Reader question: How store loose leaf teas?

Reader Jeni sent us the following question:

I was hoping you might have suggestions for storing loose-leaf teas. I’m a pretty avid collector and drinker of tea, and my collection has gotten to the point where it’s taken over my available pantry space. The traditional tins used for storing tea may keep it fresh, but they’re also big and add to the clutter. Any thoughts? Thanks!

As the weather turns cooler (at least in theory, we’ve had highs of 85 degrees in the Mid-Atlantic region all week), drinking a warm pot of tea is a terrific way to start a morning or settle in at night. Regardless of if you drink loose-leaf or pouch teas, storing the tea can be a cumbersome task.

To maintain its freshness, tea should be kept dry, at room temperature, away from direct light, and in an air-tight container. Additionally, tea should be stored away from other strong scents.

If you typically drink mild aroma teas, then my first suggestion for you is the following low-cost method. Start by moving all of your teas out of their tins and into appropriately sized Ziploc bags. Using a permanent magic marker, label the exterior of the bag with the name of the tea and its purchase date. Finally, put all of the teas into an opaque storage container of your choice. I use a decorative canister for my teas to hide the utilitarian design of the Ziploc-style bags.

If you tend to drink strong aroma teas, then my first suggestion isn’t going to work for you. If you put all of your teas together, their scents will infuse with each other and you’ll have bizarre flavored concoctions. In this situation, I suggest storing all of your mild aroma teas as described previously and then keeping your strong aroma teas in their supplied tins (as long as the supplied tins are air tight). My assumption is that you only have one or two strong aroma teas, so they will take up a limited space in your cupboard.

Another option is to use air-tight spice bottles and a spice rack of your preference. It isn’t as financially friendly, but it will certainly take up less space. You will need to store the spice rack in a dark pantry or drawer to keep the teas out of direct light, but the glass or metal will keep strong aromas from cross infusing.

Good luck, Jeni, with your endeavor to free up space in your pantry!

 

This post has been updated since its original publication in October 2007.

15 Comments for “Reader question: How store loose leaf teas?”

  1. posted by tkadlubo on

    Ikea has (or at least used to have) this magnetic containers. About 5 USD for a set of 3.

    I use them to store tea on the refridgerator doors. One container holds about 0.1kg of tea. Transparent lid allows for fast and easy identification of different kinds of tea.

    The only link I could find:
    http://cgi.ebay.pl/IKEA–.....dZViewItem

  2. posted by twosandalz on

    I use the zip-lock bag method for tea storage and it works very well. To fit a larger variety of tea on my tea shelf, I split each kind of tea into two bags. One bag goes back into the cupboard, and the other goes into a plastic bin in a closet.

  3. posted by dahlia on

    i simply use glass jars for my tea collection. for me the key to keeping it uncluttered has been designating a particular space for teas. when that shelf is full, that’s it, no more tea until i finish one off! this also makes me mindful of what is there and helps me keep things in rotation and fresh.

  4. posted by Yolanda on

    Following tkadlubo’s lead, something like this would work inside a cabinet or pantry door.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....tterer-20/

    Satisfies the coold, dark, an airtight requirements and is space-saving to boot.

  5. posted by Karen on

    I like to drink various types green teas, which I usually have to order online because they aren’t readily available where I live. The packages that I buy online are fairly big, and will last me for several months, but it’s hard to keep it fresh that long.

    I keep a small amount of tea in a convenient, small container (I use the magnetic spice jars). Then I take the rest of the bag, seal it up and store it in a dark place – if you have a vacuum sealer, this is a great way to keep tea fresh. This way, I have tea on hand for easy access, but it stays fresh for a long time.

  6. posted by Kate on

    Our house kitchen (pace apartmet dwellers) came with two wide drawers, divided down the middle, just under the counter. One of those sections I devote to teas. Peet’s containers lay flat and clear on closing. Bags or boxes fit fine.

  7. posted by Mrs. Micah on

    My mom finds cute little tins which serve as kitchen decorations and also hold the tea. They’re pretty airtight, not as much as ziploc bags though (but she goes through the tea quite quickly). I think she bought hers at various British tea stores or was given them with special teas and kept reusing them.

