How long do teas last?

August 27, 2015

We received a question from a prospective BTTC tea drinker about age v.s. drinkability...

I've been trying for some time now to find a good source of high quality oolong.  Something I've been concerned about is the freshness of the leaves.  I have quite a bit of experience with Japanese greens, and I know they can be quite quick to tu n stale, or be damaged by heat and sun.  I realize there are two broad categories of oolong, the slightly roasted and the heavily roasted.

Could you tell me how long each variety stays fresh?  For instance your Four Seasons Oolong is almost a year old now. Is there any decline in taste? Any information on the subject would be greatly appreciated!  

And I am very happy you provide both the origin, varietal, and harvest date for each of your teas, I know many retailers fail to mention most of those details.

Thank you for your help!  
M- [name withheld]

Hi M-, 

Thanks for the contact.  You are absolutely right about the green teas.  They are best fresh off the farm and decline slightly each month for about a year, after which I they become... less than exciting.  Especially the delicate ones like the early spring, minimally processed ones.  
Oolongs last longer, especially if they are vacuum packed and stored away from light like we do our High Mountian Oolongs. HMOs stored properly will have a few years in them for sure.  The Winter teas maybe even more.  
Our green oolongs last about a year but even they turn even butterier with age so bonus.  The Black teas last quite a while. Pu er's last forever. 
Our delicate green teas, like our Powdered Green, Twisted Green and Dragon Well are best fresh.  The Vietnamese greens seem to be a bit hardier (I'm still on the learning curve with them).  

But coming from Japanese teas, I would start to explore the High Mountain oolongs.  Taiwan exports a ton of HMO to Japan -- they seem to LOVE them.  In fact, I'm getting ready to sell our teas in our only local Japanese grocery store ;) May I suggest starting with Misty Mountain or Dong Ding Old Style to start getting some experience.  

Remember though, in the world of tea there are always exceptions.  I had a white tea that was three years old in Yunnan that was fabulous. 

Paul, BTTC

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