How to store Japanese loose leaf tea
Moisture, sunlight, heat, air, and odors!
These are the five evils that damage the taste and fragrance of Japanese tea! The first four evils strip away the aroma, flavors and color of fresh teas while the last, odor, puts unwanted flavors and smells into your tea. If you store your tea near spices, you might end up with curry in your cup.
The only way to store opened tea, other than Matcha, is in a dark, airtight container, in a place with a cool temperature and moisture levels are normal to dry. The chazutsu is your perfect answer!
A tea caddy called chazutsu in Japanese has an internal lid as well as an external lid. The best ones have a metal or wooden internal lid, not a plastic one. A plastic internal lid will fall into the canister and aren’t very airtight. Even a little moisture will affect your tea, so be very careful with boiling water near your opened leaves. In fact, it's best to only open the tea right before you pour on the water.
Oils on your fingers also affect the tea so never touch your leaves with bare hands. Always use a scoop, called chasaji in Japanese. Older Japanese housewives usually shake the tea into the outer lid of the chazutsu, then pour it into the pot.
One of the great debates going on in Japanese households, is do you or don’t you put the foil bag of tea inside the chazutsu? Do you empty the loose leaf tea straight into the tin or do you fold down the bag and stuff it all right in? Both ways are correct! Don’t stuff several foiled packs of different teas in the same canister either, no matter how little is in the opened bag because the aroma of your tea will drastically change. Get several chazutsu, making sure they hold approximately a full bag of tea, usually 100g - 200g. Pouring the leaves straight into the chazutsu allows for easy scooping so many people prefer that method.
Chazutsu will start to smell like the stored tea so make sure it hasn't contained a heavily scented houjicha before putting in a delicate sencha. Instead of washing the chazutsu with water (remember NO moisture!), simply leave it with the lid off for several days to air out. We recommend having several chazutsu in different designs to store different teas so there is never any waiting around.
To enjoy Japanese tea at its best, buy it in very small quantities and use it within a short period of time.