  8. posted by mary on

    I’ve been trying real hard to have only one tea in each category that I drink (strong morning, mellower afternoon, sweet herbal, etc.) I received a gift basket that turned out to be the right size for tea tins when emptied. I have a shelf of my dining room hutch for my teas, teapots, fancy mugs and paraphernalia. That causes some trouble, because people see the tea shelf and give me tea things as gifts!

    Also, the mail order place I used (Upton) sells trial size packs of all their teas. If I want a tea that I won’t drink too often, I get one of those.

  9. posted by cyen on

    I too love loose tea. I discovered it a little over a year ago via a website called Adagio.com. They sell “sampler” tins that for me, last a long time. I found the best way to store all the tins is with magnets underneath my cabinets! They are visible, yet out of the way, and not taking up shelf space. Once you empty one, the containers can be used to store more tea, or other small items (nuts bolts, pens, etc…). I also have found that I too must curb my tea buying. I now have a new rule of no new tea, until I finish another one first.
    Shameless self plug – if you visit my blog, you can get a $5 gift certificate to Adagio.com via a button on the right towards the bottom. I highly recommend their teas.
    http://cyenobite.blogspot.com
    PS> I just recently discovered unclutterer.com and am happy I did. 🙂

  10. posted by Christine on

    I’m in the process of moving all my tea to square tins that stack and stay together neatly in my pantry (I’ve got a lot of narrow short shelving that hold cans of beans two deep or tea tins two deep). If it came in a box or a bag with a label, I just cut the label off and tape it to the outside of the tin, otherwise I write what it is on pretty paper and tape it to the outside. For Market Spice tea, which I buy by the half-pound, I fill the tin then reseal the bag and stick it in the freezer. (I love Market Spice, and I don’t actually make it to the Pike Place Market often due to all the tourists). I have yet to meet a tea that doesn’t freeze beautifully, and since I only access it once a month at most, it can get shoved into those way-back corners of the freezer that you can only get to by pulling out almost everything else.

    The tins I’m talking about are like this:
    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/cata.....s/80129645
    but not in a set and not with a crazy pattern on them. I found them at my grocery store, and I’m having no luck finding anything similar online.

    For most people, this solution would likely be overkill. For me, it’s perfect. I drink two to four cups of tea a day (well, I rebrew black teas and some of the grassier green teas, so it probably is more like four to ten, but we’ll just ignore my insanity for the moment), and I have at least five teas on hand at any time. Also, my friends have realized that I’m a tea fiend, so whenever they’re at a loss for what to get me as a gift, they go to Tea Source and pick up a sampler. It’s lovely, but it does make the tea supply go out of control rather quickly.

  11. posted by Rosemary on

    I store all my tins of tea in 2 baskets on an open bookcase in my kitchen. In fact, I uncluttered a bunch of cookbooks to make room for the tea. This solution works well for me, since I have very limited cabinet and counter space, drink a lot of tea, have about 10 favorite teas I cannot live without, an another 10 that I would prefer to have on hand.

    I also keep a collection of Adagio Tea sample tins and a box of filter bags in a drawer at the office so I can enjoy loose tea at work as well. When a sample tin is empty I refill it from the big tin at home.

  12. posted by Oraxia on

    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/cata.....s/80102919

    Those are probably the tins tkadlubo was speaking of.

    Like Rosemary, I tend to hold on to the Adagio Tea sampler tins, although they don’t always stack as well as I’d like them to 😛 I hold onto old glass spice jars, too, although I haven’t used any of those for teas… yet.

  13. posted by Whitney on

    Nooo. As someone with a cupboard full of baggies with varying bits of loose tea in them, I DO NOT recommend the ziplock method. It’s So frustrating digging through all the baggies, having to pick every single one of them up until you come to the tea you want.
    Stackable screw top containers like the ones at Lee Valley, are great!
    http://www.leevalley.com/us/wo.....&ap=1

  14. posted by infmom on

    If you buy your tea from the Upton Tea Company, they will send it to you packaged in airtight zip-top bags. The bags are stiff enough that they can stand up by themselves in a rectangular storage bin, which is how my husband, an avid tea drinker, stores his supplies.

  15. posted by Margaret on

    Tea lovers…. I use left over classico pasta sauce glass jars. Label the metal lids and lying on their sides can fit 10 on a shelf. This limits me on the teas I use but can be easy to have guest pick their blend. King Cole tea is the best for orange peko. It is from Atlantic Canada. My two cents…

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