The Truth Behind a Common Tea Myth
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All tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant, whether black, green, oolong, or white teas. The tea leaves naturally contain caffeine, which means decaffeinated tea has gone through a process to remove the caffeine from the leaves. If you’re trying to cut caffeine but still enjoy a cup of tea, you may be wondering if you can make your own decaf tea at home.
For some time, there has been a DIY method claiming you can turn regular tea into decaf by “rinsing” it with hot water before brewing. Even a number of tea experts were teaching people that it is a viable option to naturally reduce the caffeine content in green, black, and white teas. This seemingly simple at-home decaffeination trick does have some appeal; however, this may be more of a myth than anything based on scientific reality.
DIY Decaf Tea
For a number of years, the recommendation was to make decaffeinated tea with a hot water “rinse” using a method that went something like this:
First, bring your water to a boil. Then, pour it over your tea leaves and steep for about [20, 30, 45] seconds. Pour off and discard the water and then brew the tea as you normally would. You have just removed [50, 75, 80, 90] percent of the caffeine, but kept most of the antioxidants and flavor.
Sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, it is.
Commercially Made Decaf Tea
To put this into perspective, you need to understand how decaffeinated tea is produced. Commercially, tea producers use a few different methods to extract caffeine. They involve complex processes that include ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide (CO2), or methylene chloride—don’t worry, the tea leaves are rinsed thoroughly after each. With the first two methods, the finished teas are 99.6 percent caffeine-free. (It’s important to realize that decaf tea and coffee are never completely free of caffeine.)
That’s some pretty heavy chemistry to get to a nearly caffeine-free product while still retaining the tea’s flavor. So now it may seem highly unlikely that simply running under hot water would perform the same task. Hot water alone cannot stand up to this measure; it will leave some amount of caffeine and severely degrade the taste.
The Truth Behind DIY Decaf
Science has not only disproven the idea that you can make naturally decaffeinated tea with a hot water rinse but also, worse yet, studies have shown that this kind of preparation method removes many of the antioxidants.
While some of the caffeine is removed from tea leaves during an infusion, the time the leaves are left in the boiling water is not long enough to make a significant difference in the caffeine level. According to a test conducted by Bruce Richardson, a well-known tea expert, and Dr. Bruce Branan, Professor of Chemistry at Asbury University, it takes 6 minutes to remove 80 percent of the caffeine in loose leaf teas. A 3-minute infusion reduced the caffeine to 70 percent, depending on the type of tea. Within that time, however, you are loosing all of the flavors and healthy components of tea.
Skeptical? Try brewing a loose leaf tea a second time after a normal 5-minute brew and see how it tastes. Chances are that it will be very dull and disappointing, thin and watery, negating the joy of drinking tea in the first place. Even so, many people who were fooled by the myth of home decaffeination continue to rinse their tea, despite evidence to the contrary.
Lower-Caffeine Tea Options
With any of these methods, it’s entirely possible to enjoy the experience of drinking tea without all the extra caffeine. It’s far more reliable than trying to decaffeinate it yourself, which is important if you are counting on the health benefits of tea.
You can try a naturally caffeine-free herbal tea (which doesn’t really contain tea) instead. Unless it is blended with tea leaves, these tisanes will not contain caffeine. Rooibos tea is another caffeine-free option that offers a complex flavor many tea lovers enjoy.
If you are okay with a beverage that is almost caffeine-free, select a tea that is naturally low in caffeine, such as a white tea from Fujian or a “twig tea” like Hojicha or Kukicha. You can also opt for tea blends that contain caffeine-free herbs in lieu of some of the tea, such as Moroccan mint or masala chai.
For a more straightforward approach, you can buy commercially decaffeinated teas. You will just want to pay attention to the labels so you are aware of how much caffeine you’re drinking. Another alternative, which may be challenging if tea is your beverage of choice, is to consider drinking less tea overall—drink better quality tea and savor each sip.
Your Complete Guide to How Decaffeinated Tea is Produced
Caffeine occurs naturally in tea. For tea to be considered decaffeinated, the caffeine has to be removed. The tea industry uses 3 main methods to remove caffeine from tea leaves. Tea makers choose either the Carbon Dioxide, Ethyl Acetate or Methylene Chloride method. The method you prefer is a personal decision.
First, an important distinction. Decaffeinated tea and caffeine-free tea are not the same. Decaffeinated tea is made from actual tea leaves. All of the caffeine can never be removed from tea leaves and a small amount of caffeine remains, usually under 2%.
Meanwhile, caffeine-free teas are not made with actual tea leaves and do not contain any caffeine. The teas are herbal and include such varieties as chamomile, mint, hibiscus, rooibos and the like. Herbal teas really are 100% caffeine-free because they are made with herbs, spices and similar items and do not contain any actual tea leaves.
