You found a loose leaf tea that you love. Now, how do you store it so that it maintains its incredible aroma and flavor?
THEN: Form over Function
When tea from China first arrived on their shore in the 1600s, Europeans sought to properly store—and protect—the costly leaves. Elaborate tea caddies, often with locks, eventually became all the rage for those who had money to spare.
These caddies frequently contained one section for green tea and another for black, and sometimes a bowl, as shown in the ornate caddy below. While separating green from black tea is a definite plus, the caddies also were commonly lined with lead, a decided drawback.
AND NOW: Form and Function
Today, we don’t have to worry about locking up our favorite leaves, but we do need to protect them from other aromas, moisture, and light.
This rules out glass jars, tins that have been used to store anything with an odor (including other, heavily scented, tea!), old plastic containers, and anything that does not tightly close.
Because every tea has its own wonderful aroma, it is best to store each type of tea in a dedicated container so that the flavor is not compromised. And with all the pretty options out there, that isn’t so hard to do!
For example, these charming Kotobuki tins are wrapped in Japanese rice paper and have an interior plastic lid that really seals.
If minimal is more your thing, simple tins that tightly seal are also perfect for keeping your tea tasting its best. A second inner lid is even better.
So although modern tea tins have nowhere near the artistry of a 1700–1800s-era Chinoiserie tea caddy, they also do not contain lead or other harmful chemicals that may leach into your tea. And they will keep your tea fresh for a very long time!
–The Luxury of Tea and Coffee: Chinese Export Porcelain, Highlights from the Shirley M. Mueller Collection, by Shirley M. Mueller and R. Craig Miller, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana, 2016.
–Walne, T. “Antique tea-caddies brew up a profit,” This Is Money. September 28, 2009.