We have received several questions asking if decaffeinated green tea loses its health benefits due to the decaffeination process. The answer is yes, if the wrong decaffeination process is used.
Several studies have shown that drinking green tea can decrease a person’s risk of cancer and heart disease. The tea’s naturally occurring chemical compounds called polyphenols provide these health benefits.
The main polyphenols in tea are catechins, which include EGCG, the compound epigallocatechin gallate. EGCGs inhibit unhealthy cell growth and play a role in programmed cell death, both of these actions are crucial to the prevention and control of cancer.
Other polyphenols, contained in the tea, are potent antioxidants which help prevent damage to healthy cells, as well as preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol caused by free radicals. These preventative functions are critical for inhibiting the formation of plaque in the arteries or atherosclerosis.
The decaffeination process does affect the amounts of polyphenol in tea, including catechins. There are two decaffeination methods used on teas imported into the United States, ethyl acetate and CO₂ (effervescence).
Ethyl acetate is the most commonly used method, it consists of a chemical solvent that is applied to tea to extract the caffeine. The tea is then left with a residual amount of the solvent which is considered, at certain levels, to be safe for human consumption.
Green tea that has been decaffeinated using ethyl acetate retains minimal health benefits, at only about 30% of EGCG and other catechins.
CO₂ (effervescence) processing consists of carbon dioxide and water to remove caffeine from tea. This is the only type of decaffeinated teas that we sell at ESP Emporium because they keep an impressive 95% of the polyphenols and catechins in the tea.
Being able to keep the most amount of the tea’s good health promoting benefits makes the CO₂ method of decaffeination the only option in our opinion since we strive to provide the most beneficial and wholesome selection of teas available.
Don’t let the Wording Mislead You
Most decaffeinated teas don’t state which process is used. Several tea packages will contain the wording “naturally decaffeinated”. This is a term that can mean ethyl acetate decaffeination was the method used, since trace amounts of naturally occurring ethyl acetate exists in tea leaves.
Even though this isn’t a false statement, it isn’t informing the consumer of what was lost in tea. The statement makes the process sound like all of the health benefits were left intact in the tea.