Decaffeinated Teas

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.