How Long Does Brewed Tea Last At Room Temperature?

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Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. Even historically tea was a valuable currency over which wars have been fought. Across the globe, from China and India to North and South America and everywhere in between, there is a strong connection and affinity to tea, be it as an exporter or a major consumer.

The English have tea for every occasion from celebration or consolation, and in East Asia, tea is so popular and such an intrinsic part of their culture that many countries even have tea ceremonies. Africa and Latin America are also huge growers and drinkers of tea. Argentina in South America and Kenya in Africa are two countries that produce and export large volumes of tea. 

Besides the sheer scale of operations, tea comes in so many varieties and forms, and infusions. From black and oolong to green tea, matcha, and even white these are just a few. Apart from this, teas can be made with herbal infusions, fruits, spices, and a variety of condiments. 

Whether you brew it with a tea bag or a kettle and tea leaf or your tea of choice is a pitcher of sweet, iced tea, how long does it last? Does it change according to the brewing method, or the kind of tea used?

If you are one of the many billions of people who drink tea, read on to see how you can sip on your favorite brew longer.

How Long Does Brewed Tea Last?

Most people are not aware of how long the tea they have brewed can last at room temperature. This is primarily because most teas brewed at home get consumed almost immediately. And pitchers of tea always find themselves in the fridge. So, how long does brewed tea last at room temperature. Freshly brewed tea lasts for about 8 hours when left out. Brewed tea, without milk or sweeteners, can be left out for about 8 hours at best. There are of course a number of factors that need to be considered.

  • First, make sure that there is no milk or creamer added to the tea. If your brew has any dairy, then it will spoil much sooner than 8 hours, especially if it is in a warmer place. Dairy does not do well when sitting out, it curdles or turns rancid, and this is true with milk tea as well.
  • Secondly, if your tea has sugar, then the tea starts deteriorating much faster. This is because sugar is a breeding ground for bacteria, not to mention insects and bugs. So, if there is sugar in your tea, it will spoil faster.
  • Lastly, your tea will not stay as good in a warmer climate as this accelerates spoilage too.
Counter FridgeFreezer
Freshly brewed tea8 hours3-4 days6 months

If you want to have your tea last a few days longer, you can store it in the fridge. The tea will last for about 3-4 days. It won’t spoil even after that, but it would have lost most of its flavor and smell by then. 

Even with iced tea, you will notice that after the first couple of days, the tea won’t be as strong or flavorful. It will still taste fine, but it won’t pack the punch that a freshly brewed batch would.

Similarly, freezing your tea will work in a pinch and will last for about 6 months but you will notice the flavor won’t be as robust.  

Does The Type Of Tea You Use Change Its Shelf Life?

Unfortunately, no. Irrespective of the type of tea you brew, its shelf life is pretty much the same. Be it loose leaf tea or tea bags, green tea or Earl Grey, its life span doesn’t change. Tea basically contains, caffeine and tannins with variations in taste, boldness, and strength. So, whichever you brew and how much ever of tea to water ratio you use, your tea will only taste good for about 8 hours. Tea tastes best when consumed immediately, the flavors are the strongest then. The only exception is iced tea that is brewed and left to cool in the refrigerator.

Keep in mind that tea starts losing potency almost immediately. It will still be good, and taste fine but it will get weaker and less flavorful the longer it is left out or in the fridge. 

Can You Extend The Shelf Life Of Brewed Tea?

The answer is both yes and no. Can you have brewed tea that lasts longer than 8 hours? Sure. But will it taste as good? No.

Let me explain. If you want to make a large batch of tea ahead for a party or high-tea then you can certainly brew a large batch, transfer it into an airtight container and then refrigerate it. When it is time to use it, take it out of the fridge and let it sit out for a little bit before you heat it up to brew it. If you are planning to add milk, sugars, etc. you cannot do it when it is cold, either get it to room temperature and then heat it all together or heat it and then brew it with all the trappings.

If you are planning to make iced tea that you are going to consume within the next 24 hours, then brew the tea, let it cool down, add the sweeteners, the infusions, and whatever else you want to then transfer it into an airtight container before refrigerating. 

Do not keep iced tea in a pitcher if you are planning to use it later. Not only will the tea lose its flavor and, smell but the rest of your fridge will start smelling of tea. The smell of tea is part of enjoying it, a freshly brewed pot of tea is for many people, and the smell of home or vacations or some kind of memory, so if your tea has lost that aroma, your tea will not be as enjoyable.

Interestingly, you can freeze brewed tea. Most tea drinkers do not realize that tea can be frozen because they are used to enjoying a fresh brew. If you need tea for future consumption but are not sure if you have access to brewing it, then freeze freshly brewed tea. 

To freeze tea:

  • Make a fresh pot, do not add milk or sweeteners.
  • Let it cool.
  • Then transfer it into a freezer-safe, airtight container or freezer bag or freeze in an ice-cube tray, and once frozen transfer into a pouch or Ziplock.
  • To thaw it you can either let it thaw overnight in the fridge, on the counter or even just microwave it. 

Does Tea Spoil? How Can You Tell If Your Tea Has Spoiled?

Yes, tea does spoil, but because most of us consume tea as soon as it is brewed, we don’t always know if tea can spoil. After a couple of days in the fridge, the tea would have lost some of its flavor and strength, this is normal. This does not indicate spoilage. 

Sometimes we make a large pot of tea and forget about it. If you’re not sure if your tea is still consumable, here is what to look out for.  If your tea tastes very bitter or sour, then it has turned and should not be consumed. If you see mold or any kind of growth on the surface of your tea, please do get rid of it, as it has spoiled. If your tea smells off or has absolutely no smell at all, it is past its date. 

For iced tea that has been left in the fridge for too long, the sugars will start to ferment, as will fruits and similar infusions in tea. This will have almost no “tea” taste. At that point, your tea is starting to turn, so it needs to be either polished off or thrown away.

If you are one of the billions of people who enjoy a fresh pot of tea every day, hope you get to enjoy them longer with some of the tips above. If you are ever in doubt, just throw out your brew and start fresh. 

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