A Closer Look at the Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination Process

Our customers often ask us about how we decaffeinate our teas. Unlike other tea companies that use methylene chloride, a chemical solvent with reported health risks, we use carbon dioxide, a natural alternative to methylene chloride and the only decaffeination method approved for certified organic teas. Since we work so hard to source high quality organic teas, it’s just as important that our decaffeination process preserves our teas’ flavor and quality as much as possible.

To give you more information about how the carbon dioxide decaffeination process works: in a sealed chamber, moistened tea leaves are exposed to pressurized CO2, which has been liquefied under pressure. The liquefied CO2 bonds with the caffeine molecules in the leaves and after a few hours, the liquid is poured off and the tea is dried, evaporating both the CO2 and the caffeine. As caffeine is the only compound reduced, this process leaves the treated tea leaves more intact and flavorful than other methods.

We hope you’ll try all of our decaffeinated teas. Currently we offer a Decaf English Breakfast, Decaf Earl Grey, and Decaf Green in tea bags and a Decaf Black, Decaf Green, and Decaf Chai in loose leaf.

It’s important to remember that decaffeination does leave a trace amount of caffeine in tea, meaning the tea becomes decaffeinated, not caffeine free. If you are concerned about ingesting any caffeine at all, you’ll want to avoid decaffeinated teas and stick to herbal teas such as Chamomile, Peppermint, and Rooibos that never contained any caffeine. Note that Yerba Maté is our one herbal tea that does contain caffeine.

Happy sipping!

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Caffeine or matiene, anyone?

A few months ago, I switched my morning cup to one of yerba maté.  It’s good to shake up your routine every once in a while, right? Though its unique, grassy flavor took a little getting used to at first, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it gave me an energy boost without any of the jittery feelings that can come from a cup of coffee. It offered a gradual feeling of alertness while still being a comforting cup of hot herbal tea in the chilly morning.

This ‘caffeine without all the side effects of caffeine’ has led some to believe that the stimulant in yerba maté is not, in fact, caffeine, but a similar chemical called ‘matiene.’ And its varying effects would suggest that there is a slightly different chemical process occurring when one consumes yerba maté versus an average cup of drip coffee.  Some of the arguments for matiene’s unique chemical structure include that it stimulates the central nervous system but is not habituating or addictive, and that it induces better, rather than worse, sleep.

Upon further inspection however, it seems that matiene may just be caffeine by another name and that the unique buzz from maté can be explained by taking a closer look at the plant’s chemistry. On average, a yerba maté leaf contains 0.7%-2% caffeine, versus up to 3% for ground coffee. The absence of the jitters can also be explained by the accompanying minerals or related alkaloids present in the herb that interact with caffeine during digestion.

Yerba maté contains three chemical stimulants, called xanthines: caffeine (shown left), theobromine, and theophylline. Dr. Leslie Taylor, a certified naturopath with an expertise in rainforest plants explains, “xanthines are bound to sugars in living plants, and are set free or unbound during the roasting or fermenting processes used to process yerba maté leaves, coffee beans, and even cacao beans,” explaining the presence of caffeine in many of our favorite foods.  The “matiene chemical ‘discovered’ is probably just caffeine bound to a tannin or phenol in the raw leaf,” giving it its particular characteristic.

No matter what you call its energizing ingredient though, the brewing and sharing of Yerba Maté is a deep-rooted practice in many South American cultures, not to mention its worldwide popularity. It has been used in Europe and South America historically for many ailments such as headaches, fatigue, stress, and allergies. Be it matiene or caffeine inside a cup, this unique herb offers a satisfying flavor and energy to its drinker. Our new Yerba Maté Mint, blended with spearmint, peppermint, and lemongrass, offers a new spin on this classic tea, and is just the thing to perk me up on those especially grey Seattle mornings.

Are you a maté fan? Do you notice a difference when you drink coffee, yerba maté, or traditional tea?




Tisane Time

I get a lot of questions here about caffeine – how much is in a cup of this or that, which tea has the most or the least, and how it compares to a cup of coffee. I answered some of the more detailed questions about caffeine in the past. However, at this time of year with New Year’s resolutions fresh in everyone’s minds, I’m being asked about which teas of ours are completely caffeine-free. The answer? Our tisanes!

What’s a tisane? Simply put, a tisane is an herbal infusion made with anything but tea – an herbal tea. The word comes from the Greek πτισάνη, ptisanē, which was a drink made with pearl barley. These days a tisane can be just about anything as long as it doesn’t contain the Camellia sinensis plant. Most of the time, although not always, a tisane contains no caffeine, since it’s made with herbs and leaves which are naturally free of caffeine. (The big exception to this rule is our Yerba Maté, which is made from a South American leaf that does naturally contain caffeine.)

Tisanes also offer an opportunity for unique tastes and flavors. Our Liquorice Peppermint makes a wonderful after-dinner calorie-free dessert option thanks to the liquorice root, which brews up naturally sweet, while a pitcher of iced Northwest Blackberry is the best thing on a summer’s day. A personal favorite of mine is Lemon Lavender Mint, because I absolutely love anything with lavender in it, and the flavor profile is pretty unique.

And speaking of the New Year and tisanes, we’re always looking for new blends. What new tisanes would you like to see from us?

The Monday Boost: Caffeine Amounts in Tea

On a Monday morning, particularly after a beautiful summer weekend like we had here in Seattle, a pick-me-up is usually in order. A cup of tea is a healthy way to get that needed boost. But how much are you actually getting?

All “true” tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and contains caffeine. The names White, Green, Black, and Oolong signify how the tea was processed. Twig tea (also called Kukicha) is made from the twigs, rather than the leaves, of the Camellia sinensis plant and contains very little caffeine. I wish we could tell you exactly how much caffeine is in a cup of tea, but it is simply not possible to be that precise! There are just too many variables – what field was the tea grown in, what time of year, how long had it been growing, how much rain was there, how long did you steep the tea, how hot was the water, etc. We can give a good estimate, though, as long as you keep those variables in mind:

Caffeine content per cup:

Coffee – 200 to 300 mg
Black tea – 60 to 80 mg
Oolong tea – 50 to 60 mg
Green tea – 35 to 50 mg
Genmaicha (Green tea with toasted brown rice) – 17 to 18 mg
Moroccan Mint Green (Green tea and herbs) – 17 to 18 mg
White tea – 30 to 50 mg
Decaf coffee – 2 to 6 mg
Decaf tea – 2 to 4 mg
Loose leaf Twig tea (from the stems of the plant) – 2 to 3 mg. The teabag version of Choice Organic Teas Twig tea also contains leaf so it contains more caffeine – 34 mg in our last test.

All true tea has caffeine, so the industry standard is that they do not require a caffeine statement on the package. You’ve probably noticed that coffee and chocolate also don’t state that they contain caffeine! Herbal teas, also known as tisanes, do not contain any Camilia sinensis. Most Choice Organic Teas tisanes are labeled as “caffeine-free”, the exception being our Yerba Mate, which is an herbal tea from South America that naturally contains caffeine just like tea or coffee. Our organic Yerba Mate is pure and untoasted for a mellow, woody cup. It’s one of my favorite selections for those days when I feel like I need an extra bit of energy.

Keep this list in mind when you’re looking to energize, and all your Mondays will be happy ones.