How To Decaffeinate Your Tea

By , March 9, 2010

I just love tea! Something about having a hot cup of tea in my hands is very comforting. When I lived for a short while in New Zealand, one of my favorite things to do was make myself a cup of tea, and take it outside into the chilly grayness of the late-winter afternoon and with one hand pull up little weeds from the flower beds while sipping steaming tea from the other hand. That’s a fond memory I’ll never forget.

Anyway, over the past few years I’ve become less and less tolerant of caffeinated tea. Caffeine used to do absolutely nothing to me, so I could drink it and not notice anything one way or the other. But gradually it began to affect me in a negative way. I stay away from any caffeinated drinks now because they make me feel jittery and nauseated (too much strong dark chocolate also has the same effect).

But I love black tea with cream…especially Earl Grey. And the kitchen at work is always stocked with tea bags, hot water, and half & half. But the tea bags are fully-caffeinated English Breakfast black tea, Earl Grey, and green tea. What to do? DIY decaffeination! Here’s my method:

1. Put a teabag into your mug. Fill the mug with very hot (or boiling) water. (Fill the mug a quarter full, half full, or totally full…it doesn’t matter.)

2. Let the teabag sit in the water for 30 seconds.

3. Pour out the water (but keep the teabag!)

4. Now you’re ready to brew your actual cup of tea; fill your mug with very hot (or boiling) water, steep your teabag for as long as you prefer, add milk, cream, or sugar if you want, and enjoy!

I’ve been decaffeinating my own tea for a few years now, and this method really works for me. Caffeine is very water soluble and most of it leaches into the water within the first 30-45 seconds of brewing your tea. I’ve read that this method removes about 80% of the caffeine…about the same as the pre-decaffeinated tea that you can buy at the store. (In fact I like how the little “pre-brew” process softens the bitter bite of the tea.)

Now, I’ve read some silly debates about using hot water versus boiling water…and how you “must never” use this method with tea bags — only with loose tea, and so on. In my opinion, it’s baloney. If the water is hot enough to make tea, it’ll work. If you use tea bags, it’ll work. If you use loose tea, it’ll work.

I use this method daily, though I do get some strange looks in the office kitchen from people who wonder why I’m standing idly at the counter, staring into space with a half-full mug of tea in my hands!

In any case, it’s a trick that definitely comes in handy!


7 Responses to “How To Decaffeinate Your Tea”

  1. snowpeas says:

    THANK you for that great tip!! Now all those caffeinated tea bags in my cupboard can also be enjoyed at night before bed by first DE-caffeinating them! Priceless info! Also, welcome back and glad surgery went well for your other foot!

  2. Thomas says:

    Unfortunately, this does not work. Nigel Melican explains why here:

  3. Chris Steele says:

    Wonderful, now what do we do to decaffeinate coffee?

  4. Lindsey says:

    Hi Chris,
    Hmm, probably the same process. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’d probably just grind the coffee, put the grounds into a mug, pour boiling water over, steep 30 seconds, then drain thru a fine seive over the sink, then put the grounds into your coffeemaker and brew as usual. If you try it, let me know how ya go! 🙂

  5. benjamintheblue says:

    I have been using this method, and it seems to work in that I don’t get as jittery. I was all happy until I read Nigel Melican’s view. Then a quick google showed his company Teacraft actually sells the equipment used to decaffeinate. Doh ..

  6. Terry says:

    Thanks for two enries. First, the blending proportions for making Russian Caravan tea. My regular purveyor has stopped carrying the blend. So, DIY.Second, the de-caffeinating tea entry. I’m sensitive to caffeine late in the day like you, so I’ll try your instructions. Bon thé.

  7. Diane_D says:

    Thank you! When I find some “can’t fail” tip on the internet, I always look for at least 3 sources to confirm it, and your personal testimony (incl. “doesn’t matter whether it’s tea BAGS”) sealed it for me. I can’t take caffeine, either, and this will be very handy!

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