Your Complete Guide to Decaffeinated Tea
Decaffeinated teas are a great option for tea lovers who may need to avoid caffeine for health reasons, or for those who like to drink tea in the evenings but don’t want their sleep to be affected. All tea leaves grown from the tea plant Camellia sinensis naturally contain caffeine, but the levels of caffeine they contain may depend on when they were harvested, and also on the length of time the leaves have been oxidised during processing. Black teas tend to contain the highest amounts of caffeine, with oolong, green, and white teas containing lesser amounts.
Tea leaves actually contain more caffeine than coffee beans, but when brewed, caffeine is more effectively extracted from coffee than from tea, meaning a cup of coffee will contain higher levels of caffeine than a cup of tea. Most types of tea can be decaffeinated, but decaf black tea and decaf green tea are the most usual ones available. However, no decaffeination method can eliminate 100% of caffeine so there will always be trace amounts of it in decaf tea, but in order for a tea to be called ‘decaffeinated’ it must contain less than 2.5% of its original caffeine. The only teas that are actually caffeine-free are herbal teas and tisanes, or rooibos, a naturally caffeine-free tea made from the soft, needle-like leaves of the broom-like plant Aspalathus linearis.
How is Tea Decaffeinated?
There are four known methods used to decaffeinate tea:
- The Water Processing Method
- The Carbon Dioxide Method
- The Methylene Chloride Method
- The Ethyl Acetate Method
Out of these, the methods of decaffeination that are considered to be the most natural and safe are those that use water processing or carbon dioxide (CO2).
With the Water Processing Method, caffeine is extracted from tea leaves when they are first soaked in hot water, then the water is filtered through a carbon filter to trap caffeine molecules. The filtered water still contains the tea’s flavours and oils, and this is then returned to the tea leaves to be reabsorbed. Water processed decaf tea is safe and natural, although some of the tea’s flavour may be lost when using this process.
The Carbon Dioxide Method is a natural method of decaffeination, using the naturally occurring gas, carbon dioxide, combined with high pressure and temperature. Tea leaves are moistened with water, before being heated and having pressurised streams of CO2 forced through them. These conditions cause CO2 to become a solvent that bonds with the smaller caffeine molecules in the leaves, which is then filtered to extract the caffeine from the tea. The larger molecules carrying the tea’s flavour are retained, as well as a good percentage of its health-giving antioxidants.
In the Methylene Chloride Method, tea leaves are immersed in methylene chloride, a colourless liquid that, as well as being used in the food industry, is used as a solvent for paint stripping and cleaning products. When tea leaves are soaked in this chemical, molecules of caffeine bond with it, and are then separated from the leaves when strained. Traces of the compound may be left on the tea leaves, inevitably affecting their flavour. It may sound surprising that a substance used to make paint stripper is also used to extract caffeine from delicate tea leaves, and unsurprisingly, methylene chloride decaf tea is not considered ideal, and teas processed this way are actually deemed to be unsafe and banned in some countries.
The Ethyl Acetate Method of decaffeination works in much the same way as the above, but the chemical used is ethyl acetate, an organic compound derived from ethanol and acetic acid. As well as being used as a low cost method of tea and coffee decaffeination, ethyl acetate has a wide range of uses as a solvent in products such as cleaning fluids, nail polish remover, perfumes, paints and glues; it is also used in wine-making. Although it occurs naturally in some organisms, including tea leaves, ethyl acetate decaf tea may still retain a bitter, chemical taste from residues left in the leaves after the decaffeination process.
Our Range of Decaffeinated Teas
Tea-Direct has a wonderful selection of some of the best decaffeinated teas you will find in terms of quality, freshness and flavour. Our tasty decaf teas are produced safely, using naturally occurring CO2 combined with high pressure and temperature, to extract the caffeine without the use of any nasty chemicals. Extra care is taken to preserve the tea’s tannins whilst reducing the caffeine content, and by using the finest quality tea leaves, subtle flavours and characteristics may be retained.
A full-bodied, luxury black tea made from flowery pekoe leaves. This flavoursome decaf English breakfast tea reveals light, floral flavours and delicious fruity notes. A great tea to drink at breakfast or at any time of the day or evening.
“Really enjoying this tea, tasty and enjoyable. This is my second order and will continue to buy in the future.”
Julie C. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This tea is tasty and is a nice brew any time of day. Love that it’s decaf. Delivered quickly too. I use with make your own tea bags - so convenient.”
Tracey B. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A delicious decaffeinated sencha green tea, sourced from Hunan in China and made from sencha leaves that grow at 3500ft above sea level. A light and delicate tea that offers refreshing green tea flavours, and makes a great decaf tea with lemon.
“Wonderful alternative, close to the taste of green tea with caffeine.”
