Storing The Tea Correctly - Makes a Huge Difference (2021)

A complete guide to everything you need to know about properly storing Japanese tea leaves.

This article was last modified November 7th, 2021. by Yuki

tea caddie for japanese tea

Knowing how to maintain the tastefulness of your precious Japanese Tea leaves or Matcha powder goes a long way in improving your tea experience.

Here we'll go over everything you need to know to keep your leaves fresh!

japanese tea

The meaning of the "Best By" dates on the tea package

All tea will have a "best by" date on the packages.

This is the date the manufacturer ensures the quality of the tea to be as expected for that product, under correct storing conditions.

After that date passes?

You can still drink it. It doesn't mean the tea is undrinkable anymore. It's just that the manufacturer won't ensure the quality of the tea to be the same.

The important point to note here is the part here - "under correct storing conditions".

The reality is, if the tea isn't stored properly, the taste of the tea will quickly diminish! The taste will not be the same even if it's within the "best by" date.

This might seem a little counter intuitive, because the tea leaves look dry and suited for long-term storage. However, this really isn’t the case.

This is why understanding the proper way to store tea is integral to your Japanese tea experience.

How long after packing is a standard "best by" of Japanese tea?

A standard loose leaf Japanese tea will indicate around 1 year before consumption.

A standard Matcha would usually be much shorter. It would indicate around 6-8 months after packing as the "best by" date for consumption.

When you look around, you'll commonly find products with longer timelines.

2 years for loose leaf tea is very common. Even for some supermarket Matcha, you'll find labels indicated 2 years from manufacturing.

There's no special way of extending the freshness of tea leaves. It's just that these manufacturers indicate "2 years" so the shelf life is longer. It helps the product sell better.

This implies that they are less concerned about the quality of the tea going to the customer. Chances are, the quality of these tea are not as high.


Matcha bowl, powder, chasen, chashaku, natsume

The 5 "tea spoilers" that kill your tea

There are 5 main causes of tea quality reduction. The "storing strategy" for your tea will be all about keeping the tea away from these 5 "tea spoilers".

1. High Temperatures

The heat will oxidize the leaves and reduce the Catechin. This will reduce the taste. It will alter the scent and the colour of the leaves as well. Keep the leaves in a cool place. You can use the refrigerator for unopened packs, but make sure you let it sit at room temperature for a while before opening. This is to prevent condensation from spoiling the tea. Which brings us to our next factor.

2. Humidity

Humidity will also speed up the oxidation of the leaves. The target humidity is around 3% - which is a challenge in countries like Singapore. Store the leaves in sealed plastic bags such as Ziplocs to avoid this. Do not keep the mouth of the bag open.

3. Oxygen

The air itself also speeds up the oxidation of Catechin and Vitamin C, reducing the taste as well. Again, keep the mouth of the plastic bag completely shut.

4. Sunlight

The sunlight will alter the colour of the leaves. It may cause a different smell from being under the sun, which you would want to avoid. Keep the tea out of direct sunlight or put it in a bag that shuts out all sunlight.

5. Other Smell

The sunlight will alter the colour of the leaves. It may cause a different smell from being under the sun, which you would want to avoid. Keep the tea out of direct sunlight or put it in a bag that shuts out all sunlight.

Tea caddie with sencha inside

How Should you Store Tea Leaves at Home?

Storing unopened packages

If you have an unopened package of tea, just stick the package straight into the refrigerator. This is the safest place for your unopened pack of tea.

Since the unopened package should be completely sealed, it wouldn't allow some of those "tea spoilers" such as humidity, oxygen and smell in the refrigerator from effecting the tea.

Additionally, the refrigerator is an ideal place to keep your tea away from other "tea spoilers" in high temperatures and sunlight.

One caveat when you do this though.

When you are about to drink the tea and take out the package from the refrigerator, make sure you let the unopened package sit outside for a while so it would return to room temperature before opening the tea.

If the package is opened right after taken out of the refrigerator, the difference in temperature will build condensation. Condensation is a huge issue because it's one of the 5 "tea spoilers" in humidity.

So perhaps between 6 - 12 hours before you plan to drink the tea, make sure the package of tea is sitting outside.

