At times you might want to store your tea in the freezer. It's sometimes a good idea, sometimes not. It depends on what type of tea you have, and whether it's brewed or not. Let me explain.
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So can you freeze tea ?
Yes, you can freeze tea, whether it's loose leaves, tea bags, or already brewed tea but you will lose a lot of flavor. When thawing the tea leaves and bags, you're slowly steeping the tea so you will need to brew it right away.
Reheating a tea (frozen or not) will reduce its flavor even more, as it escapes through the steam. And for green, black, and white tea you risk turning it bitter as well. Here's a few simple guidelines to follow.
Loose leaves of tea with nothing else added (simple green or black tea, for instance) are freezer safe. This is only true for sealed, airtight teas that have never been opened and there is very little moisture inside. You can not and should not refreeze an opened tea tin, because of condensation.
Complex tea with tea leaves and dried fruits or herbs are not okay to freeze, since you will damage the flavor. This includes tea leaves that were smoked or infused with an aroma, even if they have no fruits or herbs added.
Already brewed tea, of any kind, is freezer safe in that it will freeze, but it will lose a good part of its aroma if you reheat it. If you keep it cold (a bit warmer than a slushie) it will be alright, but not as good as when originally brewed.
In short, any kind of temperature change will change your tea's taste.
Simple tea leaves can be safely frozen once
Alright, so why are simple tea leaves okay to freeze ? For the most part, their structure remains the same even after you've thawed the leaves. A simple tea leaf, whether black or green, is still going to have a bit of moisture in it.
It will freeze, but once you thaw it you should not refreeze it because that will damage the structure of the leaf and the flavor. Not completely, it would still be drinkable, but in time after many refreezings you'd notice something it very wrong with the tea.
You should be very careful with how you store your tea. For example if you want to freeze your tea leaves, you will need an airtight container, with as little moisture as possible inside of it.
That can be every tricky, and you'd need a pre-sealed and never opened bag of tea leaves in order to get that level of moisture.
Why this matters is because moisture will steep the tea, whether it's warm or not. This will make the flavor less strong in time, and it will help with the development of bacteria and mold in the tea if you keep freezing and hawing it out in large batches.
The best place for a tea, whatever kind of tea you have, is a dark, dry (very dry), airtight and cool airtight container that won't produce condensation on the inside to affect the leaves.
Combined/complex teas should never be frozen
It might seem like a good idea at first, to keep you tea in the freezer to protect it from the warmth. But no matter how cold it is in you freezer, it still has moisture. The layer of ice (however thin) on the inside of the freezer is a sign of that. Don't worry, my freezer gets icy too. It happens.
The reason combined teas - loose leaf teas with fruits, herbs added to it - should not be frozen is because of the essential oils and aromas in the fruits and herbs. This will damage the very structure of the oils, which are not as hardy as coconut oil of olive oil, which freeze nicely and then thaw back just as nicely.
Add to this the fact that any frozen tea will produce condensation when thawed out, and this will start to steep the fruits and herbs in the tea, and you're getting already stale tea.
This applies to simple tea leaves that have been smoked, infused with aromas, like a black tea infused with vanilla essential oil for example. The essential oil will degrade once frozen and then thawed, and your tea won't be very good afterwards.
When it comes to Taiwanese teas - often sold as Milk Oolong or Silk Oolong - these are very delicate in their aroma. I've classified them with the simple tea leaves, with no aroma added, but they do have a distinct flavor. They are just as delicate as combined/complex teas, so they should not ever be frozen, at all.
They can and will lose freshness once you freeze them. Best to buy in small batches and enjoy them in due time.
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Freezing brewed tea into ice cubes - mind the sugar
You can however freeze already brewed tea. It can and will lose part of its flavor during the freezing process - flavor is very sensitive, okay ? - but it's still drinkable after being thawed. You should not, however, expect it to be as good as originally brewed. Especially if you reheat it.
Keeping your tea in the fridge is a good way to keep it from going bad. Even in the freezer, if you're planning on serving it cold. If you brew cold tea, then the flavor will be different but not lost.
About your tea iced cubes, let's see if they would be good. In general, the ice itself forms from the water content of the tea. That will contain your actual leaf infusion, so if you were to brew plain tea with no sugar added, it would freeze nicely in large chunks.
You can then later use said ice chunks (or cubes) to cool a warm tea, or add even more flavor to a tea.
But what happens if you freeze tea with sugar in it ? Then your tea won't be one cohesive ice chunk. What will happen is the sugar will be mingled in the water, and will 'separate' it when it gets frozen.
This means you will get small ice crystals in your tea, where the actual water content is, and then sugary syrup where the sugar would be.
There's nothing wrong with that, just do not expect a sugared tea to freeze solid like a plain tea. If anything a sugared tea will make a great slushie for your guests, or be simple to work with in a blender since it won't damage the blades as much.
It has its uses, so don't discredit it just yet.
The way you store your tea leaves is the key
I'm guessing you wanted to know if you can freeze tea because you're also concerned with how to store tea. I know there's tons and tons of ways to store your tea, but trust me there is only one good way.
A freezer will keep your tea cold, but will produce moisture and stale your tea out, no matter what you keep your tea in.
A ceramic cup/container for your tea will release the flavor because it's not completely airtight and it won't hold as well. Not only will your tea go stale faster, it might even go bad. Only use such containers for very short amounts of time, like presentation purposes.
There are those paper and plastic baggies some tea shops give you tea in. Those can be fine too, when you know you go through several cups of tea in one day, and you don't buy in large amounts. Usually those baggies can be sealed with a metal clip, and they're completely opaque. I wouldn't recommend those baggies for long-term use, like say a year.
Then there are the tins. Those cute tea tins that come in various shapes and sizes. While these are okay, you should always remember that the tea tin should be almost full, so there will be very little oxidation.
This means you should get small-ish tins, that can hold up to 50 gr/1.7 oz of tea at a time, and refill it fairly regularly. Very large tea canister with just a bit of tea inside won't be able to do their job properly, although they are still the best way to store your tea.
Whichever bag or can you keep your tea in, make sure you keep it in a dry place, dark, and on the cooler side of the thermometer, without going into the freezer.
I for one keep my tea in the small baggies that come from the tea shop, tucked away in a drawer.
I hope I was able to help you out here. I know storing tea can be a bit of a pain, depending on what tea you're using. And you can always freeze a bit of brewed tea and use those cubes as a way to keep your ice tea fresh.
Just know that you're losing a bit of flavor by doing to, since flavor is so sensitive to temperature.
If you want to know more about coffee or tea, feel free to check the related articles below. Who knows what else you might find ?