Sensitive to caffeine? Feel like you would just like less of it in your daily cup? Before you do something drastic, like buy a package of decaf tea, you might first want to read a post I did on The Caffeine Issue.
I have learned a mind-blowing technique for reducing caffeine in your cup with a very simple trick…and it’s not buying a pack of decaf! Avoid that at all costs because it is almost always decaffeinated using a chemical solvent called ethyl acetate, or “EEEK!” as I like to call it. This gives you free radicals and destroys most of the vital polyphenols in green tea.
While it’s rare, there are a few producers trying a new process to decaffeinate using water and carbon dioxide. Since you may not know what method is used in the pack of decaf you pick up, I’d still avoid the store-bought stuff and just do it yourself with a crazy-simple method I learned from a tea master and his wife we work with at Chiki Tea.
To naturally reduce the caffeine in your loose-leaf tea…drum roll please…rinse it with hot water! Okay, okay. Some people in tea circles may say “no way,” but I’ve done the experiment with severely caffeine-sensitive friends who said it works like a charm. This method has been practiced for eons in Japan. Placebo? Who knows.
These dolls were handmade by an old lady I spoke with at a hot springs and delivered to my Gyokuro producer to give to me… Don’t they look so relaxed?
Here’s what you do: Simply add hot water to the leaves and dump it straight off. Don’t worry too much about what exact temperature the water is but do make it hot. It needs to be poured off immediately so remember this is just a rinse.
Then make the pot of tea according to the directions as if it’s your first steeping. There is more guesswork on timings and water temperatures, so you will definitely need to experiment to get the flavor notes you prefer. Higher quality teas work better for this, as the leaves are generally larger and more forgiving with later steeps. Because you don’t steep the first pot, but just rinse it quickly, it’s not exactly a second brew.
One key point is water temperature: It needs to be cooler in general with Japanese green tea. So when I say “rinse with hot water”, make sure it’s not rip-roaring hot and that you pour it off of the leaves immediately. This hotter water will shock the leaves to release the caffeine but you will also lose some of the taste and antioxidants. You don’t want the leaves unfurling at all during this decaffeination process. Pour on – pour off!
I have one more way to reduce the caffeine in your tea and that is by ice brewing it, which yields a much more mellow tea. According to our tea master, cold brewing and ice brewing will reduce the caffeine by half to two-thirds that of hotter-brewed tea. It does this because of the very slow infusion process and release into the brew.
Hotter water activates the release and water that is too hot will shock the leaf into releasing the caffeine first. The longer you leave the tea to brew however, say after 8 hours or overnight in the fridge, it will start to gain caffeine slowly. It will also gain caffeine if you shake or disturb the leaves by swirling them.
These two methods also reduce some of the vital antioxidants. I really value everything in the mighty leaf so you will never catch me doing these methods on my personal pots of tea! Long live green tea caffeine!
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