Is Decaffeinated Tea Unhealthy?

December 03, 2018

Is Decaffeinated Tea Unhealthy?

There are few things cozier and more comforting than curling up in your favorite chair on a cold evening with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea. However, as bedtime approaches, you might not want that caffeine buzz keeping you up. If you get your green tea decaffeinated, would it impact its health benefits or even be unhealthy on its own? 

First of all, what exactly is decaf tea?

Decaffeinated tea has had at least 97.5% of the natural caffeine of the tea removed through a process before it ends up in your hands to brew. This is not the same as “caffeine-free” or “herbal teas”, which do not actually contain tea leaves and typically never had any caffeine in them to remove in the first place. The caffeine is removed by soaking it in either liquid carbon dioxide or some other chemical solvent. 

Caffeine free

What Are the Methods of Decaffeinating Tea, and Which are Healthiest?

All tea is soaked in something to decaffeinate it - the only difference is which liquid is used and the varying effects it has on the tea. 

Methylene Chloride – When tea leaves are soaked in methylene chloride, the caffeine molecules are bound to the solvent and then removed. This method was traditionally considered ideal for preserving the taste of the tea, but since methylene chloride is considered unsafe for human consumption by many countries, tea treated in it is sometimes barred from importing. Still, this method remains common, and is not very expensive compared to better, safer methods. So, do your best to avoid tea decaffeinated this way. 

Ethyl Acetate – Often called “naturally decaffeinated” tea, the method is done the same as methylene chloride through soaking the leaves in the solvent to draw out the caffeine. Ethyl acetate is naturally present in many fruits and other plants, but is much harder to properly remove from the tea leaves. Thus, many find that their tea has a chemical taste when treated this way. Still, it is not any less healthy than un-processed tea. 

CO2 – At very high pressures and temperatures, carbon dioxide becomes a liquid and is extremely effective at removing caffeine from tea. It is forcefully passed through the tea, binding to the caffeine and removing it from the leaf as it exits. This is completely healthy and is generally regarded as the best way to preserve flavor without compromising safety when decaffeinating.

Water – Using water, tea is essentially brewed once, and the caffeine filtered out of the resulting brew, before the water returned to the leaves to be reabsorbed. This is healthy, but as you might expect, lessens the flavor you’d expect from the tea. 

What About Reducing Health Benefits I Expect From My Tea?

One reason that tea is much treasured by fans is the great supply of flavonoids it provides. Flavonoids is a chemical often linked to numerous health benefits. While exact numbers are hard to come by, it is generally accepted that you will lose most of these beneficial chemicals during the decaffeination process. However, of the available methods, the water process is best for retaining as many of these polyphenols as possible. 

what is decaf tea - green tea comic

So, to Sum Up: Is Decaffeinated Tea Unhealthy?

With the possible exception of tea treated with methylene chloride, there’s nothing unhealthy about drinking decaffeinated tea, although you are very likely to lose many of the health benefits you enjoy from drinking untreated green tea, making it more like a tasty drink than something you’d go to as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

It’s important to remember if you’re hyper-sensitive to caffeine that no process removes all of it, and you’ll always have about 2% of caffeine when you brew your cup of tea. But, if you’re mostly looking to sleep a little better after your evening mug, you might find some benefit from drinking decaffeinated instead. 

Is Japanese Green Tea Company’s Green Tea decaffeinated?
No. None of the teas we carry are decaffeinated, so you do not have to worry about which process we are using in regards to your health benefits.
Our teas are naturally low in caffeine and we do not process any of them for decaffeination.

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