Suppose you made a cup of tea (the real tea, not bagged, and not a fruit drink) with no additions, but you forgot about it while doing other things (house stuff, homework, your job) and it has now been 2 hours since you made it. The tea is cold, possibly bitter, and a significant portion of its flavor is gone (this has been the usual result for me with all real teas). It's not so good any more, but is it safe to drink now?

As the saying goes, a cup of tea left overnight is poison. How true is that in terms of actual hazards?

  • with milk in it, or not? Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 0:23
  • @KateGregory black ;) Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 1:08
  • 1
    What??? I make my huge cuppa double-bagged tea with milk in the morning and finish it in the evening. Then I recycle the bags the next morning by adding another bag. I'm still alive, except that I have problems putting on weight - stale tea must be pushing up my metabolism. In Israel, I could buy Russian fermented tea in bottles, btw. Initially, I thought they were root beer. Russians there say they can't stand root-beer "tastes like medicine" - yet they have no problems drinking fermented tea. Beats me.
    – Cynthia
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 7:57
  • @BlessedGeek I think you're referring to Kvass. I'm a Russian and I prefer Japanese and Chinese teas, like sencha, oolong, gyokuro, darjeeling and such to any national fermented dubious stuff. Anyway, I'm not talking about bagged tea, it's too low quality to make good tea from it. Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 12:06

1 Answer 1


As long as you haven't added something that will dramatically increase the spoilage time (milk, or sugar), it should follow roughly the same rules as coffee. Most citations I've seen say the taste begins to go off at around 8 hours, which is a good indicator of spoilage. It's going to taste yucky if you forget and leave the teabag in it as well, but that's just over-steeping.

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