Tea is a very popular drink in the UK that has become strongly associated with British customs. It is estimated that more than 7 million people in the UK drink four or more cups of tea a day.
Usually when we refer to tea, we mean tea made with a traditional English breakfast teabag.
The camellia sinensis plant provides the leaves for this black leaf tea variety The leaves are picked and dried before being added to the teabags.
As tea is such a popular drink it may be hard to comprehend that it might expire before being consumed, but perhaps you have a part-box in the back of your cupboard or were gifted a brand you haven’t tried before.
If this is the case, then it can be helpful to understand if teabags expire and what the consequences of expired tea might be.
Do Breakfast Teabags Expire?
The teabags we buy from the supermarket do come with an expiry date on them. This is a ‘best before’ date rather than a ‘use by’ date, signalling that it is not unsafe to drink the tea beyond this date.
In fact, it is widely thought that teabags are still good to used up to two years after their best before date has passed. This is because the tea leaves are dried through before manufacturing and do not deteriorate after this process.
Do Fruit Teabags Expire?
Fruit teabags tend to have a shorter date than breakfast tea teabags although they are still useable for 18-24 months. It is considered that the flavour of the fruit tea will wane beyond this point.
Fruit teas keep best stored in an airtight container out of sunlight. This helps preserve the flavour.
What Happens if you Drink Expired Tea?
Expired teabags are not likely to be harmful to you. They do not contain any ingredients that would become harmful over time, it is merely the taste or the tea that would differ.
Expired fruit teas are not dangerous either, they will just have a possibly unpleasant or weak taste and may be a different colour to what you were expecting.
Signs That Your Teabags Have Expired
Whilst using expired teabags is not harmful, it’s useful to be able to recognise if they have expired. These are some of the signs to look out for:
- No flavour or smell – This is the most common effect of using expired teabags. Over time the natural oils in the tea leaves break down and this means that the older the tea is the more likely it is that the flavour will decrease.
If your tea tastes very weak or doesn’t smell of anything, this may mean your teabags have expired.
- An unpleasant taste or smell – We know what we expect when we take a drink of tea, so if you have a sip and the taste or smell is not a nice one and not like you expected then this may mean your teabags have expired.
- Mould – If teabags are stored in damp conditions and not in an airtight container then the bag and leaves can develop mould. If they don’t look right or there are visible signs of degradation, then don’t use them.
- Age – If you are aware the tea has been there for three or more years then it is safe to assume that it has expired. You’ll have a much better tea experience with a fresh batch of teabags.
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