Silicic volcanic eruptions pose considerable hazards, yet the processes leading to these eruptions remain poorly known. A missing link is knowledge of the thermal history of magma feeding such eruptions, which largely controls crystallinity and therefore eruptability. We have determined the thermal history of individual zircon crystals from an eruption of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand. Results show that although zircons resided in the magmatic system for 103 to 105 years, they experienced temperatures >650° to 750°C for only years to centuries. This implies near-solidus long-term crystal storage, punctuated by rapid heating and cooling. Reconciling these data with existing models of magma storage requires considering multiple small intrusions and multiple spatial scales, and our approach can help to quantify heat input to and output from magma reservoirs.