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Tea is a great choice to serve at parties, weddings, or when you’re entertaining a small group of guests in your home. However, understanding how long tea can sit out is paramount for everyone’s safety and enjoyment.

As an experienced host and party planner, in this post I share my top tips for serving iced tea, brewed green and black tea, as well as sun tea to guests. 

I have tips and how-to ideas below that will help you easily serve delicious tea at your next party.

glass of tea for how long can tea set out

Top Questions For Serving Iced Tea At A Party

Tea is a great choice to serve at parties; it’s inexpensive, and most of your guests will be tea drinkers. There are a few safety measures to take when making tea for a party, however.

How long does brewed tea last at room temperature?

The short answer is, don’t store tea for more than 8 hours at room temperature. If you left your tea out at room temperature overnight or longer than 8 hours, it would be best to discard it. It’s not worth the risk if tea is left out overnight.

Can you freeze premade tea?

Here is a good idea. If you need to make a large amount of tea for a party, wedding, or another event, try making it ahead and freezing it. On the day of the party, defrost in a warm pan or microwave. It can keep fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months.

How long does brewed tea last in the refrigerator?

Tea is at its optimal flavor if stored in the refrigerator for one day. However, it remains good for up to 3 days.

Tips For Making Great Tasting Tea For A Party

how long can tea set out with picture of someone brewing tea

It’s easy to make a big batch of regular tea for a party. Start with a good quality tea that has plenty of time on the expiration date.

How Much Tea To Serve At A Party

Estimate one drink per person per hour of the event. So, if the party is three hours long, plan on each person having around three tea servings. That doesn’t mean each person will have that many drinks; some will have more, and some will have less. This is just a good average estimation.

Here is a guide for how much tea to serve a crowd with a breakdown of cup or glass serving sizes.

GallonCup SizeCup ExamplePractical Number
of Servings
1 gallon
128 ounces
6 ouncesSmall paper or
china teacup
20
1 gallon
128 ounces
8 ouncesMedium paper
or tea mug
15-16
1 gallon
128 ounces
10 ouncesWater glass or
1 can of soda
12
1 gallon
128 ounces
12 ouncesTall glass9-10

Make your ice tea festive for the party, serve with glasses full of ice cubes and a wedge of lemon on the rim or sprig of mint in the glass.

How To Prevent Cloudy Tea

If you have the time before serving, allow the freshly brewed hot tea to cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge to chill. This prevents the brewed tea from clouding and serves up a clean glass of iced tea.

Does adding baking soda to tea make it last longer?

A pinch of baking soda makes a world of difference in a pitcher of freshly brewed sweet tea, neutralizes the tannins in black tea, giving it a smoother taste. This same trick works to take the bitterness out of green tea as well; you can add a teeny pinch to a mug of hot tea as it’s steeping. However, it does not make your tea stay fresh longer.

How to make brewed tea last longer

  • Start with freshly dried tea leaves.
  • Tea will last longer if put in the refrigerator right after brewing. Do keep in mind that the cold does slow bacteria and chemical decomposition down, but only to a degree. Some bacteria types can grow when the temp gets to 5 C/41 F, so make sure your fridge is set below that.
  • Keep your tea covered so air-born bacteria can not land in your tea.
  • A great way to keep tea fresh is by storing it in a glass container such as mason jars in the refrigerator.

Safety Tips For Serving Tea At A Party

How to know if your tea has gone bad

  • You notice a pungent smell coming from your tea, or it doesn’t smell the same when first brewed
  • You find mold on top of your tea
  • All flavor and smell is gone from the tea

Is my tea bad if it is cloudy?

Cloudiness in tea is caused by caffeine and tannins bonding with each other when the tea is refrigerated or iced. The hotter the original brewing water, the more caffeine and tannins are extracted from the tea leaves, and the murkier the beverage will be. Though it may not be very attractive, it does not change the tea’s flavor, so it’s still fine to drink.

Does sweet tea or unsweet tea last longer?

 Sugar is that it breaks down the tea much faster over time. If you add fruits or fruit juice to sweeten your tea, it can make the tea go bad quicker.

Which lasts longer, cold brew or hot brew tea?

Using hot water to brew your tea is apparently more sensitive to bacteria and will go bad faster than cold-brew tea.

If you want to be sure your tea keeps longer, try brewing it cold. If you brew it hot, it will still keep, but there will be almost an entire day’s longevity difference when using proper storage conditions.

Does green tea stay fresher than black tea?

It does not matter the type of tea used for freshness. The key is to keep tea in the refrigerator after it is brewed.

Is sun tea safe to make?

According to the CDC, “The practice of making ‘sun tea’ also called cold brew tea by steeping tea bags in a container of water in the sun may increase the risk of bacteria growing in it compared to brewing tea at higher temperatures. If you do make sun tea be sure to not steep more than 4 hours and refrigerate when done brewing.

Sun Tea Mason Jar Glass Beverage Dispenser with Lid

Recommendations for brewing iced tea safely

There are a few simple steps to keeping your brewed tea fresh.

  • Be sure to start with fresh, dried tea.
  • Wash your hands before handling items used to make the tea.
  • Be sure your tea kettle, string spoons, and pitcher are very clean.
  • Iced tea should be brewed at 195 F for 3-5 minutes.
  • For the freshest tea, use it within 8 hours from brewing time.
  • If you realized you left sweet tea out overnight, throw it out.
  • Brewing iced tea at an appropriate temperature in a thoroughly cleaned container and limiting the time held at room temperature before serving will minimize bacterial contamination risk.

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