If you’re like me, bringing home bulk organic herbs from your local health food store or ordering them online to save money is a fun way to experience as many herbal teas as possible… but when wondering how to store herbal tea the right way, what really works in keeping your herbs fresh and potent? I’d like to share a few simple tips with you today that will answer your questions and give your herbs, spices, and herbal tea blends the perfect living conditions for success.
If you wild craft or harvest your own herbs for tea, preparation is key. If you put herbs in a jar or bag with even the slightest bit of moisture you are inviting mold, mildew, and break down to occur.
Start by making sure that your herbs are 100%, no questions asked, totally and completely dry. You can hang most herbs up by their stalks and allow them to dry slowly in a warm, shady space for 3-4 days in most climates. You can also lay them on a screen and turn them daily to ensure that they dry evenly on all sides. No matter what drying method you use, be confident that all moisture is out of the herbs before you store them.
To test an herb for dryness, squeeze it between your fingers. If it has a rubbery feel, retains its shape, or breaks, you may need another day of drying. If, however, it crumbles easily into light pieces, you’re good to go!
The best way to enjoy herbal tea is from whole herbs that have not been cut, sifted, or broken up. This is because the more an herb is broken apart, the more surface area is created for oils and other essentials to evaporate or break down. A whole, fully dried herb will have more healing potency, flavor, and aroma even after many months of storage.
When people ask me how to store herbal tea, my answer is always to go for the old-school apothecary style brown or amber glass bottles. These storage solutions not only look really great in any kitchen or pantry, they are designed for success.
If you can’t find or afford these specialty bottles, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting regular canning jars with lids and using them. Clean them out, let them dry completely, and place your herbs inside. Make sure to mark them clearly and store them in a cool, dark, dry place to mimic the effects a dark bottle would offer. I actually use canning jars all the time and stack them in my pantry where I can keep the door shut.
Using a dark color prevents light and some heat from making its way to your herbs, thus protecting and preserving them. Sunshine, light, and other heat can break down your herbs before you know it. The glass material is best since it’s airtight and will keep bacteria, fungus, mold, and bugs from getting to your herbs. Glass jars also prevent one herb from mixing its scent with an herb being stored next to it so that you always have herb purity.
Corks look sweet, but avoid them because they are not airtight. Opt for a professional grade brown or amber glass bottle to store your herbal tea with a plastic lid.
Before adding herbs to a jar, sterilize it with boiling water or your preferred method, then dry thoroughly.
How Long Do Herbs Last?
That depends a lot on how well you prepare them and store them. If you follow the instructions above, you should be able to keep wild crafted, harvested, or supplier-purchased tea herbs for up to a year. It’s a good idea to only take (or buy) as much as you can use within a year.
Use masking tape or a sticker to mark the name of your herb, its Latin name (super helpful!), and the date you put it in the jar. As soon as the herb seems to be losing its aroma or color, add it to your compost bin or put it back in the Earth. Otherwise, use the 1-year mark as a good indicator of when it’s time to replace your stock!
Have a great time harvesting, collecting, preparing, storing, and especially sharing your favorite herbal teas!