Tea FAQ's

What is the best way to store loose-leaf teas?

It is fresh air, oxygen to be specific, which robs the flavor from loose-leaf teas. Store the teas in an airtight container away from moisture and direct sunlight. Don't store teas in the refrigerator or freezer. The cooler temperatures will not preserve freshness of tea, and moisture and odors from the refrigerator or freezer will give your tea an upleasant taste.

Should tea be kept in the freezer?

No, tea should not be kept in the freezer. There are strong aromas and moisture in your freezer. Tea should be stored in a closed container, out of the light. Remember that tea is a blotter and will absorb strong smells!

Does your tea have an expiration date?

No, our tea does not have an expiration date. We do put lot numbers on our tea, which lets us know when it was produced. We recommend the product be consumed within two years of that date, simply to ensure the best flavor. Of course, we guarantee all of our products, and if you are unhappy with a Harney & Sons product, please let us know.

How much caffeine is in green tea?

It is quite difficult to gauge how much caffeine is in a cup of tea, because it depends on so many factors: the tea itself, how much is used in a cup, and how long it is brewed. But the general rule is a cup of green tea contains about one-third as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.

What is a tea sachet?

Our tea sachets are pyramid-shaped silky nylon bags that are filled with whole-leaf loose tea. The benefit of the pyramid shape is to allow the tea leaves to expand fully, thus allowing the full tea taste to develop.

Is Harney & Sons English Tea?

Well, if the question is whether or not our tea is grown in England, the answer is no. Until recently there was no tea grown in England, due to the climate. Now there is one small garden in Cornwall. However, we do have an English Breakfast Tea, which is 100% Keemun (the original English Breakfast blend). Also, our teas are used in one of London's finest hotels: The Dorchester.

What is the difference between herbal tea and decaffeinated tea?

Decaffeinated tea is tea from which the caffeine has been removed, through one of two possible decaffeination processes. Herbal tea, on the other hand, is not really tea at all, but is herbs brewed in the same way that tea is brewed. Herbals, sometimes referred to as tisanes, never had any caffeine to begin with.

What is an Oolong?

Oolong tea is sometimes referred to as Brown Tea, halfway between a black and green tea. In many respects it is the most complicated tea to make, because the tea is only partially oxidized. That is like keeping a banana perfectly ripe when nature wants to keep moving it toward being overripe. However the reward for all that hard work is tea with great body, and the most intense and varied aroma and flavors.

How about Green and Black teas?

All teas originate from the same species, the Camelia Sinensis. To make green tea, the fresh tea is briefly cooked using either steam or dry heat. This process fixes the green colors and fresh flavors. Black tea leaves are left outside and becomes limp (withered), then put into machines that roll the leaves and damage them. The damaged leaves change color to brown, then black. This natural process is called oxidation and is similar to the ripening of a banana (from yellow to brown and finally becoming black.) After all the tea is dried, it can be shipped great distances. The oxidation process changes the flavor of the tea (now black) and gives it more body.

Are your teas tested for radiation and pesticides?

We all know of the terrible tragedy that happened in Fukashima in 2011. At that time there was evidence that some of the radiation drifted over Tokyo and even went as far as the northern limits of Japan's Shizuoka tea growing area. At that time, the Japanese and US governments set up radiation tests on tea. We also did tests on teas that arrived from south of the affected area. Our tests did not detect any radiation in 2011. 

In 2012, testing continued by the Japanese government. None was detected. The type of radiation that was spread rapidly degrades.

Since 2013, testing has been relaxed. However, recently there has been notice about the radiation leaking from ruined plant. Combined with the lives that have been forever altered by the nuclear explosion, this is a continuing tragedy. However, unless there is another explosion, and radiation drifts over the tea growing area, tea is not affected. 

If you feel that you would like to be sure, I would counsel to choose teas from the Uji area, which is several hundred miles south. That is several hundred miles south. There was never any radiation detected there. That would be Matsuda's, Organic Sencha, Yanagi, and Gyokuro. Also the most southern area of Japan: Kagoshima was very far south.

We do test our large tea purchases for pesticide residues and they do not exceed the stringent EU limits. We do offer certified organic teas that are certified organic under the USDAs National Organic Program. That means that the growers do not use banned pesticides or artificial fertilizers on the plants. Just to be sure, we test them too. This program is designed to insure that there are not any pesticide problem.

Do your teas have GMOs?

One does not find GMOs in tea, Genetically modified organisms are found mostly on big cash crops like corn or soy. We will be registering as a GMO free organization later this year.

How is your tea flavored?

We do offer a wide variety of teas: some have no flavors added, some use 100% natural flavors, and some are a blend of natural and artificial flavors. Since there is no evidence that these blended flavors pose a risk, we have no problem using them. We do understand that some people like to avoid them, so that is why we offer a variety of certified organic teas only containing 100% natural flavors (or unflavored teas).