We’ve all been there, allowing our perfect cup of tea to sit out long enough that we aren’t sure if it’s safe to drink. It’s easy to leave your cup of tea sitting out on the table with just a few sips. You may be wondering when does tea go bad after it’s brewed. Will you get a tummy ache after drinking the tea? Will the tea flavor turn bitter, sour, or something else? How long can tea sit out for?
Short Answer: It Depends
All tea, including loose leaf tea and tea bags, has a shelf life. How long can tea sit out depends on several factors: What is the type of tea you are brewing? Is it hot tea, cold tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea, or sun tea?
The shelf life of tea is not the same for different types of tea. It also depends if the teas in question are true teas or herbal teas. Is your tea sitting out at room temperature or in a cold place? Is it stored in an airtight container or is it overnight tea that’s been exposed to direct sunlight on a hot summer day?
Different storage conditions lead to different results of your tea sitting out. Brewing methods with either cold water or hot water and steep time also affect how long your tea can be left to sit out.
The good news is that tea can last a long time if your brewing process and how you store tea are done the right way. While the bad news is that tea can turn bad if left to sit out for too long due to bacteria growth. The average recommended length of time to allow any tea to sit out is a maximum of 5 hours to maintain the flavor. Most teas will go bad after 24 hours at room temperature.
How Long Can Tea Sit Out Before It Goes Bad
Tea is a drink that should be brewed and consumed almost instantly, but it will also sit out for hours without going bad. How long tea can sit out before it turns bad depends on the type of tea. Black teas, which have more tannins than green or herbal teas, tend to last longer than other kinds of tea. They can sit out for up to 3 hours without losing their flavor or becoming bitter.
Green teas and white teas are less durable when sitting out, usually only lasting about 30 minutes before beginning to lose their taste. This is because they are made from tea leaves that do not undergo the oxidation process. Hence, oxygen in the air can react with it to form bacteria, mold, and other compounds that make it turn bad faster than with black tea. Whereas for black tea, the leaves have been fully oxidized and hence they can last much longer than green and white tea.
First, let’s talk about the different types of tea that exist. There are green teas, black teas, oolong teas, and white teas. Each type has a different shelf life because they’re made in different ways and contain different ingredients.
Here is the different shelf life for different types of teas given that they are all kept in a sealed container in a cool place (like the refrigerator).
Green tea: 6 to 10 hours
Oolong tea: 3 to 5 days
Black tea: 3 to 5 days
White tea: 6 to 10 hours
Hot tea lasts between 6 hours to 5 days before going bad. That said it depends on how much sugar is added (and how much of that sugar is already present in the teabag). And if you’re drinking sweetened tea with lemon, then that will also affect how long your drink lasts.
Hot tea should be served at room temperature for best results—but if you want to keep your tea warm for a while before serving, simply add ice cubes and stir occasionally until ready to serve again!
How Long Does Cold-Brew Tea Last?
Cold-brewed tea is a delicious, refreshing way to enjoy your favorite tea. It has a long shelf life, but there are some things you should know about how long it lasts and how to store it properly.
Cold-brewed tea is made by steeping the tea leaves in cold water for several hours or overnight. It’s a great alternative to hot-brewed tea, which typically takes more time and can be more difficult to make.
Cold-brewing also preserves more of the original flavor of the tea leaves than hot brewing does, so you may find that your cold-brewed tea has a stronger taste than your hot-brewed tea.
Cold-brewed tea also lasts longer than hot brewed tea, because the heat from boiling water causes teas to lose their flavor and aroma in just a few days.
The answer depends on the type of cold-brewed tea you have, but generally speaking, most varieties will last for about 3 days at room temperature (68°F). However, if you’re willing to refrigerate it, most types of cold-brewed tea can be stored for up to 7 days under refrigeration.
The shelf life of any type of tea depends on how it’s stored. If you keep your cold brew in an airtight container in a cool, dry place like a kitchen cabinet, it will last longer than if you leave it sitting out on your countertop where it can get exposed to sunlight and heat from appliances like microwaves and dishwashers.
If you want to make sure your cold-brewed tea stays fresh as long as possible, try adding less sugar than usual when making your brews—this will help preserve the flavor of your drink while also reducing its sweetness level so that it doesn’t spoil as quickly once opened.
How Do I Know If My Tea Has Gone Bad?
There are times you may not know how long you’ve left your cup of tea outside, and there may not be any mold growing on it to confirm that it’s bad. A good rule of thumb is that if your tea doesn’t look or smell right, then don’t drink it. When it comes to food and anything that goes into our bodies, if you are in doubt, don’t consume it, simply discard it right away.
You should not let your tea sit out for more than about 8 hours before you throw it away. Even if your tea looks fine, there can still be a risk of bacterial growth inside of it. Don’t wait to see mold growing on it. Tea that has been left out for half a day or overnight should be thrown away.
The Best Way to Make Brewed Tea Last Longer
Sometimes you don’t wish to finish your tea so quickly and wish to carry on with it another time. How should you store your hot tea to drink it later? It depends on the kind of tea you have. If you’re drinking loose leaf tea, then an airtight container is best (like a mason jar) because air exposure can cause oxidation which will affect the taste of your tea. If you’re using pre-bagged teabags, then an opaque bag or container is best so light doesn’t get in and mess with the flavor of your tea.
If you’ve got some leftover loose leaf or bagged teabags from yesterday’s cup, then make sure they stay out of direct sunlight and extreme heat—both of these things can negatively affect their quality over time. As their quality drop, they are less likely to last very long when brewed.
In other words, the best would be to store brewed tea in the fridge or freezer. If you keep leftover tea in the fridge without an airtight container, it can still last for up to 3 days. With an airtight container, you can keep it for at least 5 days.
For tea to last even longer, you can keep it in the freezer and it will still be fine to drink for the next 6 months. After 6 months, it’s best to discard and make a fresh batch of tea.
Similar to cold-brew tea, refrain from adding additives and extra flavors like milk, sugar and lemon to your hot tea. These additions will chemically react with your tea and make it turn bad sooner.
Conclusion: Brew and Drink Immediately
Tea should not be exposed to humid conditions for very long as moisture makes it go bad quickly. The best is to brew tea only when you want to drink it because tea is best consumed right after steeping. The flavor is right and it’s still at its best quality for drinking.