushes that fall into other categories, like black teas and oolongs, which can be rested and aged. 


It's best to consume Gyokuro fresh. 


Rested Tea

Rested tea is a term less familiar in the cha community. It lies between fresh teas and aged teas. Indeed, it has its very own unique niche, and we shouldn't overlook it. We use the term rested tea to refer to teas sitting in the cupboard anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. It requires a conscious process of resting. Thus, we wouldn't call rested tea just some green tea we forgot about in the back of the mounts.

Why Rest Tea?

Cha enthusiasts will often rest tea that they find still too rough. Letting it rest for a few months will round out some of the sharper notes. For example, some people enjoy a rested green, white, or oolong tea. We should keep the resting period at a minimum for green teas — just a couple of months will do. On the other hand, we can rest oolongs for a year or so to see some striking changes in the flavor. Medium roast oolongs rest great around two years. In comparison, deep-roasted oolongs benefit from an even longer resting period.


How Long Does Tea Last? — Rested Matcha 

Traditional Japanese tea ceremony practitioners prefer to rest matcha for it to get a mature and rounded flavor. The first matcha harvests of the year are incredibly crisp and refreshing. Usually, the ceremony master will conduct a tea ceremony with the freshly harvested matcha to welcome the arrival of spring. Then, they may take this same matcha and let it rest. Or sometimes, mix it with last year's matcha to create a well-rounded, smooth green tea powder.

We suggest experimenting when it comes to resting tea and see what you discover! For this purpose, it comes in handy to keep a journal.


tea storage

Aged Tea

Aged teas are an exceptional category. They are comparable to fine aged wine and frequently demand an equivalent price. The most popular aged categories are pu-erh and oolong. However, aged white and black teas are also quite remarkable. Aged green tea, on the other hand, is a very scarce category. Albeit, also worth exploring if you can get your hands on some or decide to age some yourself. Read more.

An aged tea is a product that producers or enthusiasts age for five or more years. Most teas are aged 5 to 25 years. Many enthusiasts agree that after 25 years, the flavor stops changing much—however, the price only skyrockets.

It's an excellent practice to age your own cha. This way, you can taste it every year or so and note the changes for yourself. We mark the teas that age well in our descriptions, so you can go ahead and experiment yourself. It's important to note that to age well, the tea has to already taste good, to begin with. Do not expect a subpar product to turn into a masterpiece simply from aging. Furthermore, always follow strict storage conditions when aging to ensure it doesn't spoil. Make sure that there is minimal humidity when aging.


"Wild Orchid" GuShu Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake

Our "Wild Orchid" GuShu Raw Pu-erh is perfect for aging!

Read more bout aged pu-erh.

A Quick Rule Of Thumb For Storage

You can usually find out when the tea was harvested directly from the description. However, you may sometimes forget when it was purchased and opened. Naturally, non-opened ones that we seal properly will stay fresh a little longer. We suggest getting into the practice of labeling when you buy and when you open your tea, especially if you take time to drink it.