It’s essential to enjoy most teas while still fresh, but this is particularly true for matcha. There is more surface area exposed to the environment because the tea leaves are ground into a fine powder. I discovered a long-forgotten tin of matcha and was shocked at the difference in appearance. I wasn’t brave enough to taste it, but I thought this was the perfect opportunity to illustrate what happens when matcha goes bad.
Can Matcha Go Bad?
Storing your tea the right way extends its shelf life, but it does not actually go bad unless there is contamination or mold. That being said, tea that is past its prime will not hurt you or make you sick. It is still important to remember that lightly oxidized teas are less shelf-stable and they will continue to deteriorate over time.
Even with proper storage, there will come a tipping point where the taste and health benefits are no longer the same. One of the main reasons that people drink matcha for its purported health benefits. Antioxidants like EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) begin breaking down within six months of regular home storage.
The taste of tea comes from aromatic compounds that will also degrade over time. I find that there are some teas you can get away with drinking when they are old but matcha is not one of them. Ideally, matcha should be consumed within six months to one year of purchase.
Keep in mind that the tea will start to degrade from the moment that it is opened. Fresh matcha will create a thick layer of froth when whisked. Once your matcha is a bit old you’ll notice that the froth is thinner and harder to create.
Color: deep, vibrant green
Texture: fine and soft to the touch, like talcum powder or eyeshadow
Aroma: vegetal, oceanic, clean
Taste: Grassy, vegetal, creamy, umami.
Froth: Thick, easy to achieve without much effort
Color: olive green or brown, not vibrant
Texture: dry, not as soft or smooth
Aroma: musty, flat
Taste: bitter, sour, unpleasant vegetal notes, lack of umami
Froth: thin, takes a lot of effort
How to Keep Your Matcha Fresh
Here are some things you can do to make sure that your matcha stays at its best for as long as possible.
-Buy high-quality matcha. It should be made in Japan and shade-grown for at least 3-4 weeks before harvest.
-Culinary grade matcha is typically lower quality, so it may not stay fresh as long.
-Do not purchase a matcha that is stored in a clear container. I also do not recommend buying tea from the bulk section of a grocery or heath food store. It is likely to be oxidized before you even bring it home.
-Try to finish your matcha within a few months or so of opening the container. Make whisking a bowl a daily habit so that it does not get forgotten in the back of a cabinet.
-Protect the tea from oxygen, heat, light, and moisture with an airtight container if it did not come in one. Tins are better than bags in my experience.
-Refrigerate your matcha if possible but make sure to keep away from food odors. I keep mine in a small mini-fridge dedicated to storing green tea. Placing the tin inside of a Ziploc bag can help to prevent condensation.
-Avoid buying matcha green tea in bulk. If you do purchase a large amount, portion out some of the tea into a smaller container for daily use to limit the exposure to oxygen.
Have you ever had matcha go bad? How did it taste? Let me know in the comments below!