Chillin'- Pro tips for storing herbal iced tea
You brew a big batch of herbal tea and then put it in the fridge to enjoy later. Nice! But then you pull it out a few days later and see floaties….hmm, were those there before? Is it safe? What to do? Check out these tips from a professional herbalist, on how to store your herbal tea.
Many of you have written in to ask about the recommended storage time for herbal teas, for maintaining both potency and safety. The short answer is this — brewed herbal tea, whether you have made it to drink or plan to use it topically, or in other preparations — can be stored in the refrigerator: 1-3 days. Here’s why and how to tell if it’s gone bad.
Herbal tea is made of all kinds of plant parts — roots, barks, leaves, flowers, stems, seeds, berries, fruits, rinds, hulls or fungi — any of which, like vegetables and fruits, could get contaminated with bacteria somewhere along the way from the field or forest to your kitchen.
Hopefully you are buying high quality herbs from companies with excellent food handling practices, in which case, the likelihood of contamination is low. And, since tea is typically brewed with boiling water, most microbial contamination would be destroyed then. However, brewed tea is relatively unstable and it’s wise to keep an eye (and nose) on it.
The longer a batch of tea sits in your fridge, the more chance it has to pick up microbial contamination or even other flavors. Plus some of the medicinal components - all those amazing phytochemicals - may begin to break down with time and it just won’t taste as nice. And, If you are using the tea in a topical preparation, you definitely don't want to risk introducing bacteria to whatever it is you are trying to heal.
Signs that your tea has gone bad:
Ropey strands or other floaters in the tea
Thick or cloudy appearance
When in doubt, dump it out.
Ideally, I’d recommend brewing a quart of tea daily, rather than brewing bigger batches to store. Fresh is just better.
A very simple way to get daily herbal tea brewing into your routine is to prepare and refrigerate the tea in the evening. Then you start each morning with a quart of tea that will last you the day.
If you are adding tea to your smoothies, and brewing tea daily feels too time consuming, you could try freezing tea in ice cube trays to use later. These would keep for a few months.
Be well, Tara
Tara Thomas, MS Herbal Medicine, is a Clinical Herbalist in Seattle, WA.