Here’s a fun fact for you: the tea leaves of camellia sinensis have more caffeine than coffee. However, the process they go through after plucking to become your favourite tea destroys most of it. That’s why a coffee will give you more of a kick than a cup of tea.
But even so, I know many people still avoid having tea altogether because of it, due to health, lifestyle choices or simply because they want something warm to go to bed with without having trouble sleeping afterwards. That doesn’t mean you have to give up all tea for ever though. Just don’t think green tea will help, that actually has more caffeine!
The black alternative: decaf tea
For the traditional tea drinker, a decaf English breakfast blend should go down a treat. This is made using tea leaves that have gone through the same process as black tea and then an additional one to extract the caffeine.
Simply re-using the leaves after a 60 second infusion will get rid of a large part of caffeine, but unfortunately it will also take away the taste and flavour of black teas. That’s why another compound is normally used to take the caffeine out. Some companies use chemicals such as ethyl acetate, but not in such quantities so it becomes dangerous. A more natural alternative is to use CO2 where the leaves are soaked in a liquid solution to release the caffeine. This is then extracted using charcoal from the resulting solution and the tea leaves are re-soaked to absorb the flavours all over again.
If you ask me, any process is unnatural no matter what method you use, so you might as well go for different blends altogether.
The herbal variety
If you want a tea that naturally lacks caffeine, you’ll be better off going for a herbal blend. I am a fussy drinker of herbal teas because I hate the ones that always end up tasting like a tart, berry flavour concoction. So I’ve included three very different recommendations that I enjoy, hoping one will tickle your tastebuds!
Rooibos – the needles of a bush native to South Africa. Most commonly it goes through a process of fermentation after picking (like black tea) which is why I’ve included it in the list of teas you can add milk to. This makes it the perfect substitute if you miss your normal cup of tea but you need to stay off caffeine for a while. Most commonly known as Redbush in the UK (because of the colour), you can also find it in the green variety where the leaves are not fermented and the antioxidants level is higher.
Chamomile – made from the flowers of the chamomile plant and is often thought of as a calming tea. It has a natural sweetness to it (closer to toffee in flavour than to fruit, just not that sweet). It’s also been recently recommended as good for fighting cellulite due to its stress-relieving properties. A bit of a stretch if you ask me but worth a go! What I do know is that chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties which makes it great for digestive problems such as heartburn and to help alleviate flus and colds or mouth ulcers.
Lemon verbena – if you’ve had a lemongrass tea before, you’ll know what fresh and citrus taste to expect from this tea. It’s beautifully refreshing and, similarly to chamomile, has many health benefits including a calming effect on stomach issues like cramping and bloating, immune system booster, helps reduce muscle damage after exercise and joint pain. However you must know it’s not recommended for those with kidney problems.
…and many more! In fact in many countries, like Romania for example, teas are mainly herbal and seen as a form of natural medicine rather than drunk for pleasure. I think they are a bit of both!
What’s your favourite tea without caffeine?