This box of tea has an expiration date which has passed but I would like to know if I can still use it. What do you think?

  • Something about tea as in proper tea in bags, and dried fruit or herbal "teas" that also come in tea bags (and might have spoilage risks, eg mold) being conflatable here is worrying.... Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 9:52
  • The only harmful way tea can spoil is mold, and you can spot that easily. As it ages, it loses aroma and flavor gradually, but never becomes actually harmful.
    – SF.
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 10:50

8 Answers 8


Tea bags will be fine for at least a year in the pantry, but even long after that, they're still safe to consume. They just might change colour or flavour.

If your tea has an expiration date then it's just for best quality, not safety. I've personally found tea bags sitting at the back of the pantry that were more than 3 years old, the packaging had even started to fade, and the tea was still fine. I just had to steep it for a little longer.

  • 1
    It depends a lot on the packaging - if they're not individually sealed they may have lost a lot more of their flavor.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 22:42
  • 2
    @Jefromi: Even so, just means you need to steep 'em longer to get the same flavour. Sort of like old spices - if they haven't been kept properly (i.e. in the freezer) you might need to increase the amount.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Dec 5, 2010 at 0:31
  • 2
    Yup, you'll never get food poisoning from tea. However, it will be bland as all get out after a few years. Green and Oolong teas suffer particularly from this.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 1:14
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    The oldest tea I've tasted was about 32 years old, well older than I am. It was kept in a sealed metal box and besides having a metal-ish taste - it was perfectly fine.
    – ytoledano
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 7:24
  • Thank you for this! I think I can sleep well tonight @ytoledano My Linden herbs box had still some teabags, and I drank the last one today, checked the date and it expired in 2011.
    – M.K
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 16:46

My neighbor gave me some old boxes of tea she wasn't going to use. I use them to make iced tea. When I threw out one of the boxes, I discovered it had a best if used by date of 1997! That pitcher tasted a little off but it wasn't terrible.

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    This is a good point: the flavor might not just be weaker; it could have picked up smells from other things, and different components of the original flavor might deteriorate at different rates, so even with longer steeping, it may not taste the same.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 15, 2013 at 17:34

It's funny to see westerners asking "when does tea go off"? Answer --- it doesn't.

Here in Asia, many people drink tea that is years old, including the Chinese who have a tea that is more than 20 years old and is highly desired and very expensive to buy.

Tea does not 'go off'. It is dried, so like any dried herb. Like someone else said, you may have to steep it a little longer but it will never hurt you.

Stop believing all this hype about 'sell bye' dates. It's why so much food is wasted in the west. For sheer profit. Nothing more.

  • 2
    I'd say it's not exactly for "sheer profit in the West", but there are other reasons there. Depending on the way the tea is produced/industrialized it might lose quality, as said before. Depending on storage it may get mold. And all sorts of products may either really expire or lose quality, what certainly most brands want to avoid - you don't want someone to link a low-quality product to your brand just because it didn't have an expiry date and the consumer let it expire. The next answer even points a so-called east green tea with expiry date, so... it's not a west thing to waste food. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 4:39

Yes, it should be fine. I am drinking Japanese green tea right now which has been stored in a tight tin. It was expired in 2009. I heard that green tea is OK to dring after its expired when I was in Japan. However, flavour is definitely not the greatest if you know the real taste. They suggest to keep them in FREEZER if you can.

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    Keeping tea in the freezer is generally considered a bad idea unless you vacuum pack it. Water condensing on the leaves during freezing can cause them to mould once removed from the freezer. Commented Sep 22, 2012 at 9:42

Similar to the comments above about "freshness" tea loses it's medicinal qualities as it ages. If you're looking to drink green tea for it's health benefits the quality matters. Green tea that is more than 6 months old has a significant decrease in the amount of beneficial antioxidants the body can absorb. Personally I'm a big fan of loose leaf but if you're going to drink any brand of bagged teas my vote is for Mighty Leaf. They're big on flavor and high in quality.

If you're looking for creative ideas on how to use old tea I've heard they make good fertilizers and also have heard of people using them as air fresheners in their sock drawers.


I believe they are now putting an expiration for the famous word Profit. Think back, when we were kids that word did not exist. I will agree to the possibility that the flavor may be altered, but spoiled, No!


My guess would be yes. Though they might not be as flavorful.

I have never seen any expire dates on tea before, I'll have to look at my tea bags when I get home. I've had them for a while.

  • I will have to check mine as well, I have never noticed an expiration date on tea bags.
    – Varuuknahl
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 19:05
  • 1
    The expiration date is actually on the box, not the individual bags....
    – TheXed
    Commented Dec 4, 2010 at 19:20
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    So you just keep them and throw away the box; that way they never expire! ;-) Commented Dec 9, 2010 at 17:35

Generally tea, like other dry herbs, doesn't really expire, but may loose flavor and aroma. So while your tea bag may not taste great, it should still be ok to consume, if the tea bag hasn't come in touch with too much humidity. Only with excessive humidity, the dry leaves may absorb it and develop mold.

Green tea, fresh white tea
Green tea and fresh white teas may deteriorate faster. This is because it contains more water relative to other teas, and therefore the leaves will oxidate and change color. Green tea should ideally be consumed within 6 months. If you can't, I recommend to split it in several bags. Then leave one bag in the cabinet and store the rest in the freezer to preserve the flavor for up to two years.

Black tea, oolong tea
On the other hand, teas like black tea, have very little water content left, and will therefore last longer. When stored in an airtight jar, you'll probably be able to keep the taste fresh for two years.

White tea, pu erh tea
Pu erh tea (and other dark teas) as well as aged white teas doesn't really expire, but improve in flavor due to its aging ability. For pu erh, the older the better, while for aged white tea, it's supposed to be the best around 7 years of aging. This, however, will depend on the specific storage conditions.

If you're interested in all the factors which are important for storing tea, you may read my guide: how to store loose leaf tea. It's about storage for loose leaf tea, but the same principles in fact apply for tea bags as well.

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