First things first, decaf doesn’t mean caffeine free it does have a much lower level of caffeine compared with non-decaffeinated tea however it is not entirely caffeine free. The family of plant responsible for producing all the black, green, oolong and white teas we enjoy, camellia sinensis, naturally contains caffeine and depending on how it’s grown and how it is processed that may be a small amount or a large amount of caffeine. When a tea is advertised as being decaffeinated it has undergone one of the two processes outlined below in order to remove the caffeine from the leaves.
- Direct Extraction is a slow process that is more expensive and is generally only used on higher quality leaves. The leaves are steamed first in order to open them up and then rinsed repeatedly over a period of several hours with a synthetic acetate which draws the caffeine from the leaves.
- Supercritical Fluid Extraction is typically used on low quality, mass produced the tea leaves by first soaking the leaves in water before placing them in a pressure sealed container and forcing liquid CO2 through. The CO2 draws out the caffeine from the leaves before being drained and returning to a gas for use again.
If you want to enjoy your tea without the then you might be interested to know that you can prepare your own decaffeinated tea at home without any of the chemical solvents used in commercial decaffeination processes.
- Fill either an infuser basket or a long handled infuser with enough leaves.
- Boil at least enough water for six cups, allow to cool slightly then pour the water through the leaves without capturing
- Now you can make your cup of tea however only allow it too steep for two minutes
By following this guide you can reduce the caffeine level in most teas by at least three quarters and remember if you are drinking oolong then the leaves can be reused again which will mean even less caffeine.
If you don’t want to go to the fuss of making your own decaf but you still want to avoid caffeine then Rooibos may be the answer. Rooibos is a tea-alternative that is naturally caffeine free and less bitter than black tea.