Here at Immortal Wordsmith, I’ve reviewed numerous different tea types. Among them, are decaffeinated tea and caffeine-free tea. But they most definitely are not the same. You cannot use the terms interchangeably, so you’d better learn the difference!
In this guide, I’ll explain what decaf tea is, what caffeine-free tea is, and give you a few examples of both.
Decaffeinated tea has had the caffeine removed.
This means that it once had caffeine, but through a decaffeination process, the majority of that caffeine has been removed. So, you can get decaffeinated black tea, green tea, white tea, and any other traditional tea type you can think of.
There are two things you should know about decaf tea:
- A few milligrams of caffeine will remain, so you can’t call decaf tea “caffeine-free”.
- The decaffeinated process also removes a lot of the nutrition from the tea.
The methods used to suck out the caffeine vary. At worst, they use chemicals. At best, they use gas or water to dissolve the caffeine. Either way, these processes also suck out much of the flavour and nutritional value of the tea. These flavours and components then need to be put back into the tea leaves, which are re-dried and packaged into teabags.
So, that’s why decaffeinated tea does taste different to normal tea. Furthermore, if you want the polyphenols and antioxidants that tea is know for (check out tea health benefits here) then you’ll be very disappointed.
The main advantage of decaffeinated tea is that you can enjoy the flavour of natural, normal tea but without the energy. If you’re overly sensitive to caffeine or need to avoid it for medical reasons, decaffeinated tea is a good choice.
Caffeine-free tea is completely free from caffeine, which means that it never contained caffeine in the first place!
There are only a handful of plants that naturally produce caffeine in the world. Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, is one of them. Others include yerba mate and coffee. So, these plants can either make a caffeinated or decaffeinated tea.
A caffeine-free tea is usually known as an herbal tea. Well, if you want to be technical, they’re herbal infusions. As they’re not made from the traditional tea plant, some people don’t like calling them teas. Infusion, or tisane, is another name for them.
Caffeine-free tea can be made from numerous plant parts. Leaves, roots, flowers and stems are just some of them. For example, peppermint leaves, ginger root, chamomile flowers, and lemongrass stems. Fruits are caffeine-free too, although sometimes they’re referred to as fruit teas rather than herbal teas.
If these kinds of herbal teas are your jam, check out:
Another herbal tea that’s often confused with decaffeinated tea, is rooibos. Rooibos is an herbal tea from South Africa, but it has an unusual property. The flavour of rooibos is rich, nutty, and has a tannin quality.
Thanks to this, rooibos is offered as a caffeine-free alternative to black tea. You’ll find it in numerous different caffeine-free tea blends, including:
Oh, and if you want to learn more about the health benefits and properties of rooibos, read my guide to What is Red Bush Tea?