Decaf Tea – The Birchall Way

May 29, 2020 | Birchall

We take great pride in our carefully cultivated selection of best-in-class tea. Over the years, we have modified our range by always listening to customer feedback, making sure we provide the very best flavour in as many popular varieties as possible. In recent times, there has been a growing demand for black tea which packs the same great flavour as regular teabags, yet with drastically reduced caffeine content. We use a Decaffeination process to remove the caffeine from our Breakfast Tea, it ensures the caffeine content is next to minimal, and provides a caffeine light alternative to regular tea. Meanwhile, our selection of caffeine free fruit and herbal infusions are all naturally caffeine free and are therefore never subjected to a decaffeination process. The rise of decaf options across the marketplace is a reflection of the growing popularity of individuals looking for caffeine light options. However, decaffeination is not without its challenges, and many products stripped of their caffeine content tend to taste noticeably different.

You can rest assured that we have worked tirelessly to ensure our decaf range – including Great Rift Decaf and Decaffeinated Tea – is up to the standard you would expect of Birchall Tea. Our tea tasting experts tested our decaf blends in direct market comparisons, and are delighted to see our range consistently triumph in taste tests. There are three popular methods of extraction when decaffeinating the contents of tea, and we believe that our extraction process results in the best flavour.

Forming our decaf selection:

We conducted a series of professional tea-tastings to find the best method of decaffeination. We wanted to ensure that food safety and taste were the key selecting factors. We believe that this ambition has been achieved, our decaf range has since won 2 Gold Star Great Taste Awards from The Guild of Fine Foods. What’s more, our decaf selection is currently the most highly awarded decaf option in the country, a testament to our ongoing research and desire for a great tasting decaf option that can be enjoyed at any time.

The extraction process:

We use a compound called Methylene Chloride (MC) to decaffeinate our tea because we believe it provides superior flavour in comparison to the other methods of extraction. The MC process absorbs the caffeine in the tea before being drained away, it is then steamed for a further 10 hours. This is a widely used method of decaffeination, and one which we believe represents the best method of removing caffeine from a teabag. Our tea is decaffeinated in Switzerland – Our supplier always complies with strict regulations within their decaffeination production environment, they adhere to the highest standard of care and deliver the taste quality expected from a Birchall teabag. Their quality systems are audited against BRC Food safety standards each year and they have achieved a grade of AA+.

We ensure that no residue is left from the extraction process when it arrives in your tea cup, providing a safe and delicious tea tasting experience. EU Regulation sets the maximum trace level of MC in a teabag at 5 ppm (parts per million). In practice a typical decaf Birchall teabag achieves levels of around 2 ppm once packaged and sent to the customer. Meanwhile, there is consistent monitoring of production to ensure every decaffeinated teabag meets our extremely high duty of care.

No trace of the decaffeination process:

By the time your decaf teabag arrives, there is little evidence of any chemical compound remaining from the extraction process, however the final step to fully remove any trace occurs when the hot water infuses with the teabag. MC becomes a gas at 40C, a cup of tea is normally prepared with water above 80C, therefore meaning any traces of MC in the tea evaporate before it’s consumed.

Can you taste the difference?

Before even considering a decaf option for our consumers, we wanted to ensure that we could create a decaf range which meets our high level of expectations, and honours our ongoing pursuit of quality. We wanted to protect as much of our world-famous flavour as possible, we did not want to lose the much-loved aroma of a Birchall teabag! Whilst it is difficult to retain the same taste, we believe the difference is minimal and are extremely proud of our decaf range. A large amount of resources went into researching the extraction process, and extensively testing the various options to ensure we could re-create the Birchall tea experience in decaf form. We wanted a decaf option which wouldn’t sacrifice the heart-warming familiarity of Birchall Tea, and we are confident that we have succeeded in this endeavour.

Is decaf tea full of chemicals?

No – As explained during the extraction process, our decaf tea features no traces of chemicals once it is infused with boiling water. The majority of the chemical MC is removed during the extraction process, whilst the last few remaining traces are removed once the boiling water meets the tea bag as the MC turns into a gas and evaporates. This leaves you with an inviting golden brew free of any chemical compounds, and a decaf tea which we believe is the best in the marketplace. We promise to deliver a delicious tasting tea without the standard caffeine content. The popular BBC TV show ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’ further alleviates any fears regarding the decaffeination process by coming to the conclusion that some people worry that because the chemical solvents are toxic, these methods must be bad for you. But the level of solvent remaining after the process is over is vanishingly small, and below the level deemed safe by European regulations.

Another method uses a charcoal filter to remove the caffeine from the water and a third method uses ‘supercritical’ carbon dioxide – CO2 at extremely high pressures – to dissolve the caffeine. Whilst some worry about the potential health risks in using this method of carbon dioxide poisoning, there is no evidence to support these fears.

Our advice is that if you do choose decaf, let your taste buds be your guide and don’t worry too much about how it was made.

 

Is decaf tea better for me than normal tea?

This is very much up for debate and is dependent on your very own circumstances as an individual. The decaffeination process removes the majority of caffeine content which can offer a range of health benefits if you need to cut down on this particular stimulant. However, if you are looking for improved brain function during the day, regular tea is proven to provide stimulus and engage your brain.

Therefore, there is no right or wrong answer, if you have been advised medically that you need to lower your blood pressure, then reducing your caffeine content, along with other modifications to your diet can have a positive effect. Meanwhile, if you have trouble getting to sleep, switching to a decaf option could provide a helping hand. For most people who enjoy a substantial amount of tea, the caffeine content is typically a healthy supplement to a well-balanced diet and provides a number of health benefits. Unfortunately, one downside to the decaffeination process is that it strips away some of the other health benefits associated with tea, therefore the decision to switch to decaf is one that can only be made on a person by person basis.

Decaf vs Regular

If for whatever reason you are looking to switch to a decaf option, we hope you will find much to enjoy within our award-winning decaf blends. We pride ourselves on being the experts in tea and believe we have conjured a decaf experience which doesn’t sacrifice the very essence of what we all love about a cup of tea. It is important to remember that there is no need to worry about the caffeine content in normal tea, a regular teabag will only pack around 50 mg of caffeine per cup, and we can safely consume 300mg of caffeine per day (unless you have identified an intolerance or are currently pregnant). Therefore, the need to switch to a decaf option is an individual choice, and we wish to support those who have decided to make this lifestyle choice for whatever reason. We are also extremely passionate about being a conscientious business who adhere to the highest of safety standards during the extraction process, we have spent ample time ensuring we use the best method of extraction in terms of safety and flavour. Tea has been our family tradition for over 140 years, and we welcome any and all feedback you may have on our decaf options.