In the US, federal regulations dictate that decaffeinated products must have less than 2.5% caffeine. Most decaffeinated teas contain less than this amount.
Tea is more delicate than coffee so caffeine removal has to be done with caution. Since tea companies do not put the decaffeination method on the package, it can be difficult to find out. At teadog.com, we have obtained this information and included the decaffeination method for every tea we offer.
Carbon Dioxide Method
The Carbon Dioxide, or CO2, method is used only by a few brands. Clipper Tea, from England, is perhaps the best known proponent of the CO2 method. Clipper is one of the very rare tea makers to produce an organic and CO2 decaffeinated tea. Taylors of Harrogate uses it for their Decaf Breakfast, but not for their Yorkshire Decaf, and it is not organic.
Actually, CO2 is the most natural of the three main decaffeination methods. Carbon Dioxide gives sparkling water its bubbles. Because CO2 is a naturally occurring element, it is the most ecologically-friendly method because no chemical solvents are used. But it is more expensive to decaffeinate teas with this method. Tea makers that use CO2 believe the method best maintains the natural flavor of tea. It is not the most popular decaffeination method, partly because of the cost.
In this method, tea leaves are combined with CO2 and brought to high temperature and high pressure. At this point, caffeine molecules in the tea become attracted to the CO2 and then removed. Caffeine molecules are small and flavor molecules are larger, which means the tea taste remains. For this reason, CO2 decaffeinated teas are believed to have the best tea flavor.
Ethyl Acetate Method
Next, the ethyl acetate method is used by such brands as Builders Tea, Thompsons Tea and Twinings. Often, teas decaffeinated using ethyl acetate are called naturally decaffeinated. The term is used because ethyl acetate is naturally found in many fruits. But, it is also used in nail polish remover among other items. Although it does occur naturally, the ethyl acetate used to decaffeinated tea is chemically manufactured.
Is the ethyl acetate process actually natural? You need to judge for yourself. The actual ethyl acetate decaffeination method is the same as used in methylene chloride.
Methylene Chloride Method
The final decaffeination process uses methylene chloride. Also known as dichloromethane, methylene chloride is the most controversial decaffeination method. Some countries do not allow teas to be decaffeinated with this process. Whether you consider it to be safe is an individual decision.
In addition to being used to decaffeinate tea, methylene chloride is used in industrial processes, such as paint stripping, pharmaceutical manufacturing, paint remover manufacturing, metal cleaning and degreasing, adhesives manufacturing, and polyurethane foam production.
In the UK, for example, methylene chloride is by far the most popular method and used in 99% of decaffeinated teas, according to Infre , a Swiss firm that patented this process and is the main supplier of decaf tea to the British market.
The Methylene Chloride process is used by brands like Bewleys, Barrys, King Cole, Marks & Spencer, Miles Tea, PG Tips, Ringtons, Typhoo, Yorkshire and Welsh Brew. In this method, the tea leaves are submerged in methylene chloride. The caffeine molecules bond to the chemical and are removed. Then, the flavors and oils in the water are returned to the tea.
Proponents of methylene chloride believe it offers the best taste and maintains more of the original tea flavor than other methods. Proponents also believe it is safe since almost all of the methylene chloride is removed during the decaffeination process.
European Union rules require traces of methylene chloride in decaffeinated tea to be under 5 parts per million. Most British tea makers have levels of 3 parts per million, which translates to 0.0004005794137133 ounces per gallon. Some British tea makers have levels of 2 parts per million.
According to Berkeley Wellness of the University of California , no evidence exists of any dangers to humans drinking tea decaffeinated with the methylene chloride process.
Additionally, methylene chloride becomes a gas at 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Since tea is prepared with boiling water at 212 degrees Fahrenheit any remaining traces of methylene chloride evaporate.
Many myths surround the methylene chloride method. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved it for use in decaffeination. FDA rules limit methylene chloride to less than 10 parts per million, which is .001% of the final product. This translates to .008 of an ounce in a 8 ounce cup of tea. The FDA states that methylene chloride can be present under specific conditions (click on image above).
Is it true that you can decaffeinate tea at home by steeping it for 45 seconds, throwing away the brewed tea and then steeping the tea bag again? I’ve read about this but then heard that it is false. What’s your view?
I wish this were true, and until recently I thought it was and had recommended the process to others. Unfortunately, this method turns out to be just another myth, one that has fooled even some tea experts. In fact, it would take five minutes of steeping leaves to remove 80 percent of the caffeine in brewed tea.
You can buy commercially decaffeinated tea, but one of the methods in use relies on the solvent ethyl acetate and removes most of tea’s beneficial polyphenols. The better method, called “effervescence” uses only water and carbon dioxide and retains 95 percent of the polyphenols. Be sure to check labels to see which process was used. If it isn’t specified, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer to find out.
