Decaffeinated, which is also commonly referred to as decaf tea, is tea which has undergone a decaffeination process of one sort or another that has removed most of its caffeine. There are many different processes of decaffeinating tea. There are processes that are dangerous and have been made illegal, and ones that are completely safe without any health risks. The different processes in use have an impact on the tea, and can affect its flavor. There is also a process today that still uses a possible carcinogen, so it’s important to learn about the processes of decaffeination which are used on the tea you are buying.
Different decaffeination processes used on tea
Carbon dioxide or CO2 decaffeination is completely safe, and it’s extremely effective at removing caffeine. It’s also excellent at preserving the flavor. It’s the safest process that maintains most of the flavor. It uses highly compressed CO2 in gas form, which becomes a fluid under pressure. The only negative to this process is the cost; it’s expensive.
Ethyl acetate is a compound that occurs naturally. It is found in fruits and it does occur in tea leaves, though in very small amounts. This process is completely safe, but removes a little more of the flavor compared to other processes. However, the ethyl acetate process is inexpensive.
Methylene Chloride / Dichloromethane
Methylene chloride, or dichloromethane, is possibly carcinogenic and it is toxic in large concentrations. It is an effective process and does preserve the flavors, but it’s risky. This decaffeination process is legal in the United States and is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. The low concentration left in decaf tea probably does not pose a large health risk, but there have been analyses of teas in the past which have had levels above the legal limit. It’s difficult to find out which teas come from companies which use this process, as they generally do not make it known due to the negative perception about this process.
Benzene is a process that has been banned and has not been used for a long time. It is a dangerous carcinogenic chemical that can lead to many health problems and is not safe to be used in a decaffeination process.
This is another chemical that has fortunately been banned and has been ceased to be used. It is unsafe for decaffeination, and was banned due to studies showing that it causes liver tumors in mice.
Carbon dioxide decaffeination is the most preferred method. It’s safe and preserves the flavor, though it’s a little more expensive. Ethyl acetate is safe, but doesn’t preserve as much of the flavor. But its decaffeination process is less expensive. Methylene chloride is legal, though it is a little more risky to use. This decaffeination process is regulated by the FDA. Other processes which were used in the past are trichloroethylene and benzene, which have been banned due to the health risks, and are no longer used.