Can I Drink This? The Tea Edition
June 5, 2011 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to drink tea made from over-decade-old teabags?

I never thought I'd find myself asking a "should I eat/drink it?" question, but I'd rather not leave the house this late and I need caffeine.

I've got a box of standard-issue Tetley Orange Pekoe teabags that were stored in a Ziploc bag in a dark cupboard. I can't find an best-before date on the box, but there's a promotional offer on that back that was valid until December 2000, so I'm assuming that these teabags weren't purchased more than a year before then. I know that bagged tea should usually be consumed within 18 months or so. I don't expect this tea to taste fresh, but can it still be used to make something drinkable and reviving?
posted by thisjax to Food & Drink (12 answers total)
The flavor wont be as strong as it was a decade ago, the bitterness will be, but they should be perfectly safe. Just make sure they smell roughly like Tetley Orange Pekoe teabags should and so long as it isn't wildly off, go for it if you want to.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:33 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

It won't kill you, but it also won't taste like much. Maybe a little like Ziploc bag. You might get more enjoyment out of plain hot water.
posted by phunniemee at 9:33 PM on June 5, 2011

My mom puts away her stash of kosher for Passover tea each year and takes it out again the next year. Some of the tea has likely been around for >10 years, and no one has suffered ill effects from using it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:34 PM on June 5, 2011

It will probably be stale and less flavorful, but it probably won't hurt you (assuming no moisture got in or anything). As for reviving, you might as well try one and see how it goes. If it tastes good and revives you, drink 'em.
posted by wondermouse at 9:40 PM on June 5, 2011

Seconding blasdelb's suggestion to smell the teabags. If they don't smell like anything, they won't taste like anything.
posted by cabingirl at 9:43 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: I doubt it will taste like anything, but it won't be dangerous.

If it's undrinkable but you don't want to waste it, put it in your green bin, your compost heap, or use it to dye cloth.
posted by maudlin at 9:59 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Would the boiling water be hot enough to kill any mould, etc, that might be lingering about? If so that might be a further factor to safeguard your health.
posted by oxford blue at 10:26 PM on June 5, 2011

Best answer: bagged tea should usually be consumed within 18 months or so

Why? Because it gets stale beyond funny.
[Okay. Tea snob alert] Old tea is an abomination, not necessarily for health reasons (unless it got damp and mildewy, of course) but just because it tastes like nothing on earth. I mean, the stuff you're having there ain't all that great even when new - just okay. Unless you're into culinary self-punishing, let it got already.
posted by Namlit at 3:56 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Safe, but icky.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:43 AM on June 6, 2011

In Ben Franklin's time tea was pressed into hard bricks and shipped over the sea in boats. Then it was shaved off into tea shavings and consumed.

I think your teabags will be fine.
posted by roboton666 at 11:08 AM on June 6, 2011

Aged Oolong teas are highly esteemed and sell for as much as $100 a pound.

From the top to the bottom of the barrel, I recently cleaned out a high closet shelf and found many boxes of tea that had been there at least 10 years. I made a couple of cups and found it tasteless.

Ordinary tea is cheap. Pitch yours and get some fresh.
posted by KRS at 11:42 AM on June 6, 2011

Response by poster: It's been a week -- I drank the tea, and I'm still alive! It tasted like a combination of black tea and sawdust-infused water, and seemed to have no caffeine content left. I think the rest of them headed for eye compresses and my green bin, rather than my belly.
posted by thisjax at 1:16 AM on June 13, 2011

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