I recently was ordering decaf green tea and thought “hmm how is this ACTUALLY made decaf?” Considering I love coffee and tea, I wanted to learn and once I learned I wanted to share immediately!
Coffee beans are soaked in either hot water along with ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, or activated carbon OR they’re steamed and rinsed with those same solvents. Then of course, left to dry out. These chemicals literally dissolve the caffeine that is naturally occuring in the beans, leaving us decaffeinated beans.
But what about when it says naturally decaffeinated? Basically, ethyl acetate is considered ‘natural’ since it occurs in fruits and veggies. So the non-natural process of rinsing beans with ethyl acetate is allowed to be called “naturally caffeine-free” post-processing.
Decaf green tea:
Same thing for tea: ethyl acetate is used to remove the caffeine in tea leaves. They are soaked in water and rinsed/dried to create new (almost) completely caffeine-free tea leaves.
But let me get one thing straight – It’s not necessarily BAD to drink decaf tea or coffee. In general, they still have benefits, such as antioxidants and polyphenols, but the concentration is much less potent. According to the FDA, the solvents used to make decaf tea/coffee are limited to an amount that is harmless to consume. However, think about this: if something has to be regulated so that we don’t over consume – it can’t be good for us. The health benefits are not worth the risk, IMO.
Having 1 cup of caffeinated coffee or tea a day is probably better than drinking decaf all day long or all the time :) Caffeinated coffee/tea does not contain the added solvents and its antioxidants and polyphenols are much more potent because they were never washed away!
An even better option is that you can always opt for a tea that is naturally lower in caffeine, such as white tea. Or, if you want a tea that is *actually* naturally caffeine-free, then choose herbal teas. These are tea leaves that never contained caffeine to begin with, thus no chemical process was involved to alter the leaves.
It’s not a perfect science but at least being informed allows you to be in control of making the best decision for you :) Hope this helps!