Customer - "How long does bulk tea last?"
I get asked this question (or some variation of it) at least once a day at work. It can sometimes be hard to provide a satisfying answer because there are so many variables involved.
During my last eight years selling loose leaf tea, I have developed a suitable response for answering this question. My response, like all tea knowledge, is constantly evolving as I collect data and experiences. Depending on the specific situation, my answer will usually sound something like this:
Brett - "It really depends on the tea. For most seasonal greens and lighter teas I would recommend drinking it up within six months, but blacks and other darker teas will usually taste fresh for as long as a year or two. Roasted oolongs and puer teas can last a very long time if properly stored and flavored tea and most herbals will usually last about two years. Bulk tea doesn't really go bad but it will get stale and loose its flavor... and all of this is subject to how well it has been stored..."
As you can see, this question often segues to other important discussions about tea intricacies. The trick is to meet the customer at their current tea knowledge level. Instead of overloading them with with tons of data, I prefer to tailor the conversation to the specific teas that they are most interested in.
I'd love to hear some of your own experiences regarding tea's shelf life. When do you throw away your old tea leaves and do you currently have any teas (besides puer and aged oolong) that are over three years old and that you're still drinking? If so, how do they taste now compared to when they were fresh?