How to Decaffeinate Your Tea at Home

We receive questions on a daily basis regarding the caffeine content of tea.  It’s probably one of the hottest topics we’re asked about.  Recently, a customer asked why we didn’t carry a decaffeinated Genmaicha Green Tea, to which I offered the following explanation:

Decaffeinating teas requires costly equipment and substantial amounts of energy, which typically make it cost-ineffective to decaffeinate small batches of specialty teas.  Only the most main-stream 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 almost never 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 doesn’t make sense for the tea manufacturer.

After offering this explanation, I was reminded of a way for caffeine-conscious tea lovers to sidestep the limited availability of premium decaffeinated teas.  If you just HAVE to have a particular variety of tea, and you’re not able to find a decaffeinated version, consider using our “easy at-home decaffeination method.”

  1. Place your tea in your brewing vessel (teapot, etc.), and cover with a small amount of water (just enough to cover the leaves) heated to the appropriate temperature for the tea being brewed.
  2. Steep for a minute, then remove the leaves and discard the water.
  3. Re-infuse the same tea leaves in fresh water for the customary amount of time.

You’ve just made yourself a less caffeinated cup of tea! This method will not remove the caffeine entirely, but could take out as much as 20% of the caffeine (amended from our original thinking that it could remove up to 80% of the caffeine because of relatively new research released by tea “technologist” Nigel Melican). Keep in mind that small amounts of caffeine remain in tea decaffeinated by any method – only naturally caffeine-free herbal and fruit infusions lack it completely. It is also worth noting that the method described above may somewhat diminish the flavor and aroma of your tea.

March 18 2009 10:10 am | Tea and Health and Tea Facts and Tea Preparation

13 Responses to “How to Decaffeinate Your Tea at Home”

  1. Judy on 20 Mar 2009 at 6:58 am #

    This makes so much sense! I often find that I prefer the second or third infusions better anyway. I like silver needle white best at the third infusion!

  2. Lynn Courtney on 20 Mar 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Dear Jeremy and Aubrey,

    Arbor Teas is a wonderful resource. Your blog is very helpful and your genmaicha is delicious. Thanks for all you are doing.

    Lynn Courtney

  3. Dia on 03 Jun 2010 at 2:09 am #

    I’ve heard this suggestion before – certainly the easiest way to decaffinate tea for home use!! & as Judy said, that second or third cup is still quite tasty!

  4. Terri on 09 Aug 2010 at 8:11 am #

    I have been decaffeinating my arbor teas at home like this for years. It works great for me and the tea still taste great. Thanks for all you do at Arbor teas!

  5. JLon on 27 Jan 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    I had heard this as well, but I think it might be an urban legend.


  6. Aubrey on 28 Jan 2011 at 11:33 am #

    Hi JLon -

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, this (relatively) new thought on “quick decaffeination” (or lack of) is based on research by Nigel Melican, a respected “tea technologist,” who claims that this method (one he originally purported) does NOT remove as much caffeine as once thought. Nigel claims that up to 91% of the caffeine stays in the cup when using this 30 second method. At the time we posted this blog post we had not seen Nigel’s research, but I believe he presented his own research at a recent industry conference. The Cha Dao post is fascinating and certainly calls into question this potential myth. We certainly have questioned our own thinking on this topic and will make an adjustment to the post. Thanks!

  7. W.L.Sakowski on 02 Sep 2011 at 9:38 am #

    I was told, by a Tea Master, that the afore mentioned method was reliable.

  8. Aubrey on 02 Sep 2011 at 11:41 am #

    That is great news W.L. — However, we at Arbor Teas are still erring on the “safe” side and only posting that this method may remove 20% of the caffeine, rather than 80%. Even if the truth falls somewhere in between, the difference between 20% and 80% can be very important to folks who are extremely sensitive to caffeine. Better to be safe, than sorry! Thanks for your comment.

  9. Clowderkat on 09 Aug 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Thanks for this very helpful info on decaffeinating teas.

  10. Eric on 16 May 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    I use this technique with 5 tea bags in one mug for only 45 seconds and I don’t feel any caffeine buzz. I think it get’s out at least 90%. I don’t know, I drink 5 tea bag’s at once every day. And I drink it as fast as you would a cup of coffee with the tea remaining in the mug. It work’s . Stay thirsty my friends!

  11. Dan P on 06 Apr 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    I have a question about the caffeine in tea on successive infusions. If I brew tea then serve it, I naturally assume it to be loaded with caffeine, and that’s ok. But when I use those same leaves for a second, third, even fourth infusion, what’s the caffeine content then? I expect traces to be there but it can’t be close to the first infusion. Any thoughts on this? I avoid caffeine after late afternoon but will happily drink a second, third or fourth cup of an oolong, green or white tea. It hasn’t seemed to affected sleep but I’ve been wondering about caffeine levels on successive infusions. Any thoughts?

  12. Aubrey on 15 Apr 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    HI Dan -

    Thank you for the comment and great question! Caffeine continues to be extracted with each infusion until all the caffeine that is able to be extracted from the leaf, is extracted. Generally speaking, the first infusion is the most laden with caffeine. And each successive infusion gradually decreases in caffeine content. However, I have seen some research that has shown the first and second infusions of some teas to be equal in their caffeine content. The length of steeping time and temperature of water used to steep the tea will affect the amount of caffeine extracted from the leaf into your cup. The hotter the water and the longer the steep = the greater amount of caffeine extracted. After a total of 10 minutes of steeping time (either in one long steep or multiple shorter steeps), you can expect most or all of the caffeine that can be extracted from the leaf, to be extracted.

    Hope this helps!

    Arbor Teas

  13. Tea for Two (or Three or Four) | Gotta Minute Mom on 11 Jul 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    [...] I keep it simple, but I use real food and real teapots and cups. Real tea. There are plenty of decaffeinated options, and you can read here about ways to decaffeinate tea yourself. [...]

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