You should know that tea has much less caffeine than coffee to begin with – on average, 45 to 60 milligrams per cup of black and white teas, 35-45 mg for oolong and 15-20 mg for green tea. A cup of coffee contains 125-185 mg of caffeine.
The numbers I’m citing here are only rough approximations. In fact, the amount of caffeine in tea depends on a number of factors including where the tea was grown, the type of tea plant, the time of year the tea leaves were picked among other variables. If you want more information about caffeine in tea, I suggest reading this article: “Caffeine and Tea: Myth and Reality,” by Nigel Melican, one of the world’s leading tea authorities.
Most avid coffee drinkers are shifting towards drinking tea. It isn’t surprising considering the benefits of drinking tea. We all know tea does naturally contain caffeine.
However, teas can be stripped of their caffeine content. We have all heard of decaf coffee, and decaf tea works the same.
Regardless, there are still some skeptics regarding decaf tea, whether it exists, and the method behind its making. After all, we all know not everyone is trying to get a caffeine kick first thing in the morning.
How is decaf tea made?
Decaffeinated tea is made using four primary methods. The most popular procedure is by using ethyl acetate. The next most natural way is to use carbon dioxide. There’s also the method of using water or methylene chloride. The last two methods aren’t popular but still remain one of the few ways.
Decaffeination using hot water
Although not a primary method of decaffeination, it is still frequently used because of its ease. However, this method is the least effective out of all the methods known to man.
Decaffeination using hot water requires the tea to be soaked in hot water for a long time. Later the water is passed through a carbon filter. This step is essential in removing the caffeine content. The solution extracted is then re-introduced to the tea to absorb flavor and aroma following the carbon filter.
This method is rarely used by long-time tea drinkers and tea masters as it is notoriously known to produce a watered-down version of the original tea. Moreover, this process is not commonly used to produce decaf coffee.
Decaffeination by using carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring element in our environment. There is an abundance of it. Hence using CO2 to decaffeinate tea will never be an issue in terms of supply shortage.
It is worth noting that the use of CO2 is the only approved “certified” decaffeination method in the market. The use of carbon dioxide is not only the most popular method of decaffeinating tea. It is also the most eco-friendly one.
Since it is a natural decaffeination method, it better retains the tea’s flavor, aroma, and health benefits compared to the other three methods.
How decaffeination through the use of carbon dioxide works is simple.
This method employs infusing water with carbon dioxide in a pressure cooker like concussion. In this pressure cooker, the carbon dioxide reaches a state known as “supercritical,” here, the CO2 essentially converts into a solvent.
The solvent carbon dioxide is a small, non-polar molecule that attracts the caffeine molecules from the tea and binds with them.
High temperatures and pressures are required to convert the carbon dioxide gas to a solvent which can only be achieved through this method.
Decaffeination using methylene chloride
The use of methylene chloride for decaffeinating tea is termed the chemical solvent method.
Methylene chloride is also known as dichloromethane and is considered the most unsafe method for decaffeinating tea. In fact, some countries restrict the use of this component for decaffeination.
Besides being used for making decaf tea, methyl chloride is also used in industrial productions for paint stripping, paint removal, metal cleaning, pharmaceutical products, metal degreasing, and polyurethane foam manufacturing.
The process of decaffeination through methyl chloride requires soaking the tea leaves directly or indirectly into to chemical.
The caffeine molecules from the tea leaves seep out and bind with the methyl chloride molecules through this method. The flavors and oils left behind, which do not attach to the methyl chloride, are then extracted.
Although deemed the most unsafe, this method retains the best flavor and aroma in the tea compared to the other available methods.
There is still debate on whether using methyl chloride is dangerous or not since the component evaporates at temperatures of 104°F (40°C) and tea is boiled at 212°F (100°C).
Decaffeination u sing ethyl acetate
Teas that are decaffeinated using ethyl acetate are termed as “naturally decaffeinated.” The reason why the use of ethyl acetate is considered natural is that the molecule is present naturally in many fruits.
The method of using ethyl acetate to make decaffeinated tea is similar to using methyl chloride. The tea leaves are introduced into the solution containing ethyl acetate. The caffeine molecules are attracted to and bind with the ethyl acetate molecules.
Lastly, the oils and flavor from the water are then put back into the tea. This method is more popularly used to produce decaffeinated tea in tea bags rather than loose leaf tea.
Although considered a natural method of decaffeinating tea, ethyl acetate is also used in non-food item production, such as in nail polish removers.
How is decaf tea brewed?
Brewing decaf tea is no rocket science. In fact, the process is similar to brewing your regular cup of tea. The ingredients required for brewing decaf tea include water, decaf tea of your choice, sugar, or sweetener if you are diabetic (according to preference).
