Tea is easily one of the most beloved beverages anywhere. Humans have been making tea since 2700 BC, and to date, there are 1000 variants of tea worldwide, and this doesn’t include all the herbal teas that people drink because of their purported health benefits. The most popular tea variants are black, oolong and green.
In the United States, the most popular type of tea is commercial ready-to-drink tea in its various incarnations, and the rest is a tea that has to be steeped to be infused in hot water. Again, the Asia Pacific is the biggest when it comes to tea, with 41% of the total global revenue for tea concentrated in the countries in this region. But the most prominent tea drinkers are still the Brits, with a consumption rate of 68%.
With all these things going for the humble tea, the question remains: what’s tea’s longevity? And can products like iced tea get moldy?
Is There Mold in My Tea?
Picture this – you open your fridge, and you immediately spot something weird and green floating on top of some tea you’ve made a few days or weeks back. You’re sure that this stuff doesn’t happen to beverages like soda, so you’re shocked that it happened to your tea. So what exactly is happening here?
If your tea looks like it has been infested with molds, then yes, it probably has become moldy.
This may be surprising to people who don’t know that fungi are very hardy. While refrigeration may delay the inevitable, molds will try to thrive whenever they can, especially if your fridge is not consistently in eh temperature range that entirely prevents the growth of molds. Let’s not forget that some refrigerators grow molds even with minimal food inside.
Molds are so persistent that all they need is a little bit of air, moisture, and food, and they’re all set to grow. Unfortunately, beverages like tea and coffee possess the essential nutrients that encourage mold growth. The same can be said of any piece of food that you leave in the fridge for days on end. So yes, it’s a bad idea to forget what you put in the refrigerator because go those items in the refrigerator long enough, and they will become moldy.
What Kind of Mold Grows in Tea?
The fungi type that’s most likely found in iced tea and brewed tea comes from the Aspergillus group. Although Aspergillus is relatively common both inside and outdoors, most people inhale fungal spores daily.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid inhaling spores from this mold. It is virtually everywhere. Breathing in Aspergillus isn’t dangerous to persons who have a healthy immune system. Breathing in too much Aspergillus spores, on the other hand, can induce an infection in the sinuses or lungs, which can spread to other regions in persons with compromised immune systems. The prevalence of Aspergillus molds explains why the stuff in the refrigerator still grows molds even if you are meticulous and clean. You can wipe your fridge and your kitchen counters every day, and there would still be mold spores in the air. They’re part of indoor and outdoor spaces, and only with the use of super-powerful filters running 24/7 would you be able to remove them – to a degree.
Can You Drink Moldy Tea?
No, we don’t recommend you drink any tea with molds because of the possibility of mycotoxins. The main thing you have to know about fungi is that they can piggyback on the tea leaves and lie dormant for months or years before being reactivated again with heat and moisture.
Mycotoxins are considered abiotic hazards that can be present on almost any type of crop. Mycotoxins can also occur at different harvest and processing stages, from the cultivation phase at the tea bushes to processing after harvest. Tea leaves can also get moldy or harbor spores that can grow later on when the tea leaves have been improperly stored before further processing and distribution.
One of the main reasons tea leaves are at high risk of getting moldy is that they are usually grown in hot and tropical locations. Heat and humidity are essential for molds, affecting crops grown in this type of clime. Other mold toxins like aflatoxins are also possible when crops are not stored properly.
Mold should not thrive in properly maintained tea bags. All teabags come with instructions to store them in a relaxed, dry environment on the box. Part of the rationale for this is to prevent mold formation. However, mold can only grow if three things are present. You will never get mold on your tea bags if you don’t have any of these three things. To develop any mold, you’ll need the correct temperature, humidity, and ventilation.
Mold can only grow in temperatures ranging from 32°F/0°C to 120°F/49°C. Mold grows best at temperatures around 80°F/27°C, but it can grow in any temperature range.
Mold will not develop at any temperature above or below this. As a result, food kept below the freezing point will never mold. The same may be said for tea. Who, on the other hand, keeps their tea in the freezer? We’re sure only a few people do.
The humidity of your tea bag storage container is the most specific aspect to adjust. A humidity level of 60% will already increase the likelihood of moldy tea bags. Because water droplets can develop on the tea itself at 70%, there is a considerable risk of mold formation.
While you don’t want to store your tea in an environment with too much humidity, you also don’t want to dry it out entirely. The tea will not go bad very soon, but it will lose much of its flavor due to the dryness.
We recommend keeping your tea bags in a room or storage container with a humidity level of 65%. These values strike a balance between extending the life of your tea bags and preserving the flavor of your tea.