I'm sure your next question would be, can you keep the tea in the refrigerator if the package is already opened?

If the package is opened, the seal to block the humidity, oxygen and smell is not effective anymore. You'll need another strategy for that.

Storing tea that is already opened

The "refrigerator" is not ideal for already opened packages.

Even if you use an air-tight bag to completely seal the tea from oxygen, smell and humidity, you'll still need to let the package sit from 6-12 hours outside every single time you want to drink the tea.

Because of this, once you've already opened tea and the tea is ready for every-day consumption, the refrigerator is not a realistic choice.

The recommendation is to use a Chazutsu, or a tea caddie. 

Take a certain portion of the leaves – an amount you would use in about 10 days – and keep it stored inside the Chazutsu (tea caddie) for daily use.

Even though the Chazutsu might not be optimal in terms of temperature, since the leaves in the Chazutsu is only for 10 days, it will protect the leaves enough so you can fully enjoy the tea.

It's a very convenient way of storing your tea for daily use.

The Chazutsu (tea caddie) can then be placed in a cabinet - perhaps a dish cabinet, away from sunlight.

If you don't have a Chazutsu, you can use an alternative. Look for something that is....

      • Something that can be closed air-tight.
      • Isn't transparent (doesn't let light through)
      • Doesn't smell!
      • Not too large. (Larger containers allow excess oxygen inside)

A glass bottle with a tight lid does the trick, but you might want to consider wrapping it with paper to block the light from entering.

Chazutsu or a Japanese Tea caddie

Photo: Chazutsu (Japanese Tea Caddie)

Once 10 days amount of tea is moved to the Chazutsu, the rest of the leaves can now be sealed airtight and put back into the refrigerator.

When you take the leaves out of the refrigerator again, the principle holds here too. Do not open right away because the condensation will damage the tea.

Bring it under room temperature for 6 - 12 hours before you open.

What to do When the Tea Leaves Become Old

When the Tea Leaves become old and their taste diminishes, one way to still enjoy is to roast them and turn them into a Houjicha.

This is possible for any kind of green tea including Sencha or Bancha. Using Kukicha is a fantastic option as well.

Place a paper on the pan and roast the tea leaves on the pan and simmer under low heat. You can use a microwave to heat the leaves as well. It will produce a Houjicha with a nice aroma which you can enjoy.


How should I store Matcha Powder?

Although the passage above focuses on loose leaf tea, the principles for Matcha powder are the same.

Actually, Matcha powder is even more susceptible to the "5 tea spoilers" that kill your tea even more so than loose leaf tea. Extra care is required.

Instead of using the "Chazutsu" tea caddie which is for loose leaf tea, there are specialized caddies called the "Natsume" for Matcha powder. I recommend you look for this.

However, any container that has the following characteristics would work as well.

  • Something that can be closed air-tight.
  • Isn't transparent (doesn't let light through)
  • Doesn't smell!
  • Not too large. (Larger containers allow excess oxygen inside)

As mentioned above, you can take an air-tight glass bottle and cover it with paper to block it from light.

Can I store the tea in a freezer?

The freezer is okay to use to store your unopened packages of tea.

However, the refrigerator is still considered better. This is because the difference in temperature is not as stark when you take it out of storing.

Do these rules apply to roasted Japanese Tea such as Houjicha or Iri-bancha as well?


Although less susceptible to the "5 tea spoilers", roasted tea such as Houjicha or Iri-bancha (Kyobancha) require similar care.

Take the steps mentioned above to store your tea.

How should I store a teabag?

Inside the teabag is also the same tea. Therefore the storage principles apply just the same.

At the end of the day, no matter how you store the leaves, it's inevitable that the quality will erode as time passes.

Tea is always best to enjoy fresh. So the best advice might be - drink quickly!

Author Yuki


Yuki is the Editor-in-Chief AND Community Manager at Tealife. He bleeds Japanese Tea and loves being a part of the Japanese Tea journey of others. Writes, does events, conducts tasting sessions, drinks, drinks and drinks tea! Easily accessible - hit him up on whatsapp (+65) 85882980.