First, you would need to bring the water to a boil to about 212°F (100°C). The temperature may vary depending on the tea you are brewing. Once the water is at the desired temperature, you need to add the tea leaves or tea bag and leave to brew for 4-5 minutes.
The last step is to add sugar or sweetener as per your desire or skip it altogether. And voila! The perfect cup of decaf tea is ready. Let it be known that even though various methods of decaffeination, there will still be some caffeine left in your decaf (approximately 2.5mg)
Frequently asked questions about decaf tea
Is decaffeinated the same as caffeine-free tea?
Although these two terms are used interchangeably, they aren’t synonymous. Decaffeinated tea still has minimal traces of caffeine, whereas caffeine-free tea contains zero amount of caffeine, including herbal teas.
Coffee and tea are both widely appreciated for both their flavor and their caffeine content. Caffeine’s virtues as a stimulant are known and cherished by every coffee or tea drinker, but it’s not an unmixed blessing. Too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, anxiety and unpleasantly jittery feelings, which is why most major brands offer decaffeinated varieties. Tea drinkers also share a widespread belief that it’s possible to make “decaf” tea from regular tea bags. That is a myth, unfortunately, but you can at least reduce the quantity of caffeine in your cup.
The “decaf your own” myth has a number of versions, but they all follow the same pattern. Eighty to 90 percent of the caffeine in the leaf is released during the first 30, 45 or 60 seconds — depending on who you believe — of steeping, the story goes. If you pour away that first brew, then add fresh hot water and steep the leaves again, you’ll have a substantially caffeine-free beverage. Even when taken at face value, this isn’t really decaffeination. It would leave 10 to 20 percent of the caffeine in your cup, while commercially decaffeinated tea loses 98 percent of its caffeine.
In laboratory testing that “first 60 seconds” theory simply doesn’t hold up. When steeped for one, three and five minutes under controlled circumstances. teas varied widely in their caffeine content. Some test samples did indeed give up most of their caffeine in the first minute, but the majority did not. In practice, pouring away your tea after a minute’s steeping will usually remove no more than 50 to 60 percent of the caffeine and frequently less.
Leaving half or more of the original caffeine in your cup doesn’t leave it decaffeinated, but it does represent a substantial drop. If you’re watching your caffeine intake, and decaf tea isn’t available, you might still opt to try the method. Its downside is obvious: Along with the caffeine, you’ll be washing away much of the tea’s flavor.
If you decide to give the pour-off technique a try, it’s a simple process.
Place a tea bag in your mug, one or more in your teapot, or the usual quantity of loose leaves in your infuser.
Pour in hot water at the appropriate temperature for your tea. Regular black tea, for example, requires water at just under the boiling point.
Infuse the tea for one minute, then pour it out. Heat your water back to its original temperature, and refill the pot.
Steep until the tea reaches your preferred strength.
You probably already know that all tea leaves naturally contain caffeine. However, depending on their oxidation level, there is more or less caffeine in them. Black teas, with the most oxidized tea leaves, have the highest level of caffeine. That level goes down in the less oxidized oolong, green and white teas.
However, our civilization has also found ways to decaffeinate tea leaves so that people who are sensitive to caffeine or people who love to have a cuppa in the late afternoon can enjoy. All types of tea can be decaffeinated, but most commonly you may find decaf black and green tea.
Decaffeinated Tea vs Caffeine-Free Teas
Often interchanged, these two terms are not synonyms. You must know that decaf teas are different than caffeine-free teas. Decaffeinated teas actually still have a little bit of caffeine left in them although the amount is very, very minimal (usually 2 mg of caffeine per cup). While the caffeine-free teas naturally don’t contain any caffeine. These are normally herbal tisanes like mint tea, rooibos, chamomile, etc.
How Is Tea Decaffeinated? Discover the Different Tea Decaffeination Methods.
There are four methods of tea decaffeination: methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, and water processing. Here, we’ve shortly explained how each of them works and what the effect of the process is on the tea and tea flavour.
- Methylene Chloride: Using this method, caffeine is removed by soaking tea leaves in methylene chloride directly or indirectly, by soaking the water (used to remove the caffeine) in methylene chloride and then returning the water to the tea for re-absorption of flavors and oils. It is a decaffeination process by which the molecules of caffeine bond to molecules of methylene chloride. It is believed that methylene chloride is not the best possible and healthiest method of decaffeinating, although this process is noted for maintaining more of the original flavor of the tea than other methods. It is forbidden to import teas treated this way in some countries.
