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goodTea said

It Is Hard to Find a Good Decaf Tea

I want to share notes with anyone else who drinks and searches for decaf teas. I have never, ever, found a decaf tea as good as even an average black tea. Has anyone had anything but the same experience?

The best I have found is Tea Gschwendner’s Darjeeling Premium Decaf. It’s not bitter if brewed for a short time, and it replicates at least some of the flavor of a good Darjeeling. http://www.tgtea.com/buy/1/1/37/Darjeeling-Premium-Decaf-/290.aspx

Has anyone found an exceptional decaffeinated tea?

One thing I plan to try is the “Premium” decaffeinated teas at Upton Tea Imports. Upton’s catalog reads,

—> “All decaffeination processes used for tea are problematic, and remove flavor as well as caffeine… There is one company that is approaching this problem in a unique way. They start with grades of tea that would ordinarily be considered too good for the flavor-robbing decaffeination process. They then sort the final product to eliminate most of the smaller leaf particles that decaffeination produces. Predictably, the result is a superior final product.”

Does anyone have a sense of what Upton is talking about? About what company uses this process?

(See page 43 of Upton’s PDF catalog at http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/information/INFOV19N1-FullCatalog-Winter2009.pdf.)

42 Replies

I’ve been trying to drink decaf or caffeine free teas (for the most part) for the past seven or eight months. I figure I have about about eight months or so to go (through the end of pregnancy and the first 3-6 months with baby).

I’ve not been super impressed with any I’ve gotten. Though, I have found that flavored black teas don’t bother me as much, mostly because the flavor would cover up the slightly off decaf black flavor.

A majority of my black decaf experience has been with Adagio. I got a sampler from them because they use the CO2 method, which is supposed to lead to higher quality decaf tea:

Thanks for starting this topic! I look forward to seeing what others have to say!

Cofftea said

Have you tried any of Adagio’s decaf greens? I’m just not a black tea person.

Oh, interesting! I hadn’t looked into that, but maybe that’ll be the next order I make!!

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S said

I have had luck with Adagio’s decaf strawberry, especially when mixed with another decaf or regular caf tea. I think it’s less bitter than the regular version.

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Pithy said

If you can’t handle caffeine, maybe you should stop drinking tea. Or stick to herbal teas that have no camellia senensis in them. Tea should be about enjoying rich, complex flavors, so why are you forcing yourself to drink this flat, tasteless crap? To think that there is a company that is using higher grade leaves for decaffeination so the flavor loss is close to what a low grade tea would taste like without decaffeination is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Tea is not the only healthy thing in the world. Sure it has a lot of antioxidants, but did you know you can also get antioxidants from eating fruits and vegetables.

S said

Pithy, I’m not sure why you’re being so aggressive over something as simple as tea, but let me just say this: It’s not “dumb” to want to find a good decaf and the entire point of this post is to find recommendations for tea that doesn’t taste like “flat, tasteless crap”. Has it ever occured to you that perhaps the OP likes the taste of tea? That the OP cannot have caffeine anymore? That the OP doesn’t want to have caffeine at certain times, and is thus looking for something that tastes good and is decaffeinated? Even if you believe that drinking decaf tea is worse than drinking no tea at all, there’s no reason for you to be rude. Take the wannabe elitism (because for some reason I highly doubt that someone with a professional/elite-level interest in tea would write a comment as simplistic and limited as this) elsewhere.

Pithy said

I’m an impassioned tea drinker, give me a break. If OP likes the taste of tea, they will not like the taste of decaffeinated tea. Put some hibiscus in hot water or something if you need a hot drink.

Jillian said

Huh, either no one bothered to teach you manners and tact, or Steepster just got its first troll. Anyone care to wager on which it is?

Kristin said

I agree with Shanti. I love tea, but can only have a certain amount of caffeine a day or I’ll get migraines and the caffeine keeps me from sleeping. I therefore drink a lot of Rooibos and White tea. But, I would LOVE to find good black decaf.

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Pithy said

Okaaay, I’ll try and be more helpful with this next answer. If you are sensitive to caffeine and for whatever reason must have tea- you could start looking into aged teas. They are going to be very dark and complex while also naturally having almost no caffeine. Or you could start getting into puerhs which are an aged and fermented tea. They are more malty and a little heavier, but also naturally low in caffeine. These are my two choices if I drink tea before bed.

Also, seriously, try hibiscus. It turns the water hot pink which is my favorite color.

goodTea said

It’s true that decaffeinated tea is uniformly bad as tea. But if you like tea as much as I do, and were as sensitive to caffeine as I am, you would understand why I continue my (hopeless) search for good decaf tea.

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Gander said

I don’t have experience with decaf tea, but I also recommend trying Puerh tea. I’m pretty sure it has no caffeine or very little, and in Hong Kong people virtually drink it like water with their meals. Rooibos doesn’t have caffeine either but if you like black tea, Puerh would work better.

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goodTea said

How little caffeine does Puehr have?

Gander said

I’m trying to find the exact number but from some googling, it seems that oolong and puerh have half the caffeine of regular black or less, like green tea. But because Puerh is aged, the caffeine is somewhat altered and isn’t absorbed the way regular caffeine is. My friend drinks a cup or two at bedtime and has no trouble going to sleep, so I think it must be pretty low.

