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Arbor Teas
Decaffeination Process


Super Critical Carbon Dioxide
Decaffeination Process

Arbor Teas Decaffeination Process

Decaffeinated tea is a great option for tea lovers who wish to avoid much of the caffeine naturally found in the tea leaf.  All forms of tea (black, oolong, green, white, and pu-erh) can be decaffeinated, but only black and green tea are regularly decaffeinated.  It must be noted that decaffeinated tea is NOT caffeine-free.  The decaffeination process leaves a minute amount of caffeine in the leaf.  By law, tea labeled as “decaffeinated” must have less than 2.5 percent of its original caffeine level, which usually equates to less than 2 mg per cup.

Currently, there are four methods of decaffeination: methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide, and water processing.  In the United States, ethyl acetate is the most widely used decaffeination method.

Arbor Teas Decaffeination Method

Arbor Teas uses the carbon dioxide (CO2) method for all of its organic decaffeinated teas.  We feel that this is the safest form of decaffeination, while retaining the greatest flavor and health benefits.  According to tea "technologist" Nigel Melican, tea decaffeinated using the CO2 method retains 92 percent of its polyphenols (antioxidants) compared to tea decaffeinated using the ethyl acetate process, which only retains 18 percent.*  We also support the CO2 decaffeination method because the CO2 used for decaffeination is filtered and recycled at a rate of around 99% and emits very little CO2 into the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) decaffeinated tea is essentially “pressure cooked” with this naturally occurring gas. At high pressures and high temperatures, carbon dioxide reaches a supercritical state. The CO2 becomes a solvent with its small, nonpolar molecules attracting the small caffeine molecules. Since flavor molecules are larger, they remain intact, which is why this process best retains the flavor of the tea. After passing through the tea leaves, the caffeine-laden CO2 is filtered to remove the caffeine, and then recycled for further use in decaffeination.


Tip: in the marketplace, tea decaffeinated using ethyl acetate is often misleadingly referred to as “naturally decaffeinated.”


*Source: “Caffeine and Tea: Myth and Reality” by Nigel Melican. February 6, 2008 http://chadao.blogspot.com

 

Can You Decaffeinate My Favorite Tea?

organic decaf earl grey black tea
Organic Decaf Earl Grey
Black Tea


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One of our customers recently asked why we don’t carry a decaffeinated Genmaicha Green Tea, to which we offered the following explanation.  Decaffeinating teas requires costly equipment and substantial amounts of energy, which typically makes it cost-ineffective to decaffeinate small batches of specialty teas.  Only the most mainstream varieties are generally considered for decaffeination, usually versatile black and green teas that can be sold “as is” or blended in some fashion to create products like Decaf English Breakfast, Decaf Earl Grey, etc. 

You’ll rarely see a decaffeinated version of a limited-production premium tea, like our Jade Oolong, Silver Needle White, or Gyokuro Green.  These products are already rather expensive and have a limited market demand, so creating a more expensive decaffeinated version to serve an even smaller group of customers is both prohibitively expensive and energy-inefficient. However, don't fret! To lower the caffeine content of a tea that is not offered in a decaffeinated version, please read our discussion on the Decaffeination at Home technique.