- Ethyl Acetate: Tea processed using ethyl acetate is often referred to as “naturally decaffeinated” because ethyl acetate is a chemical found naturally in tea. The solution also used as a solvent where caffeine is extracted in the same way as with methylene chloride processing. Harney & Sons are using this method for decaffeinating tea bags as tea tastings and customer feedback has shown that this is a preferred method for the tea bags. Loose tea and tea sachets on the other hand are being decaffeinated using the Carbon Dioxide method described below.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Tea Decaffeination: This is the method that Harney & Sons use to decaffeinate their loose teas and tea sachets. It is also known as a natural method of decaffeination that allows for retaining the tea flavours and health benefits. How tea leaves are normally treated with this method is basically “pressure cooking” them with this naturally occurring gas. At high pressure and high temperature, carbon dioxide reaches the so called super-critical state where CO2 becomes a solvent and with its small, non-polar molecules it attracts the small caffeine molecules and removes them from the tea leaves. Since flavor molecules are larger, they remain intact, which is why this process best retains the flavor of the tea.
- Water Processing Decaffeination: Caffeine extraction with water is not a primary way for tea decaffeination. In fact it is more popular as a coffee decaffeination method, although a small amount of tea products are decaffeinated using this method. After the caffeine is removed from the tea by soaking the tea in hot water for a period of time, the solution is passed through a carbon filter for caffeine removal. The water is then returned to the tea for re-absorption of flavors and oils. People who have tried water processing decaffeinated tea describe the flavours as “watered down”.
If you are sensitive to caffeine or would like to reduce your caffeine daily consumption, implementing Harney & Sons decaffeinated teas or herbal tisanes in your tea selection may be a good idea.
Most of us tea lovers crave a satisfying cup of the real thing (as opposed to the herbal variety) in the evening; however, we avoid such an indulgence because caffeine tends to disrupt sleep. Decaffeinated options are available, but how do they taste? Is the decaffeination process safe, and how effective is it?
Can You Decaffeinate Tea Yourself?
Do-it-yourself instructions for decaffeinating tea are widely available on the Internet. The process is as follows: steep the tea for 30–45 seconds to release the majority of caffeine, drain the water, and steep again. Voilá, you have great tasting tea minus the caffeine.
But wait! As the dude (from the movie, The Big Lebowski) might say, “New sh*t has come to light, man.” The notion that most of tea’s caffeine can be removed by an initial 30–45 second steeping is just a widespread myth.
Firstly, it takes much longer that 30 seconds to remove the caffeine from tea — 15 minutes is more like it. Secondly, both the tea’s caffeine and flavor are released at the same time in water; when the caffeine’s gone, so is the flavor (click here and here for more information).
Commercial Tea Decaffeination Processes
In the United States, tea must have 98% of its caffeine removed to be sold as decaf. Three decaffeination methods exist today — all involve the use of solvents to extract the caffeine from the tea leaves. These solvents are as follows:
- Methylene Chloride: Also known as dichloromethane, trace amounts of this solvent remain in the tea leaves after decaffeination. Because large amounts of this chemical have been linked to cancer, many tea drinkers avoid tea decaffeinated this way. As of this writing, most teas are decaffeinated using methylene chloride.
- Ethyl Acetate: This chemical occurs naturally in tea. Although this decaffeination process is considered safe, much of the tea’s flavor is removed as a result.
- Carbon dioxide (CO₂): Considered to be the safest and least destructive to the tea’s original flavor, this decaffeination process involves pressurizing the CO₂ so that it liquifies. The carbon dioxide is then used as a solvent to remove the caffeine.
Sadly, many brand-name tea makers do not use the CO₂ process. For example, Unilever, the manufacturer of the popular PG Tips and Lyons brands, uses dichloromethane (according to this source) to produce its decaffeinated teas.
Tea manufacturers typically don’t place caffeine extraction information — especially if it involves ethyl acetate — on the packaging. If you are uncertain or concerned, simply contact the company via email.
Independent tea merchants, such as English Tea Store, Upton Tea Imports, and Adagio, are your best bet for finding CO₂ decaffeinated teas. If the carbon dioxide method is used, it will be proudly mentioned on the company’s website. English Tea Store, for instance, claims to remove the caffeine with CO₂ early in the process, at the green leaf stage, and then allows the tea to mature as usual.
Kick the Caffeine Habit
Caffeine is one of the hot topics today among health-conscious people. It is consumed by 80-90% of American adults on a daily basis, making it one of the most commonly used pharmacologically active substances in our society. With such vast numbers getting their caffeine kicks, questions arise such as “How does caffeine affect my body? How much is safe to consume? What are the alternatives?”
First off, what is it? Caffeine is a bitter white alkaloid, the methylxanthine called 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine. It is a natural substance found in at least 63 different types of plants, coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa being the most common.
When consumed in moderation, caffeine, a mild central nervous system stimulant, can have numerous positive effects on the body such as a feeling of increased energy, uplifted mood, increased focus and reaction time. A small amount of caffeine may benefit people suffering from mild depression.