I read somewhere, not so long ago, that good, aged (more than 10-15 years), wet-stored, sheng (uncooked) pu erh has virtually no caffiene. It has to do with the wet-stored aging process. Some Brits did a study in the UK into this. I can’t seem to find the study now though (of course). Pithy is right to point out above that pu erh is very strong, dark and earthy in flavour. I’ve heard some describe it as dank, smooth, caramel, dark chocolate… And some people love it and others hate it. Personally, it’s my favourite type of tea, especially when poured through an unglazed yixing zi sha (purple clay) teapot.

goodTea said

Cloudwalker, I was wondering if you would be willing to recommend a good aged, wet-stored pu-ehr.

Sure, most cake teas available in NA are sub-par. You’re better off going with a loose leaf tea that lived for 10 years or so as a cake and was later broken up into a loose leaf tea and aged for 5 years more, preferably in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Vietnam where tea ages best. That said, I have a few I’d be willing to recommend (from my own store obviously!):

If you like the depth of flavour (dark, earthy, rich) available in pu erh, the first I recommend is Romance. Even though it is half shou, it’s seven years old and has got strong, light chi energy. http://www.cloudwalkerteas.com/product/PUR-004

If you’re looking for something a little lighter but retaining the usual earthy pu erh characteristics, try our Yie Sheng or Wild pu erh, wet-stored for 15 years. It’s harvested from tea trees grown in the wild of Yunnan in China and I find it a bit smoother, although both have a lasting hui gan (returning sweetness). Chi is more Yin with this one. http://www.cloudwalkerteas.com/product/PUR-008

If you’re looking for something that emphasizes traditional pu erh flavours less, and is kind of between pu erh/black tea and has almost a sweetness/floral aroma to it, try Dian Hong. It’s different than anything most people have tried but was only wet-stored for 3 years. However, because it was fermented longer than most pu erh, the flavours are more refined after such a short aging. http://www.cloudwalkerteas.com/product/PUR-003

EDIT: If it’s less caffeine you’re going for, go for the Wild pu erh..

oakandsage said

I know this topic is several years old, but I’m trying not to be that person who starts topics that are done to death, so forum searching.

Thanks for this, Cloudwalker. Last time I had a pu erh I got a massive caffeine high from a couple cups, but I love the flavor. (At the time, I was more sensitive to caffeine than I am now. I got a slight high off decaf black teas even.)

I’m assuming from this post that in general a longer aged pu erh will have less caffeine… if anyone who can confirm/deny this passes by this post, I’d love to know more. Even anecdotal info about whether people find pu erh more or less stimulating than green tea would be useful.

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Tapiridae said

I know it sound a bit odd, but there simply aren’t any reliable studies about caffeine in tea. The problem is that you don’t know what they are studying. They might be studying the caffeine level of the actual leaf or the amount of caffeine that gets into the cup. Even if they’re able to figure out how much caffeine gets in the cup, we don’t really know how much is absorbed or in what way it is absorbed.

The only way that I could think of to study how much caffeine is absorbed is taking blood samples. Even then there are simply too many other things that influence caffeine levels and you could always argue that the absorption is delayed.

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Gander said

Do you drink flavored blacks? I’m a bit hesitant to recommend this because I haven’t tried it myself, but my friend likes decaf tea from Harney & Sons. She likes Vanilla Comoro, but of course you have to like vanilla… I think they have other kinds, too.

I’ve recently gotten hooked on this :) I find it delicious for a decaf! You just have to not think of it compared to regular tea :)

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GoodTea- I’ve also been on a quest for decaf black teas, especially loose-leaf. For bags, my go-to iteas are TyPhoo decaf and Taylors of Harrogate breakfast decaf. Republic of Tea makes a great Apricot decaf I like, but I think that’s just the flavoring, since I really dislike their loose leaf decaf British Breakfast.
I bought some Upton’s decaf Assam and it was so bitter and harsh I can’t drink it straight. Right now I add a bit to my previously-steeped Assam to get a second infusion. I haven’t tried their other decaf looseleaf teas, I may try the darjeeling next.

I should try some of the pu-erhs mentioned above. If it’s late at night and I need a cup I usually go for my rooibos (straight up, no flavorings, please!). I can’t drink black teas after about noon, but I can handle greens and whites, which have a lot less caffeine. The decaf greens I’ve tried have been better on the whole than the decaf blacks, but still not as good as the original.

S said

Hi ChemistMama, thanks for the reqs, I will check them out.

By the way, I read online that white teas and green teas actually have comparable amounts of caffeine to black tea. I can’t find the study at the moment, though…

Wikipedia (I know, I know) says “Preparation and many other factors have a significant impact on tea, and color is a very poor indicator of caffeine content.21 Teas like the pale Japanese green tea gyokuro, for example, contain far more caffeine than much darker teas like lapsang souchong, which has very little.”

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Gander said

I like orzo, which is not exactly a “tea” but caffeine free. I used to drink it like water when I was young, and there are some flavored varieties as well. Lupicia’s Orzo Caramel & Honey is my current night time tea.

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