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 (see below) 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.
Ethyl Acetate Process
The ethyl acetate decaffeination
process uses the Haco Method, which is similar to the one used for coffee.
Ethyl acetate is derived as a result of the reaction between ethanol and acetic
acid. The raw materials are taken from natural origins, such as fruit. This
process leaves a maximum carrier residue of 1 ppm or less, and a maximum
caffeine residue of .08 percent, dry weight. The tea is 99.9 percent decaffeinated
at the end of the process, and has an 8 percent maximum water content when
leaving the factory. Our Decaffeinated
Ceylon Black is processed in this manner.
Carbon Dioxide Process
Japanese Sencha starts on a base of premium sencha tea. Supercritical Carbon Dioxide
is the most widely used solvent for decaffeination of food products. The gas
is odorless, tasteless and inert. Carbon dioxide processing leaves no
toxic residues. In addition, extraction of the caffeine takes place at
room temperature which protects product quality by preventing the breakdown
of temperature-sensitive components. After extraction occurs, the supercritical
fluid turns back into a gas, so no solvent residue remains. The decaffeination
processes run under normal, official food control and fully comply with the
Swiss and European food laws.