On the downside, even small doses can have undesirable physiological effects on the body that include anxiety, increased blood pressure and pulse, constricting superficial blood vessels, difficulty falling asleep and disruption of rapid eye movement and dreaming while asleep. According to some studies, caffeine causes calcium depletion. It also increases the painkilling effect of aspirin and acetaminophen and is thus often found, for instance, in migraine medicines.
Both the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society have issued strong statements regarding the effects of caffeine. Many health practitioners and nutritionists will also advise consumers to decrease your consumption gradually over a period of days or weeks to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
One of the best ways to cut back on caffeine, or eliminate it almost entirely, is by drinking non-caffeinated or decaffeinated ea. First, there are a couple of things you need to know.
Surprisingly, tea, per pound of leaf, contains more caffeine than coffee, per pound of bean. However, since more ground coffee is required to brew a single cup than tea is required to brew one cup of tea, the average cup of tea contains less than half the caffeine of the average cup of coffee.
The caffeine content of tea depends on where it was grown, brewing method used, type of tea and the temperature of the water used for brewing it. Contrary to popular opinion, green tea does not always contain less caffeine than black tea, which is another surprise for most people.
How to Remove Caffeine from Tea
The biggest surprise is that approximately 80% of the water soluble caffeine in tea is released during the first 30 seconds of brewing. So, to remove most of the caffeine from your tea, simply pour boiling water over the loose-leaf tea leaves in your teapot, allow the tea to steep for 30 seconds, and then discard the liquid. Use the same tea leaves with fresh hot water to brew a close to fully decaffeinated cup of tea for drinking.
You will find this process highly effective, allowing you to enjoy the originally caffeinated teas you love without major concern over caffeine content. Test it for yourself and you will see that it works.
Be sure to use only loose-leaf, premium-grade teas instead of the tea in teabags. Unlike teabags loose-leaf teas can be brewed over and over again until you have depleted the leaves of their wonderful natural flavor. This means that the same teaspoonful of tea can produce two, three or more cups of tea all from the same leaves. It is nearly impossible to brew a second worthwhile-tasting cup of coffee from the same grounds, or a good second cup of tea from most of the off-the-shelf supermarket teas sold in teabags.
No More Jitters!
If you have been a diehard coffee devotee for years, we recommend you switch over to caffeinated strong black teas first, so you won’t miss your little kick. Slowly start decaffeinating these same quality leaves until you no longer feel withdrawal symptoms — typically headaches and sluggishness. In fact, you may start feeling better than ever soon — after all, besides incredible taste, tea is considered by many as the healthiest beverage on the planet. To get started, find someone who is knowledgeable about the various types of tea and willing to help you with your selection, based on your personal taste preferences.
Some people avoid decaffeinated tea because of all the horrible chemicals used to strip the caffeine from the leaves. Then they discover Clipper decaffeinated tea, jump for joy and rush to put the kettle on!
That’s because here at Clipper we would never dream of using anything other than natural decaffeination. ‘But how can that work?’ We hear you ask. Well, we thought you might be interested to understand how organic decaffeination works and what makes it so special.
Before we explain organic decaffeination, we thought we’d say a quick word about the other option.
Some other tea makers use chemical solvents such as methylene chloride and ethyl acetate to strip the caffeine from their teas. Ethyl acetate works well in nail polish remover but let’s just say it’s not very Clipper.
What’s more, chemical solvents remove the caffeine, but they can leave behind a chemical residue. Yuck. That’s why we use the natural CO2 decaffeination method, which leaves behind no chemical nasties whatsoever.
Decaffeination… the Clipper Way
Our decaf process uses carbon dioxide, a completely natural resource, found in the air we breathe. It’s also the gas that gives sparkling water its bubbles.
The CO2 method of decaffeination is far better for the environment than using chemical solvents and it doesn’t leave any unnatural chemical residues; just lovely, fresh tasting tea.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Organic Decaffeination
This is how we do things here at Clipper:
- The tea leaves are moistened with water and placed under pressure.
- Streams of pressurised and heated CO2 are passed through the tea leaves, where it bonds with the caffeine molecules while leaving the tea leaves otherwise intact. Clever!
- After passing through the tea leaves, the caffeine-laden CO2 is filtered to remove the caffeine and then recycled for further use in decaffeination.
- Finally, the newly-decaffeinated but still delicious tea leaves are dried and packed.
What Does the Soil Association Say?
The Soil Association, who certainly know a thing or two about these things, approves CO2 decaffeination for use in organic products. That’s because it’s the most natural way to remove the caffeine. At Clipper, we’re proud to say that we only ever use CO2 for all our decaf teas and our coffees, too.
