Tea leaves are often left untouched at houses for long duration. When discovered later, the leaves are put in suspicion regarding the safety of the tea. Whether the tea leaves are fit for consumption is a matter of doubt.
Can tea get moldy? The answer is, yes; tea can get moldy. Like any other farm product, tea leaves can develop molds when exposed to moisture. The moisture can facilitate the growth of fungi which in turn can spoil the tea leaves beyond consumption. However, if stored correctly, it is highly unlikely to get damaged.
Tea is the second most consumed liquid in this world, right after water. With growing popularity comes severe criticism. Critics throughout history have always found ways to demean any new trend that comes along. No wonder, with the rising popularity of tea, critics have always put tea under scrutiny. Questions have come along not only regarding the health benefits of the drink but also about the safety issues that arise with drinking it.
The questions that come spiraling into our minds is, can tea get bad? Can tea get moldy? If yes, how and when can it get moldy? How harmful can this moldy tea become for us? The answer to this has something to do about how tea is originated, how it gets manufactured and how it finally gets its place at our kitchen shelves.
What Are Tea Molds?
Well, molds are a type of fungus. These organisms can be black, green or purple and can be found everywhere. These organisms reproduce more in the presence of moisture. According to studies, certain fungi like Aspergillus, Penicillium, Mucor, Absidia, Cladosporium, Trichoderma etc., were detected more on tea leaves. Therefore, if mishandled, mold infestation can occur in the tea leaves we consume. But how common is this? Let us look into these matters.
Tea originates from a shrub named Camellia Sinensis. The leaves from this plant are plucked, harvested and finally processed into the tea leaves that we use for brewing our cup of tea. There are mainly two methods in which we process the tea into a final product. However, regardless of the method involved in making the tea leaves, it is always prone to bacterial or fungal attacks.
That being said, we should know that the tea gardens that manufacture tea leaves, or the company that finally packs the final product, everyone takes enough precautionary measures to ensure that the safest quality of tea is delivered to us.
Processes Involved In Manufacturing Of Tea
Tea manufacturing involves certain processes. The leaves are first plucked using either a machine or traditionally, by using hand. The leaves are then sorted according to the quality and size. The leaves are then usually sun-dried and then sent for processing. Separate methods of processing take place. Finally, the desired quality of tea leaves is obtained.
These are then sorted and kept into separate bags or cartons. Each of the steps involved in the production brings with it a considerable amount of chances of contamination. Tea production usually denies the use of chemical fertilizers. There are thus always high chances of the tea plant being infected by contaminants. Pests or insects might attack the plant giving rise to certain bacterial or fungal contamination. Molds can be formed through these contamination.
The following step of sun-drying leaves might not get rid of the infestation. Sun-drying leaves probably cannot be a foolproof method of getting rid of the molds. Faulty methods involved during processing the tea leaves might also lead to the tea leaf absorbing a certain amount of moisture directly from the atmosphere. The moisture can give rise to molds.
Finally, even during the storage, there are still chances of the tea leaves getting exposed to moisture and absorbing it to form molds. Definitely, like any other farming method, the production process of tea manufacture can always lead to the formation of undesirable substances like tea molds.
What Are The Chances Of Moldy Tea Being Produced?
According to studies, only a very minor fraction of the tea leaves get infected during the process of production. Every tea garden uses extra cautious steps to ensure it can produce the highest quality, mold-free tea. Tea plants with antibacterial and anti-fungal properties are chosen. These plants can naturally resist the formation of molds. Methods of drying mostly nowadays involve pre-drying the leaves with heat to ensure any remaining contaminants gets killed instantly.
Even during the process of production, high-efficiency dehumidifiers are used again and again in every step. These machines ensure no amount of moisture remains during the process. The storage is done very carefully with expert supervision to ensure no faulty methods get involved during the process. The key to safe production remains the need to dehumidifiers, and every tea factory and garden invests a huge sum of money in making sure the entire process remains safe.
Finally, every unit of the manufactured tea is thoroughly quality checked over and over to make sure no unit of the contaminated tea leaf is sent to the consumers. A quality product is an essential factor during the production of tea. No wonder every factory is ready to invest a huge slice of their profit to ensure only the best quality tea is delivered!
The following steps of transportation remains a big challenge as well. There are always possibilities of products getting mismanaged during transportation. But again, this is highly unlikely. Tea leaves are very sensitive products and thus are given very high priority delivery status.
