The Lowdown on Decaffeinated Tea

Most people can’t go about their day without a caffeine fix – whether it’s from coffee, tea, or energy drinks. While that morning cup of joe might be your favourite part of the day, there are times when you need to cut back on caffeine. It’s not exactly the healthiest substance in the world, after all.

Whether you’re looking to wean off caffeine entirely, or you just want to have a cup of tea without the jitters later in the day, decaffeinated tea is a great option. It has all the flavour and benefits of the regular drink but without the caffeine kick.

What’s Decaffeinated Tea?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring molecule found in plants, most notably coffee, chocolate, and, of course, black, green, and white teas. Caffeine, while tolerated in modest doses, can have an adverse effect on blood pressure and heart health, as well as lead to sleeplessness, anxiety, palpitations, and tremors. Because caffeine is a natural chemical, the quantity of caffeine in each plant varies greatly.

cup of decaffeinated tea

So if you want to reduce your caffeine intake, the best option is to switch to decaf tea or a naturally caffeine-free drink. Decaf tea is made from black or green leaves that have been decaffeinated to eliminate the caffeine molecules. From the delights of a traditional Chai spiced black drinks all the way to the English style classic Earl Grey you can find decaf loose leaf teas online.

However, because it is difficult to remove all of the caffeine during the process of decaffeination, decaf tea is never totally caffeine-free. According to the official regulations, anything branded “decaf” cannot have more than 3% of its original caffeine level. A regular can contain between 1 and 4 mg of caffeine. Sure, most people likely won’t tell the difference, but it’s worth noting for those who are sensitive or want to quit consuming caffeine as a whole.

How Is Tea Decaffeinated?

The four basic procedures for decaffeinating tea are methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, and water processing. But before all of these methods that are used today, Ludwig Roselius, a German coffee dealer, created and patented the first commercially viable decaffeination technology in 1903.

cup of decaf tea surrounded with rose leaves

Historical data suggests that his search for decaffeinated coffee was driven by the conviction that excessive coffee consumption had poisoned his father. The “Roselius Process” entailed heating coffee beans with a brine solution (salted water) and then extracting the caffeine with the organic chemical compound benzene as a solvent. This method, however, is no longer employed since benzene is a proven human carcinogen.

Methylene Chloride

The tea leaves are steeped in methylene chloride in this procedure. Caffeine molecules will really link with the methylene chloride, leaving the leaves with a strong taste and natural oils. This method is known for preserving the original flavour but it’ss not always the healthiest.

Ethyl Acetate

Because ethyl acetate is naturally present in this drink, its use is generally referred to as natural decaffeination. Caffeine is derived from tea leaves in the same way as methylene chloride is. This process involves exposing the green beans to water and steam to expand the cells before washing them with an Ethyl Acetate solution, which attracts and eliminates the caffeine.

The Ethyl Acetate employed in this technique is a naturally occurring by-product of sugar cane fermentation. It’s a relatively safe compound that is also used as an artificial fruit flavouring in many foods. Once the wash is complete, the ethyl acetate is evaporated, taking the caffeine with it.

Carbon Dioxide

The carbon dioxide process is used to decaffeinate most loose leaf teas and sachets. The inherent aromas of the tea, as well as its health advantages, are preserved using this procedure. To put it simply, the liquid is pressure boiled with carbon dioxide, which allows the caffeine molecules to be removed. However, the taste molecules are not altered by this form of decaffeination.

Water Processing

Caffeine extraction with water is not the most common method of decaffeination. Although not a lot of tea products are decaffeinated using this approach, it is more prevalent as a coffee decaffeination method. The leaves are soaked in hot water and then passed through a carbon filter to remove the caffeine and taste.

The solution is then reintroduced back to the leaves to soak up the extracted flavour. This typically results in slightly watered down and less powerful teas. This method is considered harmless, but because it is typically connected with coffee beans, it is relatively unknown in the tea industry.

What Are the Advantages of Drinking Decaffeinated Tea?

While we all know that too much caffeine isn’t good for us, moderate consumption of the substance can actually offer some health benefits. That being said, decaf loose leaf tea still has plenty of advantages, even without the caffeine content.
For starters, it still contains polyphenols – powerful antioxidants that can help to protect cells and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. They’re also thought to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

Secondly, decaffeinated tea still contains vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients are essential for maintaining good health, and they can help to boost energy levels, improve circulation, and support bone health.

Finally, it’s a great way to get some hydration into your diet without all the sugar and calories that come with other drinks like juice and soda. Getting enough water is essential for good health, and tea – even decaf – is a great way to up your intake.