Posted by Path of Cha on January 16, 2019
For a lot of tea drinkers out there the caffeine content in tea is becoming more and more a concern. Whether you have to stop drinking caffeine for a while, or for a longer time, all tea made from Camellia Sinensis naturally contains caffeine. Of course, it is always less than the amount of caffeine you find in coffee, yet it is still caffeine. (Read more: Caffeine: Tea vs Coffee)
Generally, a cup of tea will contain between 25% to 50% of the caffeine you would find in a cup of coffee.
Many factors influence the levels of caffeine you will find in tea. You can read more about this here.
There has been a common misconception that you can decaffeinate tea by yourself at home. Unfortunately for some, this is not true. Furthermore, even commercial decaf teas still contain a tiny amount of caffeine.
The common misconception has been that by rinsing the tea with boiling water, most of the caffeine will be washed away, while all the good nutrients stay. So if you have been rinsing your teas to get less caffeine in your brew, chances are it hasn’t affected it by much.
How Is Decaf Tea Usually Made?
A variety of methods are used to make teas decaf, all of which involve certain chemicals like ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide (CO2), or methylene chloride. Then, after being processed with these chemicals, the tea leaves are thoroughly rinsed.
These methods free the tea leaves of their caffeine by 99.5%, and usually the last 0.5% does no harm.
Now if trying to make the tea “decaf” at home by rinsing it with boiling water the best result you may get is a less flavorful tea with a slightly lower caffeine content and significantly fewer nutrients. We personally do not recommend this method.
A study has shown that making a tea “decaf” by steeping it in boiling water for 6 minutes will reduce the caffeine content by 80% however we are sure you would not prefer to ruin your exquisite teas in this way.
So What Are The Options For Those Trying to Stay Away From Caffeine?
There’s a number of things you can do to avoid larger amounts of caffeine when drinking tea. For example:
- brew the tea correctly. don’t use boiling water for green teas, which brings out more of the caffeine
- steep for shorter amounts of time, as you would do in GongFu Cha. skip grandpa style and western-style if you are monitoring your caffeine intake.
- brew loose leaf tea. studies have shown that tea bags actually contain more caffeine
- check out some of the teas that are naturally low in caffeine, for example, some (but not all!) white teas
- skip caffeine altogether by trying some of the delicious and invigorating herbal blends
Posted by Selina Law on Mar 8th 2019
If you love drinking tea but have issues with caffeine, you may want to explore the decaffeinated tea option. All true teas—teas made with leaves, buds, and other parts of the plant, camellia sinensis–contain caffeine. Most herbal “teas” come from a variety of different plants and do not contain caffeine; however, there are exceptions such as yerba mate, guayusa and yaupon. When choosing decaffeinated teas, it helps to understand the different ways of how caffeine is removed.
There are four common methods of decaffeination for tea: using ethyl acetate, using methylene chloride, using carbon dioxide, or using water processing.
In the Ethyl Acetate decaffeination process, the tea leaves are usually moistened with water and ethyl acetate, an FDA approved solvent. The leaves are then dried and heated. The caffeine in the moistened leaves bonds with the ethyl acetate. During the drying process, the ethyl acetate and water is evaporated, taking the caffeine with them. Because ethyl acetate occurs naturally in tea leaves, it is considered naturally derived and its use in the decaffeination process is considered by many to be “natural.” While ethyl acetate effectively removes caffeine from tea leaves, it can also extract other chemical components or beneficial compounds as well. It can also alter the taste of the tea, making its flavor less desirable.
The Methylene Chloride decaffeination process works similarly as the ethyl acetate one, in which the molecules of caffeine bond to the molecules of methylene chloride and are evaporated during the drying process along with water. It is believed that methylene chloride is not the best possible and healthiest way of decaffeinating, and this method is forbidden in some countries.
In the Super Critical Carbon Dioxide decaffeination process, highly pressurized carbon dioxide is used as a solvent to dissolve caffeine from tea leaves. At pressure of 250 to 350 times atmospheric pressure, carbon dioxide is pumped into a sealed chamber containing tea, where it is allowed to circulate to remove the caffeine. From there, it is pumped into a washer vessel where water or activated charcoal is used to separate the caffeine from the carbon dioxide. The purified carbon dioxide is recirculated into the pressurized chamber. The process is repeated until the appropriate amount of caffeine has been removed. This decaffeination method does not leave any chemical residue and has a minimal effect on the flavor and beneficial compounds inherent to the tea.
The Water Process, also known as the Swiss Water Process, removes the caffeine by soaking the tea in hot water for a period of time. The resulting brew is passed through a carbon filter for caffeine removal. The liquid is then reintroduced to the tea for reabsorption of flavors and oils. This process is sometimes described as “watering down” the flavor of the tea and is not recognized by the tea industry as an effective decaffeinating method.
