Is It Possible to Decaffeinate Tea?
One question I often see debated is whether or not it’s possible to decaffeinate your tea at home. For years misinformation has been passed around but I think at last the tea world can come to some sort of a consensus. For starters, all tea naturally contains caffeine. The amount can vary considerably depending on many factors so I’ll save that topic for a future blog post. With a few exceptions like Yerba Mate, herbal teas do not contain caffeine because they are not made from the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis).
It is often repeated that caffeine can be removed by steeping the tea for anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on who you ask. The truth is that it is impossible to remove all of the caffeine from your tea. In a 19996 scientific study called Tea preparation and its influence on methylxanthine concentration, it was concluded that the tea would need be steeped for 15 minutes in order to reduce the caffeine by 100%. Would you really want to drink your tea after that? Most teas would have no flavor left at all. You would also be loosing antioxidants and other benefits. That’s a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, isn’t it?
You may ask yourself, what about the decaffeinated teas that I buy at the store? Most commercial teas are decaffeinated using carbon dioxide under extreme pressure. The leaves are moistened with water and then put into a chamber with the CO2. At the end of the process the caffeine mixture is collected and the leaves are dried. Minute amounts will still remain behind in the leaves. Most of us won’t feel the affects because it is such a small amount but that does not mean that it is not there. Taste is affected no matter how well done the process may be. Many companies will add additional tea extract to decaff blends to make up for that loss.
Caffeine often takes on a negative connotation but it will not harm the average person. It is a metabolic stimulant with proven health benefits. I doubt that I’d make it through the work week without it. Every person is affected by caffeine a bit differently. I can drink matcha right before bed without any issues but not everyone has that luxury. Just as with any other psychoactive drug, you need to know and respect your personal limits. If caffeine is a major concern my recommendation would be to stick to herbal teas. I don’t write about them here because they’re just not my thing. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth exploring though!