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Storing tea, tea longevity, freshness etc.

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I'm well familiar with the advantages of buying fresh roasted coffee orm roasting your own - the idea being that one knows exactly when it was roasted and can be sure of using the roasted coffe in the optimal time window (2 - 10 days after roasting). The issue of deterioration and rapidly declining qualities is well known and proven - for some of us freezing by means of careful packaging, thawing etc is a good means of ensuring that we always have a supply of good fresh beans on hand.

I'm baffled by loose tea. How significant and rapid is the deterioration when it's exposed to air? Will vacuum packing (e.g. with one of those machines that vacuum packs and seals in your kitchen) preserve freshness? Would freezing make a big difference? Also.... does one simply rely on the integrity of the vendor or the assumption that they have plenty of product turnover to ensure that the freshest possible product is being purchased>

Sorry if this seems rather elmentary to you tea aficionados but many of us are clueless about this and in need of some educating.

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loose tea is a bad idea unless you have a great deal of confidence in the vendor. tea does lose flavor and aroma upon exposure to air. as a bengali i like tea with a certain combination of flavor and strength. thus for my daily use i buy packets of "green label" tea from indian stores. i do also have little packets of really nice darjeeling tea that i have friends and family send me (and which i sometimes bring back with me from india--going again in 2 weeks!): these always have "best by" dates on them--usually no more than 6 months; and that's with the assumption that you're sealing the packets up tight after every use.

i've never frozen tea before though.

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1. Rely on a reputable vendor who has high turnover and understands proper storage - such as Harney & Sons, Upton's, Special Teas, Tea Trader, Simpson & Vail, Silk Roads, Capital Teas, Rishi, In Pursuit of Tea. Don't assume that all online vendors understand proper storage or off good quality teas. And be wary of buying from a bricks-and-mortar vendor or grocery store whose stock is stored in clear glass containers - their turnover isn't as frequent as the above-noted online vendors and their storage is less than ideal.

2. If you are considering freezing, remove as much air from the package. Then when you need to get some tea out of the bulk package, take a bit out and put the remainder right back in the freezer. If you leave it out, moisture will be created as the tea "thaws" at room temperature.

3. Proper storage at room temperature is generally considered to be in as small a container as possible, to prevent air in the container from deadening the tea leaves, an opaque-at-least container to prevent deterioration from light, a tight seal to prevent air creeping in, and a dark cabinet or at least away from any heat source. Air, light, heat and moisture are all elements that degrade tea.

Some of the vendors listed above use those new zip-lock type of bags, while others will ship in tins.

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