Tea from the Camellia Sinensis family contains from 1.6 percent caffeine in Formosa broken leaf type to 4 to 4.5 percent in most other types. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 97 percent of the 4.5 percent caffeine must be removed in order to label the tea decaffeinated. Some packers label their teas 98 percent caffeine free. These teas, however, have never been decaffeinated but have a naturally low caffeine count. Caffeine-free labels only apply to herbal products, not traditional teas.
There are two sources of decaffeinated tea in the world, both
processed by firms in Europe. Decaffeinated tea is found in all leaf
grades and a great variety of flavors. There are three processes used
to decaffeinate tea: methylene chloride, ethyl acetate and carbon
dioxide. The latter two are the only two permitted in the United
States. The use of methylene chloride on tea uses the same processing
methods as ethyl acetate but is not allowed for import to
the United States. Carbon dioxide is a high pressure, super critical
process. Unlike the other two processes mentioned, this process is
considered natural and is more gentle to the tea leaves.
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