Can I Really Decaffeinate Tea?

Bronwyn Harris

Many people today are concerned about their caffeine intake. For some, caffeine makes them nervous, jittery, anxious, and unable to sleep. Instead of having to settle for the narrow choices of decaffeinated tea, you can actually decaffeinate tea yourself, without using any of the harmful chemicals that are sometimes used in the decaffeination process.

Bags of decaffeinated tea.
Bags of decaffeinated tea.

How much caffeine a certain tea contains will depend on such factors as whether it is black, green, or white tea; where the tea leaves were harvested; and the brewing temperature and method. Also, certain types of green tea have more caffeine than some black teas, which comes as a surprise to many. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it is wise to decaffeinate the tea that you drink.

Many people drink herbal tea, which is usually has no caffeine.
Many people drink herbal tea, which is usually has no caffeine.

The process to decaffeinate tea is a simple one which requires no chemicals. As caffeine is highly water-soluble, most of the caffeine is released from the tea leaves in less than a minute of steeping. If you wish to decaffeinate tea naturally, you need only pour the boiling water into the cup containing the tea leaves, and discard the first round of tea, after the tea leaves have steeped for about 30-45 seconds. In effect, you are "rinsing" the caffeine out of the tea leaves, and pouring the caffeine, along with the first cup of tea, down the sink. Next, use the same boiling water to prepare your tea as usual.

When preparing to decaffeinate tea at home, you should make sure that you are using loose tea leaves, rather than prefilled tea bags. Most loose tea leaves can be used over several times without losing much flavor, while supermarket tea bags often lose their flavor quite quickly. You also do not want to steep the tea for too long while releasing the caffeine, or you will lose a lot of the flavor of the tea as well.

It is important to remember that whether you decaffeinate tea yourself or buy decaffeinated tea, that "decaffeinated tea" is not, in fact, completely lacking in caffeine. When you decaffeinate tea yourself, you get rid of about 80% of the caffeine in black tea. When tea is decaffeinated commercially, between 75-90% of the caffeine is removed. If you want a completely caffeine-free beverage, you will be better off drinking herbal teas, also knows as tisanes, which contain no caffeine at all.

The first step to decaffeinating tea is steeping tea leaves in boiling water.
The first step to decaffeinating tea is steeping tea leaves in boiling water.

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Discussion Comments


I've read other articles on the same subject, and the tips seem to vary. They all agree on the 30-45 second time frame, but they disagree on water temperature. Most say to use "water brought to a rolling boil"...but from my personal experience, this seems to detract from the taste of white or green teas.

The other issue was how much water to use for that "decaf" rinse-brew. Some say full cup, others say to just use enough hot water to get the leaf wet (i.e. Gongfu-style). I've recently come down with a prostate infection, but would still like to enjoy my teas (white teas preferably). So, my question is, at what temperature do I do the home-decaf infusion, and how much water do I use?

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