Unlike loose leaf tea, which won't fit in a bag, the tea in tea bags consists of chopped leaves and dusty particles called fannings. These smaller pieces are more prone to oxidation and turning stale. Your best bet is to buy tea bags in quantities that you think you can use up within six months, so that the flavor and aroma remain strong, and before it becomes a bit more stale after one year. Add a note to the container holding the stored teabags when you bring them home, so you know how long to keep them.
A storage canister can slow oxidation and allow tea bags a longer shelf life. To keep moisture, oxygen and rival smells away from your tea bags, place them in an airtight, preferably metal, container and away from sunlight, heat and high humidity. This may keep the tea fresh for up to two years.
Tea purveyors came up with the six-month guideline for best results, but if you aren't picky and don't want to waste tea bags, you may be able to store them for up to two years. A doctoral dissertation filed with the Department of Human Nutrition of Kansas State University, for example, studied green tea at intervals from three months to two years after the original packing dates. Taste testers found minimal changes after one year and only slightly greater change during the second year of storage.
Further, teas never spoil, so you can experiment with older tea bags -- particularly black leaf -- to see if it still has flavor even after a year or two. If they do make poorly flavored tea, add the tea bags to your compost heap.