All About Decaf Teas
Every authentic tea variety contains caffeine due to it's naturally caffeinated camellia sinensis (fancy word for the tea plant!) base, albeit in different concentrations: black teas typically boast the highest caffeine content, while green and white teas offer a more moderate dose and oolong and puer teas fall somewhere in between for the most part.
For tea enthusiasts who appreciate the flavor, but are mindful of their caffeine intake, our decaf teas provide a perfect solution! Whether you're monitoring caffeine consumption for health reasons or seeking a soothing alternative for an evening cuppa, we're here to help you discover your next preferred decaffeinated tea.
What Exactly Is "Decaf" Tea?
"Decaf" is an abbreviation for "decaffeination," the method of greatly reducing caffeine from tea, which naturally contains caffeine. Yet, with further processing, the majority of caffeine can be extracted from the leaves, resulting in what's termed decaffeinated tea.
How Are Tea's Decaffeinated?
Tea undergoes decaffeination through the use of one of three methods using substances that dissolve caffeine:
1. Methylene Chloride: Previously employed for its cost-effectiveness, this solvent fell out of favor in the US due to identified health hazards and it is not used by Steepologie Teas. In fact, some countries now prohibit the sale of decaf teas decaffeinated with methylene chloride, though it is still utilized in certain regions globally so be careful where your sourcing decaf teas from.
2. Ethyl Acetate: Generally known as a safer alternative to methylene chloride, ethyl acetate is a naturally occurring chemical, occasionally found in tea. Despite lacking the health concerns associated with methylene chloride, decaffeination with ethyl acetate can be perceived as imparting a "chemical" taste and thus it is not something we use here at Steepologie.
3. Carbon Dioxide: Surprisingly, the very carbon dioxide we exhale daily, albeit in a super-heated state, is employed to make decaf teas. While the carbon dioxide method is more labor-intensive, it preserves most of the tea's flavor and antioxidants, making it the preferred choice for high-quality decaf teas like ours.
How Are Steepologie's Teas Decaffeinated?
Steepologie Teas are decaffeinated employing the carbon dioxide (or CO2) method, ensuring optimal taste while maintaining low caffeine levels. In this process, liquid carbon dioxide is introduced into a compartment containing tea leaves. Through the application of high pressure and heat, caffeine bonds with the carbon dioxide. As pressure is reduced, the caffeine is carried away, leaving only minimal traces of caffeine. The larger flavor molecules remain untouched, as they are too substantial to be captured by the carbon dioxide fluid. Following completion of this meticulous procedure, the tea is dried like any other tea. See the image above of the pressure tanks so you can appreciate the work employed to bring you high quality decaf teas!
Do Decaf Teas and Caffeine-Free Teas Mean the Same Thing?
Despite sharing the commonality of being steeped in a similar manner—infusing leaves in hot water—Decaf Teas and Caffeine-Free Teas are fundamentally distinct. Decaf Teas are crafted from true teas, sourced from the leaves of the tea bush (called camellia sinensis), which inherently contains caffeine as noted above. The decaffeination process removes most of the caffeine, yet trace amounts of approximately 2% persist in the tea leaves even after this procedure.
On the other hand, "caffeine-free teas" are not true teas; they are herbal infusions derived from various plants such as chamomile, rooibos, peppermint, and lemongrass, among others. In contrast to the tea bush, these plants naturally lack caffeine thus eliminating the need for a decaffeination process.