I had a tea-dreamy experience this past weekend. My beautiful and talented cousin was recently accepted into Berkeley. As a “congrats!” gift, I had to do something special for her. She is an avid tea drinker and eclectic tea cup collector, so I went on the Google hunt for the ultimate tea experience.
Located in southern California, I found the most amazing tea paradise called Chado Tea Room. With three different locations in Los Angeles, we headed to Pasadena to tea taste test our taste buds.
For our tea taste testing we were able to try the 6 different categories of tea from lightest to darkest, while a tea expert walked us through each one. Tea making really is a fine art. It is beautiful how much love and delicate care is put into this craft that brings so much joy to the millions of tea drinkers out there.
While going through our teas my Aunt asked a brilliant question, “So, if all the teas in the world come from one plant and that plant naturally contains caffeine, how do we get decaffeinated tea then?” Great question. Something I never pondered myself. The answer caught me by surprise.
Main stream tea company’s may use toxic chemical compounds to extract the caffeine.
Mainstream tea companies have three tea decaffeination processes options.
- Methylene Chloride: Also known as dichloromethane. Trace amounts of this solvent remain in the tea leaves after decaffeination. Large amounts of this chemical have been linked to cancer, so the legal limit is 5 parts per million is placed on residual traces in the tea. As of today, there are still many teas that are decaffeinated using this process. Personally, if I am choosing to drink tea because of it’s potential health benefits why would I drink tea using this method, even if there is trace amounts? Would you like a trace amount of toxins with your tea? No, thank you.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) decaffeinated tea is essentially “pressure cooked” with this naturally occurring gas. At high pressures and high temperatures, carbon dioxide reaches a supercritical state. The CO2 becomes a solvent with its small, nonpolar molecules attracting the small caffeine molecules. Since flavor molecules are larger, they remain intact, which is why this process retains the flavor of the tea the best (1). Chado Tea and most of the other true tea companies make their tea this way. I say “true” because they grow, harvest and create their teas the old fashion natural way. If you talk to any tea professional, it would be a disgrace to the history of tea to change its components using chemical compounds.
- Water (H2O)– Caffeine extraction with water is used primarily for coffee decaffeination, however a small amount of tea products are decaffeinated using the water method. After the caffeine is removed from the tea by soaking the tea in hot water for a period of time, the solution is passed through a carbon filter for caffeine removal. The water is then returned to the tea for reabsorption of flavors and oils. This process is often described as “watering down” the flavor of the tea (1). Due to the amount of water needed to make such a small amount of decaffeinated tea, this may be a method for your mom and pop tea shops that do not have to produce in mass production.
If you are worried about your decaffeinated tea consumption, just check your tea box or the company’s website to find out how they make their decaffeinated tea.
Now that we’ve covered our “Naughty Tea”, I’d like to brighten the mood with a “Nice Tea” I learned about.
Pu-erh tea is produced mainly in the Yunnan district in the southwestern part of China. It has also gained popularity in Taiwan (2). Pu-erh tea is used as medicine, with scientific evidence linking it to being the high cholesterol cure. There is interest in using pu-erh tea for lowering cholesterol because, unlike other teas, it contains small amounts of a chemical called lovastatin. Lovastatin is a prescription medicine used for lowering cholesterol. Animal research suggests that pu-erh tea might lower certain blood fats called triglycerides as well as total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It might also raise “good” high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (2). If anything, recommended as a great tea for digestion! I purchased Chado’s yummy Ginger Orange Pu-erh.
Did I fail to mention all the other delightful treats we also taste tested?
If you want to make sure you are drinking the nice tea, check out purest tea brands such as Chado, and beware of those mainstream tea brands that you see on your grocery store’s shelf.
Happy Tea Tasting!
- Arbor Tea