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To Decaf or Not To Decaf

Thanks to new data from several studies, the idea that tea leaves could be decaffeinated simply by rinsing prior to brewing are now both outdated and inaccurate. At Art of Tea, we are dedicated to providing our customers with accurate information and pride ourselves on being on the leading edge of research. 

Decaf vs. Caffeine Free

Here are the facts regarding home decaffeination and caffeine levels in different teas:

To begin with, it’s important to understand that decaf and caffeine-free are not the same thing. Caffeine-free means that there was never any caffeine in the product, to begin with, while decaf means that caffeine was removed from the product, leaving behind small amounts of residual caffeine.
According to tea experts, the “30-second decaf” theory has been officially debunked.  Noted tea technologist Nigel Melican, founder and managing director of Teacraft, Ltd. says, "You cannot (despite what some notables in the tea industry believe) you just cannot significantly decaffeinate tea by using a 30-second hot water wash (in fact 30 seconds leaves 91 percent of the caffeine in place – and removes a lot of the antioxidants)."

A 1996 study at Auburn University backs Melican up. According to the study, only nine percent of the caffeine was removed during the first 30 seconds of infusion. The researchers also found that it took approximately three minutes to remove 50 percent of the caffeine, about nine minutes of infusion to remove 80 percent, and approximately 15 minutes to remove more than 96 percent.
A 2008 study conducted by Dr. Bruce Branan, Professor of Chemistry at Asbury College, found that a three-minute infusion removes 46-70% of the caffeine from a cup of tea and that it would take a six-minute infusion to remove 80% of the caffeine.

The conclusion to be reached on the “30-second decaf” theory is this: it doesn’t work. If you want to enjoy a cup of tea that is truly caffeine-free a Tisane (a fusion of different botanicals) or stand-alone herb is your best bet. Art of Tea has an entire section dedicated to delicious caffeine-free blends.

Caffeine Levels of Different Teas

Now, on to tackle the caffeine levels of the four major tea families; white, green, oolong, and black.  It’s a popular misconception that both white and green teas have lower caffeine levels than oolong or black teas. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University conducts micronutrient research for optimum health.  They suggest that the popular belief of low caffeine levels in White Tea is misplaced: “Buds and young tea leaves have been found to contain higher levels of caffeine than older leaves, suggesting that the caffeine content of some white teas may be slightly higher than that of green teas.”

In 2008 a study at Asbury College corroborates this finding, concluding that white tea does not have less caffeine than green, oolong, or black teas. Likewise, an article in Food research International, Vol 29, 325-330 (1996), states that “All teas have roughly similar caffeine contents, and one cannot rely on the belief that green tea has less caffeine, as asserted by many popular claims.” So now we know that the myth that both white and green teas have less caffeine than black or oolong teas is just that: a myth.

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Learn more about various teas and their caffeine levels here.