Why I Stopped Drinking Decaffeinated Tea

I love my cuppa tea. I’m British and the two go together don’t they?! I was brought up in a house where the kettle was never cold and the teapot was never empty. My parents don’t drink water, they drink tea. As soon as my Dad finishes one cup of tea, he pours himself another!! So drinking tea has always been a big part of my life.

When I was diagnosed with post viral chronic fatigue in 2012, I changed a lot of things in my life and was very strict with some dietary changes. For example, I completely stopped eating wheat and all bread, no longer ate processed white sugar and didn’t touch alcohol. I also stopped drinking standard caffeinated tea and switched to decaffeinated.

In time, as my body healed and I was able to tune into it more, I have become less strict. Every now and then I eat sourdough bread and drink the occasional glass of red wine. I still won’t touch sugar. My body definitely doesn’t like sugar and I respect that. I also switched back to caffeinated tea but only have a maximum of two cups per day. If I have a third, my body knows. But why did I switch back to caffeinated? Because after some research I believed that it was actually healthier for me!

In fact, it is not actually possible to get completely decaffeinated tea. The only way to do this is to drink tea that is naturally caffeine free such as peppermint. However if you chose to drink tea labelled ‘decaffeinated’ did you know that it could actually be more harmful for you?

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is actually a naturally occurring compound found in leaves and seeds. In plants it acts as a natural pesticide, much in the same way as essential oils do.

How is the caffeine removed?

To remove the caffeine from tea there are two common methods used. The cheapest and therefore most popular is where the leaves are soaked in a chemical solvent such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. Ethyl acetate is found naturally in fruit and vegetables and so people are of the understanding that the process is natural. Unfortunately a synthetic formulation is used in this process. In high doses ethyl acetate has been shown to cause liver problems as well as issues with the respiratory and nervous system.

Methylene chloride has also been shown to have carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties in animals although the FDA has ruled that it is safe to use in humans. Do you trust this? The FDA feels that things have improved because the chemicals benzene, chloroform, trichloroethylene and dichloromethane were previously used! Bear in mind that methylene chloride is also found in paint stripper and aerosols. I’m not sure that I would want that in my cuppa!

The leaves can also be soaked in carbon dioxide. This option is safer but often not used as it is more expensive.

There is a third method called the Swiss Water Method but this can only be used for coffee, not tea as the water would ruin the tea leaves. This is the best method for coffee as it is safe and chemical free. However it is also the most expensive method and is rarely used. Organic decaf uses this method but it does leave behind more caffeine.  All methods only remove approximately 97% of the caffeine so it is not possible for the tea to be completely caffeine free.

Unfortunately when most of the caffeine is removed, so are the antioxidants found in tea. In fact anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of antioxidants are removed. The two most common antioxidants are catechin and quercetin and both help remove damaging free radicals from your body. Quercetin is also anti-inflammatory.

It may also be a surprise to find out that drinking tea and coffee is not bad for you. In fact there can be many benefits such as reduced risk of diabetes, protection from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and liver problems. I will be writing another blog post on this area soon.

So what is the answer? As always, tune in and listen to your body. Your body will always give you all the answers that you need.

Want to join me for a cuppa (in person or via skype) talk about your health and wellness? Contact me here for an appointment.



4 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Drinking Decaffeinated Tea”

  1. Hello! Just found your post. I’ve had post viral fatigue syndrome for 17 weeks now. I have done what you did and cut out wheat, gluten, sugar and tea and coffee and most dairy. So hard! I was wondering how long you had the illness for (and how it started) and also at what stage you reintroduced tea and coffee? Many thanks.

    1. Hi Kate. Am so sorry to hear this. It took me a long time to get diagnosed properly, about 18 months. You can read more about my story here: http://eagerforlife.com.au/my-health-journey/
      It is hard. Be kind to yourself. Drink lots of herbal tea such as Tulsi. I re-introduced things a few years down the track. I believe that this illness was brewing for a while and then suddenly your body can’t take it anymore. So it can take a long time to heal too. Good luck with it all.

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