What is decaffeinated tea and how does it taste?

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decaffeinated tea

Tea has a delectable taste, a soothing aroma, and the ability to gather together folks as a social drink. But there comes a time when we want to enjoy tea without the energy-boosting caffeine powers that tea so expertly delivers. For some tea lovers, this may sound incredible, but consider individuals who have caffeine sensitivity or want to enjoy some tea before bed. Luckily there is a whole wide range of tea for this demographic of tea lovers, too. Let’s explore more about decaffeinated tea.

What is decaffeinated tea?

Decaffeinated or decaf tea is tea leaves that have undergone one of several different methods that significantly decrease the amount of caffeine present in the final product. Since true teas, which come from the camellia sinensis plant, are naturally imbued with caffeine, it requires some special techniques to get that natural caffeine out! Non-camellia sinensis teas, however, usually do not have any caffeine at all and would fall under the category of non-caffeinated tea. Non-caffeinated tea includes teas like ginger tea, rooibos, chamomile, and mint tea. 

Being decaf does not mean there is absolutely no caffeine leftover in the tea, just a greatly diminished amount. The type of tea leaves can be green, or black or even Oolong, and virtually any variety of camellia sinensis tea leaves can be converted into decaf versions of themselves.

How is tea decaffeinated?

There are four main methods used to get the caffeine out of tea leaves. One of the most popular is through the use of carbon dioxide. Some other techniques include using water and some other means of chemical prestidigitation that renders the once caffeine-packed tea leaves with far less caffeine than before!

Water

The water processing method is generally used to decaffeinate loose leaf tea. This method includes soaking the leaves in water and then straining them with a filter that snags most of the caffeine out. The water is then returned to the leaves to fortify the flavor, but this usually results in a tellingly watery tea taste.

Carbon dioxide

This method is one of the most common, popular, and also effective means of decaffeinating tea. It is also the most natural of the four ways and allows the flavors and health benefits to be maintained even after the caffeine is largely expelled. This process includes using high temperatures and pressure to ratchet up carbon dioxide to a heightened state. When this occurs, carbon dioxide causes a chemical reaction that saps a good portion of caffeine while leaving most of the other flavors and nutrients intact. 

Ethyl Acetate

A chemical method of decaffeination. However, this method can alter the final taste of the leaves. This technique involves soaking the tea leaves in the ethyl acetate solution to get some of the caffeine out. While this method does the trick, the ethyl acetate leaves behind a bitter chemical taste.

Methylene Chloride

By soaking the tea leaves in methylene chloride, the tea leaves can lose a decent chunk of their caffeine but still keep their natural flavors, aromas, and nutrients. The drawback to using this method is that the chemical used, methylene chloride, is also linked to birth defects and the development of cancer. Try to seek out decaf prepared using one of the other three methods.

How much caffeine is in decaf tea?

As we mentioned before, decaf still does have some caffeine. But exactly how much? And how does it stack up against fully caffeinated tea? Decaf tea usually contains 1 to 8 milligrams of caffeine per cup. This is a significant decrease since the average cup of fully caffeinated green tea contains 25 to 50 milligrams of caffeine and black tea? Anywhere from 30 to 60 milligrams per cup. 

What does decaffeinated tea taste like?

Depending on the method of decaffeination used, your tea may taste many different ways. 

The two chemical methods, using methylene chloride and ethyl acetate, usually leave a peculiar bitter chemical flavor. Meanwhile, the water processing method may impart a washed-out taste to your tea. The carbon dioxide method, on the other hand, will leave your tea with pretty much the same flavor as if it was fully caffeinated. 

What kind of decaf teas are currently available?

For those who want to still enjoy their favorite tea long into the night, or who want a less caffeine-boosted spot of tea, have no fear as there are scores of different decaf tea varieties on the market today. 

In addition to decaf teas, there are additionally the non-caffeinated teas available, too. Many herbal teas and tisanes can be enjoyed as scrumptious, nutritious, and caffeine-free beverages.

  • Ginger tea
  •  Rooibos tea
  •  Hibiscus tea
  • Lemon tea
  • Ginseng tea
  • Mint tea

If you are in the market for some magnificent camellia sinensis true teas, however, there is also quite the selection. 

  • While fans of the legendary pu’erh may have some trouble finding a decaf version of the glorious Yunnanese tea, lovers of other true tea leaves can choose from many different options. 
  • Decaf green tea, in tea bags or full leaf, are available, there are even lines of decaf matcha. 
  • So are black teas, especially in the form of English Breakfast and Earl Grey
  • Hoping to hold an all-night Gongfu tea ceremony? Seek out some decaf Oolong tea; it’s a perfect choice for keeping your guests entertained, but not up until dawn! 
  • White tea is often believed to be naturally very low in caffeine. This is not entirely true, and so seeking out a decaf variation of white is a wise decision for those with a caffeine sensitivity or who want to hit the hay at a reasonable hour.

Final Thought

Seek out some keen decaffeinated teas whether they be English Breakfast, green tea, loose-leaf, or tea bags. Decaf tea is a great way to grab a spot of the tea you love without losing any sleep over it.

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