Lena S. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Excellent to be able to have decafinated sencha green tea. Well packed for ease of use.”
Patricia C. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A rich and aromatic, decaffeinated Ceylon tea that is full of fresh, bold flavours. It can be served with a splash of milk or a slice of lemon for a refreshing decaf brew that can be enjoyed at any time of the day or evening.
“This is a very acceptable tea for non-decaff drinkers as well as those who need the caffine removed, I was very pleasantly surprised by the flavour and would not hesitate to buy again.”
Pamela T. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“We really enjoyed your decaf tea. Full of flavour, plus a nice taste, some decafs just don't taste right. Thank you Tea Direct.”
James C. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This delicious decaf Earl Grey tea is a wonderful mix of luxury Ceylon black tea with pretty cornflower petals and natural bergamot oil. Perfect for those Earl Grey enthusiasts who like to drink tea in the evenings.
A full-bodied, luxury black tea made from flowery pekoe leaves, delivering light and floral flavours and delicious fruity notes, and supplied in biodegradable silky smooth pyramid tea bags. If you’ve been searching for the best decaffeinated tea bags, you may have found them here.
These fine and fragrant Ceylon tea fannings produce an attractive dark amber brew when steeped. A decaf Ceylon tea that has all the flavour of Kenya PF Tea, but without the caffeine, so it can be enjoyed at any time of day.
A naturally decaffeinated black Ceylon tea made from flowery pekoe leaves, revealing delicious piquant flavours and an attractive liquor when infused.
“nice taste and flavour”
Dr A. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This luxury black tea is made from pekoe fannings that are decaffeinated at the green leaf stage. A refreshing beverage with delicious malty overtones and rosy notes. A great tea to set you up for the day ahead.
“Great product thanks!”
Elaine G. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Why do people buy decaffeinated tea?
Although the energising effects of caffeine can be useful to boost the metabolism and help with focus and concentration, it’s a stimulant that some may wish to avoid for a number of reasons, the most common being:
- Sensitivity to caffeine
- Allergy to caffeine
- Sleep disturbance
Sensitivity and tolerance to caffeine varies in individuals; some people can consume a lot without suffering any unwanted side effects, whereas others may be particularly susceptible. Those with a low tolerance to caffeine may suffer symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, headaches, stomach upsets, acid reflux and palpitations.
Pregnant women are advised to cut down their caffeine consumption, or avoid it completely during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. One reason is because studies have suggested a possible link between caffeine consumption and low birth weight babies. It’s also thought that the dehydrating effects of too much caffeine may affect milk supply, and cause possible irritability and wakefulness in babies. Bearing in mind caffeine is also present in coffee, cola, chocolate, energy drinks, and certain medications, it may be sensible, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, to replace caffeinated beverages with non-caffeinated herbal teas or decaf loose leaf teas and decaf tea bags.
People who have an actual allergy to caffeine may suffer allergic symptoms such as hives, itchiness, wheezing, swollen tongue or lips, and in extreme cases, anaphylaxis symptoms. Fortunately such an allergy is rare, and an allergy skin test can help to identify caffeine as a possible allergen.
Probably the most common reason for people avoiding caffeine is the effect it can have on their sleep. As well as difficulty getting to sleep in the first place, caffeine can affect the quality and length of time you sleep. Therefore, if you are susceptible to such effects, it’s probably wise to avoid caffeinated drinks late in the afternoon and in the evening.
What is the best method of decaffeinating tea?
The best methods of tea decaffeination are those that are natural and safe, and retain as much of the tea’s flavour and health benefits as possible, such as the Carbon Dioxide Method and the Water Processing Method. Other decaffeination methods that involve the use of harsh chemicals may be cheaper, but less desirable, and the safety of such processes may be questionable. The Water Processing Method and Carbon Dioxide Method that produce naturally decaffeinated tea are also better for the environment.
What’s the difference between ‘decaffeinated tea’ and ‘caffeine-free' tea?
Decaffeinated tea is tea that has been through a process to remove the caffeine from it. There will always be trace amounts of caffeine left in tea leaves after decaffeination, and the only beverages that can be called ‘caffeine-free’ are those that have never had caffeine in them in the first place. Tea-Direct has a huge range of caffeine-free herbal teas and fruit tisanes, as well as a wonderful selection of rooibos teas, offering alternatives to caffeinated teas for those who want a caffeine-free brew.
What are the best alternatives to caffeinated tea?
If you’re looking for the best decaf tea to drink in place of your usual brew, Tea-Direct has a range of some of their most popular loose leaf teas made with decaffeinated tea leaves, to give you the flavour profile you desire without the caffeine hit. At Tea-Direct you will also find a diverse assortment of caffeine-free herbal teas and tisanes, and delicious rooibos tea varieties that you can enjoy at any time of the day or night.