Many a time, larger quantities of tea are made in a go. Often it leads to some leftover, ready to use tea getting stacked in a teapot for the following day.
Is this leftover tea okay to drink? The answer depends upon where you store the tea. The shelf life of the brewed tea depends completely upon how it is made and how it gets stored. Temperature plays a vital role in deciding whether the tea is ready to drink. Refrigerating the tea will make it last longer.
Tea is the second most renowned drink in this world, right after water. Drinking tea has been a part of the culture in many civilisations throughout history. This magical drink not only offers a variety of flavors and tastes for the drinkers but also has several health benefits to top this all.
No wonder there has been a massive surge in the methods of drinking tea over the years. With the drink being massively popular and with various techniques of brewing a fresh cup of tea emerging, arises the question of the preservation of tea.
Often a brewed cup of freshly prepared tea is to be kept for a longer duration before one finally consumes it. This brings us to our very important question regarding the process of preservation, which goes as, how long is a brewed tea safe for consumption?
Can the tea you just brewed be kept overnight? What might be the implications in such a case? Let us answer these questions one by one.
We have definitely made a big batch of tea and somehow had lots of it left by the end of the day. We then face the dilemma the following day if we should consume it. So, should we really consume it? The answer to this question lies with the process of storage we use right after brewing. So, there can be many answers to this exact question.
CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) in the year of 1996 announced that a brewed cup of tea should not be consumed beyond eight hours of brewing it.
This eight hour window is the safest time to consume the infusion, and it is always preferable to get the drink done with within this time frame. CDC is yet to release any changes to this statement, but with the growing demand of Ice tea, the statement remains questionable, and it definitely needs some modification.
Tea contains tea polyphenol, which gets easily oxidised by the oxygen present in the air and also in the water itself. This results in the formation of tea stain, which gives rise to certain chemicals which definitely mess with your digestive system and prevents the absorption of the nutrients present in the drink.
But it does not really make it unfit for consumption unless you see some visible changes in the drink.
How To Know If Tea Is Contaminated?
If you find a layer of brown material on the drink, do not drink it. Brown layer is the indication of the formation of undesirable compounds which, when exceeds certain quantity in our body, can cause detrimental effects. You should also lookout for the formation of molds.
Molds will certainly change the appearance of the drink and might appear as a thick whitish compound. Consuming such molds can really be harmful as it can cause bacteria or fungus related infections inside our body.
You should also lookout for some foul odor coming out of the tea. This odor is a confirmation of the tea being already contaminated.
If the above factors are kept in our mind, and no physical change in the drink is found, it is usually safe and fit for consumption.
The most important factor that you should rather focus on is storage. Proper storage of the infused tea must be ensured to guarantee the tea being fit to consume for a longer duration of time.
The duration over which a cup of tea remains fit for consumption depends rather on how you decide to store it. The duration for a safe drink also depends upon the method used for making the tea.
What Are The Two Methods Of Brewing Tea?
Tea can be made by hot infusion, that is by exposing the tea leaves with hot surroundings, usually by immersing the leaves into warm water. This is the traditional method used for making tea. It takes much less time to produce a cup of tea using this method, and this method always extracts out the best of flavors from the tea leaves.
Or, cold infusion method can be used for making tea where it is not necessary to pour hot water on the leaves. This cold infusion method is getting popular these days with higher demand for Ice Tea. Sun tea is the method often used in brewing Ice Tea. Let us dwell further into matters.
Tea is often made using the method of sun tea ( in this method, water in normal room temperature is used for making the tea. The tea leaves are infused into the water for a much longer duration of time. The cup of tea is left undisturbed for approximately one to two hours in normal room temperature, which gradually extracts the flavors from the tea leaf).
The tea is presumed to be fit for consumption for at least twenty-four hours while kept in room temperature, or at least for forty-eight to seventy-two hours if kept in refrigeration ( below 8 C).
That is, the ice tea can be consumed even after three days from the time it is brewed if kept below 8 C. This is one of the reasons why ice tea is such a popular drink nowadays. This chilled drink is very engaging and is also much easier to store.