Extra steps are taken even during transportation to ensure the safest quality management of the delicate tea leaves. It is safe to assume almost all the tea delivered to us are the top-notch contamination-free product!
Quality concerns arise even when you go for the purchase of tea leaves. Since tea leaves are very prone to contamination through moisture, it is therefore always a bit risky to tackle the leaves. But to be fair, every farming product is always prone to some damage with bacterias and fungus. But care is taken in every step to ensure the safest quality of tea is delivered to you.
How safe is it? Well, to be fair, if you do not find any visible damage in the tea leaves you purchase, or no foul odor coming out of it, it is safe. Only a very minor fraction of the tea leaves circulated around the market is usually infected, and even in the worst case, it is easily detectable and replaceable. You can always be sure of the tea leaves you purchase.
The question regarding the mold still remains after you purchase it. What if the tea leaves get damaged after it is purchased? How to effectively store the leaves to make sure the leaves are free from any form of mold? Yes, the answer has to do with how the storage is done in such a case.
Well, tea leaves can develop molds if not stored properly. Therefore, it becomes essential to ensure the storage of the tea leaves is done properly. Certain steps can be followed to make sure you can keep your tea mold-free for a much longer time.
Steps To Be Followed For Longer Shelf Life.
I. Keep the tea leaves in an air-tight container. Make sure you transfer the tea leaves into an air-tight container (preferably of steel, or glass) right after you purchase it. Make sure the container has a lid. The air-tight medium prevents the tea leaves from absorbing any atmospheric moisture and thus remain tender and fresh for a much longer period of time.
II. Keep the container away from any damp place. You must definitely ensure the container is kept at a place which is dry. Tea leaves being very sensitive to moisture, and it is always possible for the leaves to absorb water from the surroundings. Keep the container in a dry place to extend its shelf life.
III. Clean the container containing the tea leaves once in a while. Empty the contents into a clean bowl, and just dry clean the container with a cloth. Make sure the container is absolutely free from any bit of water, and then pour the leaves back into the container and seal it off again.
Simple steps such as these can increase the shelf life of the tea leaves for a much longer duration of time. The only way your tea leaves are prone to the growth of molds is by absorbing any sort of moisture from the surroundings. If this is prevented, your tea leaves are good to go for years without getting spoiled!
There have been questions regarding the quality issues of tea leaf being produced by the orthodox method. There have been suggestions to replace the normal tea that we buy with organic mold-free teas. Claims such as “Guaranteed mold-free tea” have been made. How valid are these doubts? Well, tea manufactured using any method, of any quality is equally susceptible to mold infestations.
Organic teas are generally more prone to mold infestations as no chemical pest control solutions are sprayed. The suggestion for allergic people to go for organic tea is therefore not valid. Loose tea, packed tea, instant tea even tea bags are equally likely to get molds. There definitely is no exception in any regard depending upon varieties of tea leaves.
The claims made by companies regarding the mold-free operation is based completely upon how well they supervise the process of production. They make sure the process of production goes as clean as possible to ensure maximum safety of their product. So, every tea leaf that we encounter is equally likely to be infected regardless of the method involved during the production of tea.
But how likely is it? As it has been mentioned before, only a tiny fraction of the total tea leaves produced can be affected by molds. It is thus highly unlikely. So, let’s try to answer the previous questions now.
Can Tea Get Bad?
Yes, it can. Like any other farm product, it can go bad over time. But since tea leaves are dry herbs, it is highly unlikely. If the leaves are stored properly, the tea leaves can be fit for consumption for years!
Can the tea get moldy? Yes, it can. But we did see that the chances are very rare. As long as you ensure you store the leaves properly, there is hardly any possibility of it getting molds. You can be certain that the tea leaves you purchased is free from any molds.
How And When Can It Get Moldy?
The answer lies completely upon storage. If the tea leaves are stored in an air-tight container and in a dry place, there is hardly any possibility of it getting spoiled. Make sure you store the leaves as cleanly and as efficiently as possible. Then, it is good to go for years! However, the tea leaves you want to consume is fairly old, check for any visible signs of molds.
Molds are relatively easy to spot. If the tea leaves get a whitish texture, chances are, it is infected. Also, check for any foul odor emerging from the leaves. If any visible damage is observed, or it gives rise to any foul odor, you may want to discard the tea leaves.
How Harmful Can This Moldy Tea Become?
The moldy tea should be discarded. If at all, it is consumed, do not panic, molds in very small quantity will not be very harmful to the body. However, if larger quantities in consumed, it might cause stomach upset, and in severe cases, diarrhea.