Many people have also tried to decaffeinate tea themselves by simply pouring out the first brew of their cup or pot. By infusing tea leaves in hot water for 1-3 minutes and then pouring off that infusion, you have washed away some of the caffeine in that tea.
No matter what method is used, the caffeine in tea cannot be completely eliminated. All decaffeinated dry tea leaves typically still leave a tiny percentage of caffeine residues. If you really can’t take any caffeine at all, herbal infusions can be good choices for you.
by Emeric Harney September 17, 2018 3 min read 5 Comments
There are two different ways to decaffeinate tea. At Harney and Sons, we use Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Ethyl Acetate to make our decaf teas . Read on to learn more about our decaffeination process.
What Is the Difference Between Decaffeinated Tea & Caffeine Free Teas?
All teas made from Camellia Sinensis contain natural levels of caffeine. Caffeine is one of many self-defense chemicals that a tea uses to defend itself in this cruel world. Pound for pound there is more caffeine in tea than coffee, but who drinks a pound of tea? So cup for cup, tea is much less. In fact, you have to drink 3 cups of tea to get the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Different parts of the tea leaves have different levels of caffeine. The delicious but defenseless tea buds have the most, green teas have slightly less and black teas even less. Of course, you steep black tea longer than green tea, so it is a bit complicated. Still, it is correct to say that there is more caffeine in white tea than black tea. The decaffeination process almost eliminates all of the caffeine.
Caffeine-free “teas” are not teas at all but blends of herbs, flowers, spices and dried fruit. When there is only a single ingredient, such as our Peppermint, these are referred to as Tisanes .
The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Tea Decaffeination Method
The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Tea Decaffeination Method, is how we decaffeinate our loose teas. Choosing to use this process ensures that we don’t lose the flavors and health benefits you love in our caffeinated teas when we remove the caffeine. When put through this process, our tea leaves are placed with naturally occurring gas, CO2, at a high pressure and high temperature. The carbon dioxide reaches a “super-critical state” where CO2 becomes almost a liquid solvent, and it attracts the caffeine molecules and removes them from the tea. Since flavor molecules are larger than caffeine molecules, they remain intact so the flavor of tea remains the same.
The Ethyl Acetate Decaffeination Method
Ethyl acetate is used to decaffeinate the tea found in our teabags. During this process, the molecules of caffeine bond to the molecules of ethyl acetate and are removed. Our customers prefer this method for our teabags.
The Water Processing Decaffeination Method (Swiss Water Method) and the Methylene Chloride Decaffeination Method
There are 2 other methods used for hard coffee beans, but these methods do not work for fragile tea leaves – the Water Processing Decaffeination Method, also known as the Swiss Water Method, and the Methylene Chloride Decaffeination Method.
DIY Decaffeination Method
Many tea lovers believe that if they steep their favorite caffeinated tea, dump the water, then steep again it will decrease the amount of caffeine in the cup. Unfortunately, this is a bit of an old wives tale. Studies show that tea keeps giving off caffeine for about 8 minutes. This method is not recommended as it dilutes the flavor of your tea.
No matter your reason for drinking caffeine-free tea, whether it’s doctor’s orders or sleeplessness, you can find a flavor of decaf tea you’ll love at Harney & Sons. Want to learn more about our teas and our process? Visit these quick-reads below:
How To Decaffeinate Your Tea
This is a quick tip about how to decaffeinate your tea yourself, at home, easily, quickly, and naturally, that I learned while working in a tea room in college.
Whenever someone would order caffeine free hot tea while I worked at the tea room we would not use a special tea that was already decaffeinated, but would remove the caffeine ourselves, naturally, while preparing the drink.
All you need to do is get hot water ready for steeping your tea, like normal, but make a little extra. Steep the tea leaves (either in a tea bag or a tea ball if you have loose tea, as we used) for approximately 20 seconds in the hot water and then remove the tea and pour out the water.
Then, refill the tea cup or tea pot with hot water again and steep as normal.
I asked how it worked, and I was told that the caffeine in the tea leaves is one of the first things to steep out into the water, because it is so water soluable. Basically, the majority of the caffeine is removed from the tea leaves and goes into the water within the first 20 seconds of steeping.
Therefore, if you throw out this water you throw out the majority of the caffeine, and naturally and quickly decaffeinate your tea.
This method will not completely remove every trace of caffeine from your tea, but generally neither do other decaffeination methods.
Plus, you might wonder if this removes any of the flavor from the tea. In my experience, no, based on several taste tests we did in the kitchen of the tea room. The 20 second time period is just too short to remove the flavor from the tea, most of which hasn’t steeped into the water at that point.
So, the next time you want a soothing cup of hot tea right before bed, try this trick and you will not be kept up all night from the caffeine, but instead can relax and unwind before bed. I love doing it myself!