On the contrary, tea brewed using the traditional method of pouring hot water (80-100 C) on tea leaves for at least five minutes, is expected to last for sixteen to twenty-four hours kept at normal temperature. If it is kept under refrigeration ( below 8 C), the tea is expected to last for twenty-four hours to forty hours depending upon certain conditions.
The hot infusion method used while brewing tea is relatively difficult to store for a longer duration. This is generally because the boiling water kills certain useful bacteria which help in the preservation of the tea for a longer duration. Although this method is preferable while drinking a warm cup of tea, it is less advisable if you have plans to store the drink for a longer duration.
How To Store To Make Tea Last Longer?
Certain factors must be kept in mind if at all, you decide to store the tea you brewed. Some of which are as follows:
I. The brewed tea must be immediately stored in an airtight container. The airtight container helps in reducing the oxidation rate of the drink by cutting off the air supply. This helps in preventing contamination for a longer duration of time. Preferably, thick glass material can be used to store the infused drink.
A tight lid can restrict the airflow into the liquid. The lesser the time we allow the drink to interact with the surroundings, the higher are chances of it being safe. It is thus advisable to transfer a freshly brewed cup of tea into an airtight container and sealed away.
II. The tea must be kept under refrigeration as quickly as possible. If the tea is brewed using the hot infusion technique, you should wait for the tea to get cooled. Once it reaches the room temperature, it must be transferred into the fridge. The temperature at which a refrigerator operates ( below 8 C) is not suitable for harmful bacteria to grow.
The temperature prevents the growth of harmful contaminants, and the tea ( or any food material) remains intact for a much longer duration of time.
III. Sugar or any other fruits or herbs must not be added into the tea while brewing. Sugar compound or any other extra chemical found in the tea makes it more prone to contamination.
Fruits used in brewing tea gives away into fruit sugars which becomes the easy target for the bacteria to act upon, and the drink gets spoiled much faster.
We must thus keep this in mind. If at all, there are any chances of storing the tea for a longer duration, we must ensure that no sugar is added into the drink. The sugar becomes the first chemical to start rotting in the drink, which might finally be unfit to consume.
What Happens If You Consume The Tea Beyond The Time Limit?
Tea gradually starts to lose its nutrient values with passing time. Longer we decide to postpone drinking our brewed cup of tea, more nutrients it tends to lose. With no visible damage found on the drink, it is probably fit to consume, although a large amount of nutrient content gets compromised.
The taste also degrades to a lot extent. Although the drink remains fit for consumption, the taste and values are diminished to a great extent. It is always advisable to consume the tea within the mentioned time frame.
However, in the case of consumption of a contaminated tea, the effects might be problematic. Contamination in the form of bacterial and fungal mold can cause severe stomach irritations.
The above methods must be kept in mind if you decide to keep the tea that we just brewed for long a duration of time. Now keeping these in mind, let us tackle the above questions.
How Long Is The Tea Actually Fit For Drinking?
The answer is roughly for twenty-four hours without refrigeration and for at least forty-eight to seventy-two hours with refrigeration depending upon how it is stored. Proper storage methods will help keep the tea fit to drink for a much longer duration of time.
Can Tea Be Kept Overnight?
Yes, it can be kept overnight and will still be fit for consumption beyond the limit of eight hours depending upon the storage conditions. Proper storage techniques will boost the time limit for safe drinking of tea. However, one must check for any physical damage appearing on the drink in the form of any visible mold or any foul odor.
How Harmful Can Stale Tea Be For Health?
A stale tea, that is, a tea kept beyond safe storing period with no proper means of storage being used, can be harmful to health.
Drinking this tea can cause severe stomach irritations and other digestion related problems and in its worst cases, diarrhea. But it will always be advisable to consume the tea within safe time periods. If any visible physical damage is observed, the tea must be discarded without any hesitation.
The important factor thus remains the proper storage conditions. Safe storage techniques will ensure a longer duration of fit to drink tea. Ice tea is a growing trend in this generation. Ice tea relies on proper storage techniques being used to maximize the shelf life of the beverage.
It is thus possible to consume tea beyond the prescribed eight-hour mark, but care must be taken in all respect that no physical damage be observed.