I have black tea bags, they’ve been stored in a sealed container, but the best by date is 2010 (13 years ago) can I still drink it safely? It’s decaffeinated blackberry sage tea. What signs should I look for that would tell me it’s unsafe?

  • 5
    I'll say it - Jurassic Park applies - just because you can doesn't mean you should.
    – lonstar
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 11:24
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    "best by" dates are arbitrary and typically don't mean much.
    – njzk2
    Commented Jun 6, 2023 at 21:28
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    @njzk2 best by (with an absence of an expiry date) means that it will not be harmful to consume, but will not taste optimally after the best by date
    – Aequitas
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 1:22
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    @Aequitas "taste optimally" is exactly what I mean by "arbitrary". There's no standard and anyone does whatever.
    – njzk2
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 17:18
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    “Best before” != “guaranteed unsafe after”. Rather, best before means that quality is (somewhat) guaranteed (if kept under certain conditions) – that includes color, texture and flavor as well as food safety. Similar concerns apply as to anything that doesn’t have a “best before” date on it: look for signs of spoilage or of factors that could cause spoilage (e.g. humidity, temperature or contamination). If you don’t find any of these, the risk is low. Lastly, there is no such thing as zero risk – even perfectly sterile food may be contaminated with chemicals, toxins or shards of glass.
    – user149408
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 20:48

4 Answers 4


If the tea still smells fine and looks fine – dry, no visible change in colour or growth of any anything on the tea – then it should be safe to consume. After such a long time the flavour is likely to be worse than it was new, of course.

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    I would agree, I found a can of Ceylon tea that I'd forgotten about, bought 15 years ago and it still makes a decent cup.
    – GdD
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 13:42
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    As this is tea bags, I'd cut one open to check that it's dry, not clumped (which would be due to damp), and not visibly mouldy. @GdD's tin might have kept it's flavour better than this, depending on how good the airtight container really is
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 14:05
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    Good point @ChrisH, my tea was loose and sealed in a tin. Bagged tea in a box would be much more prone to getting damp or contaminated.
    – GdD
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 14:24
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    What are you basing this judgement on? The US FDA lists the following "potential biological hazards" of dried tea leaves: Bacillus cereus, C. perfringens, Pathogenic E. coli, Salmonella spp., S. aureus (FDA Hazard Analysis). I can't find the FDA regulations for dried tea leaves, and I'm not smart enough to figure out what kind of risk these potential hazards pose, or how to detect spoilage. It might be worth explaining why we don't need to worry much about these risks.
    – Juhasz
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 20:22
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    @Juhasz Good find with this link – but for a product that is shelf-stable and sold for long storage (albeit not intended for this length of storage), the danger is that it is contaminated/unsafe at the point of processing/sale, or that it is stored improperly. Dried leaves in a sealed container are a fairly inhospitable environment for pathogens to grow (and of course they will be immersed in boiling water before consumption), so I am confident in saying that the tea is roughly as safe now as when it was sold.
    – dbmag9
    Commented Jun 5, 2023 at 20:58

It won't taste good. It won't be safe if there is dry mold (usually white) in it or the tea is all clumped together in a block.


How about 30 years? https://taiwanleaftea.com/rare-tea/30-years-aged-oolong-lao-cha As others have said, make sure it was dry the whole time.

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    "Also, remember it's going to be steeped in near boiling water so the biggest concern would be flavour." - That's a common misunderstanding. Bacteria or fungi growing on food may produce toxins (depending on their species). Cooking/heating will kill the organisms, but may not destroy the toxins they produced. See e.g. here (second heading).
    – marcelm
    Commented Jun 7, 2023 at 11:22
  • I hadn't thought about that - extremely unlikely to be an issue with something kept dry, but clearly it's correct to point out that it's false to think boiling would automatically make it safe so I edited the answer.
    – pneud
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 7:27
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    "extremely unlikely to be an issue with something kept dry" - I agree, but if it ever got wet it might have fungal growth. So I'd say it's worth a visual check :)
    – marcelm
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 9:38

I am not an expert but I love all kinds of teas. I wouldn't care about dried tea. But if the blackberry taste is a chemical substance, then I would pay attention to expiration dates... I would check the ingredients to find any chemical additives.In this case, if it is all natural I would think it is safe.

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