In the 70's "best by" and "expires" dating labels became industry standard. But you might be shocked to learn these dates are guestimates, made up numbers by manufacturers. This is because the USDA doesn't actually require best by dates.
So then, does tea go bad? As long as the tea is kept in a dry, cool place away from sunlight (keep it out of clear jars) – tea won't go bad. Full Leaf Tea Co. and other tea companies print a two-year "best by" date. Not only because this label is industry standard but also because tea will lose flavor after this period (but won't upset your stomach).
But you might be surprised to learn that some variety of teas maintain their freshness better than others!
Even though black, green, white, oolong, and pu-erh teas all come from the same Camellia Sinensis plant, their true "best by" date depends on how oxidized they are.
White and green teas aren't very oxidized, giving them a light vegetal flavor. We'd recommend enjoying these teas within twelve months.
Black and oolong teas are more oxidized and can maintain their flavors for up to three years.
Then there's pu-erh, which is fermented tea. Pu-erh, like wine, actually tastes better with age! In fact, a pu-erh tea cake aged over one century was sold for $600,000! Luckily, we sell our pu-erh for much less than that!
So there you have it! Keep your tea in a cool, dry, dark environment (like our re-sealable bags), and your tea will stay fresh for quite a while!