What You Should Know About "Best by" Dates

Many people mistakenly think that the "Best by" date is an Expiration Date, but this is not true. Product beyond the "best by" date is NOT "inedible" or "unsafe" in any respect. In fact, except for infant forumla, dating is not an indicator of product safety and is not required by Federal Law.


So what exactly does the "Best by" date really mean when it comes to chai? 

This date is selected by the manufacturer to inform the consumer roughly when a product could be expected to remain in "peak" flavor or ideal condition. As a rule of thumb, in most cases this is specified as 2 years from the date of manufacture. Other manufacturers may choose a shorter time frame -- 18 months or even less.

So first of all, it is rather obvious that the printed "best by" date is somewhat arbitrary to begin with, and not any sort of strict cutoff. It's not good until that date, then suddenly bad afterward. After all, "peak freshness" is a general term and it's measured in years, not days.

But doesn't this inform us that it's deteriorating over time? Well, sure, to some degree. Everything deteriorates over time. The real question is what are those changes and how much does it really matter? Can anyone even detect a difference between 12 month old chai and 25 month old chai? A bit of practical experience may be helpful here...


Let's consider dry mix chai products:

Here at Chai Direct, we routinely taste many of our chai products (well, of course!) and have not yet been able to notice any discernible taste difference between chai pre- "best by" date vs post-date. Particularly, if packaged dry chai mix is stored in a cool, dry environment, it may be enjoyed long after the printed "best by" date, and will retain all the flavor of fresh packed.

How much longer? Hard to say. The rate of  diminishment would have to depend, more than any other factor, on the amount of air sealed in the package, since oxidation is the main cause of aging. 

In any case, it seems that flavor really isn't a problem even significantly post date. And we're rather discerning chai fanatics here, with access to a lot of fresh as well as post-dated product to "dispose of." :)

HOWEVER, there is one common problem that develops with older dry mix chai product, and this is what you will likely notice: It tends to harden and "clump" more, the older it gets. This can make mixing a bit more troublesome. But it must also be noted that clumping is rather unpredictable; some chai mix may clump long BEFORE its "best by" date, while other never will! So, once again, take that "best by" date with a grain of salt, so to speak.

Here is the solution to clumping (whether pre- or post-date): Simply take a mallet of small hammer and tap on the bag to break up any hardened clumps. Also, be aware that mixes always tend to mix easy and faster in hot liquid. So for best results, always heat a small amount of water very hot first, then mix in the powder. The microwave is a good, easy way to achieve this. This approach is particularly helpful to keep in mind when you are making an iced chai latte; heat 1 ounce of water first, mix, then add cold liquid and ice. 


What about liquid chai concentrates? 

Pre-brewed concentrates tend to fair even better over time. In fact, some brewers, like Sattwa and Third Street even AGE their concentrates to evoke a fuller bodied taste. So maybe aged chai is a good thing, like wine? Well, you be the judge. 

On the negative side, older brewed chai concentrate will tend to have more particulate matter settle out of it. So again, after the "best by" date, the main issue boils down to a matter of ease of mixing.


The Bottom Line... What does all this mean to you? 

It means you can get a great deal on clearance chai, which is often a few months or weeks from its "best by" date... at up to 75% OFF!

Just visit our Clearance page to see these amazing deals.