With the exception of water, more tea is consumed than any other beverage in the world, says "The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia." If you find the caffeine in tea too stimulating, decaffeinated tea may allow you to enjoy this refreshing beverage without it interfering with sleep. Try these tips to select high-quality decaffeinated tea.
Varities of Tea
Tea comes in many different varities, but the basic four are black, green, oolong -- sometimes also called red -- and white tea. All tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, but the difference comes in the processing. Tea leaves dried with no other treatment produce white tea, heat steamed and dried leaves produce green tea, fermented and dried leaves produce black tea, and oolong tea comes from leaves with a shorter fermenting time.
Flavors such as fruit extracts, jasmine flowers or bergamont oil produce specialty teas from these basic four. Although all tea leaves come from the same plant, tea from different regions -- such as darjeeling -- may have slightly different qualities. Determining the best among these varieties is a matter of personal taste.
There are general guidelines to follow when buying good quality tea. According to " The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia," the best decaffeinated tea is organic, sold loose instead of in bricks, and decaffeinated with carbon dioxide. Buy "fair trade" tea to support humane business practices.
Tea is processed and dried without any cleaning or processing, so any chemicals sprayed on the tea will end up in your cup. Buy and brew organic tea to avoid pesticides and other chemicals from non-organic tea.
Whole and relatively unbroken leaves will have better flavor and a higher level of antioxidants. Tea in brick form may become broken or bruised in the packing process leaving it less flavorful. So, look for loose leaf tea that is has a high content of whole unbroken leaves, recommends "The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia."
The decaffeination process employs solvents to remove the naturally occurring caffeine from the tea leaves. Some solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate may stay on the leaves and end up in your cup. According to Upton Tea Imports, the carbon dioxide method is the safest way to remove caffeine from tea, as it does not leave behind residue. Alternatively, you could remove much of the caffeine from tea yourself by brewing the leaves up to 30 seconds, pouring of the liquid and then brewing a second cup. This second brewing may have 90 percent less caffeine than the first.
- "The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia"; Rebecca Wood, 1999
- Wall Street Journal Online: Brewing Honest Tea, Michelle Wu
- Upton Tea Imports: Tea and Caffeine