Tea and Coffee
Tea and coffee are one of the few ‘processed’ things that we use. I have periods of going caffeine-free and then go back on it again – I admit I am addicted and love coffee and tea. We try to buy organic coffee where possible as it is one of the most sprayed crops in the world.
We have found a fantastic supplier of coffee locally that roasts their own blends. Coaltown is set in the old mining town of Ammanford, Wales and works with small coffee farms to offer a carefully curated selection of fine coffees. Though not all of the coffees are labelled organic, some of the small producers find it hard to get certified even though they do not spray, so we feel happy to buy either. The Sumatran is certified organic (absolutely loved this), as well as the Peruvian (look forward to trying this). We haven’t tried the decaffeinated yet, but hope to work our way through them all eventually!
If using decaffeinated, opt for coffee made with the Swiss Water method. There is a great explanation of the process on Coaltown’s website.
Tea that is decaffeinated is harder to get right and the flavour just isn’t the same.
‘I can confirm that all our decaffeinated products for the UK retail sector are decaffeinated using methyl chloride/dichloromethane. It results in a tea which is much closer to the original product in taste, as it is a shorter, lower temperature process and removes fewer of the flavour compounds of tea.’ Twinings on their decaffeinated tea
Waitrose own brand Peru blend decaffeinated has a nice flavour but this is made using the chlorination process rather than the water based one:
‘In our own label, we use Methylene Chloride or for Organic Carbon Dioxide. We do not use dichloromethane, which has been linked to being carcinogenic. We have no plans to change to the Swiss Water Process.
Solvents are used for all decaffeination, there is no natural process.
Please find some information below on the decaffeination process:
All decaffeination processes involve extraction of caffeine via a solvent, the differences being the solvents used. The important factors are:
- How effectively the solvent extracts the caffeine
- How effectively the solvent is removed from the final product
- How much quality the tea (or coffee) loses in the process
- How cost-effective the process is
- The environmental impact of the process
The four solvents commonly in use are as follows:
- Methylene Chloride (MC)
- Ethyl Acetate (EA)
- Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Swiss Water (SW) (only used for coffee)
MC and EA are liquids at normal temperature and pressure, with boiling points well below 100oC.; this means that the tiny amount of residual solvent in the finished product evaporates immediately when the tea or coffee is brewed for drinking. Of the two, MC is a more selective solvent, and produces a superior final product. EA is also highly flammable, unlike MC.
CO2 is a gas and normal temperature and pressure, and can only be converted to a liquid at extremely high pressure. This is energy-intensive, expensive and dangerous, and CO2 decaffeination plants and process costs reflect this. There are no residues with the CO2 process.
In the Swiss Water process, green beans are mixed with water, which dissolves the caffeine and many other compounds. The caffeine is then removed from the water using an active carbon filter, and the caffeine-free water is returned to the beans, which re-absorb the other dissolved compounds. This process of repeated wetting and drying is very damaging to tea, and the process is only used for coffee, where the flavours do not develop until the green beans are roasted.
For mainstream tea, there is widespread consensus that MC produces the best product, preserving the colour, strength and flavour of the original tea. The EA process leaves a recognisable process taint, and the CO2 process results in a dull and lifeless taste for most tea blends.’ Waitrose Customer Services