Caffeine in Teas

Recently, a customer enquired whether we carry decaffeinated tea. The short answer is that Herbal Republic chooses not to sell decaffeinated tea. Explaining why we have taken that decision will allow us to share some information about tea that can lead to a better cup—one that best serves both your tastes and health.

Obviously, caffeine content is not an issue with our herbal, rooibos, or fruit tisanes. None of these contain caffeine, which makes them great choices for anyone who wants to avoid caffeine entirely.

Black, green , and oolong teas all contain caffeine. There are a few factors that influence how much caffeine ends up in your cup, and most of these factors also affect the overall flavour and quality as well.

One important factor in tea quality is the grade of tea used.

The most widely used grading terms are applied to teas produced in India, Sri Lanka, Africa, Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia and Europe. Some of the most common terms for whole leaf quality, from lowest to highest, are:

  • OP: Orange Pekoe
  • FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • TGFOP: Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • TGFOP1 : Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One
  • SFTGFOP : Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • SFTGFOP1: Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe One

For broken leaves, “B” is added to the name as in BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe), FBOP, GBOP, TGBOP etc.

For smaller grades used in teabags, fannings and dust grades are used, designated with an “F” or “G,” resulting in names like OF, OPF, FBOPF, FD, GD.

Chinese teas are graded by number, with “FIRST” being the highest grade, proceeding down to 7, 8, or 9 based on leaf style and shape and how carefully the manufacturing process has been carried out.

In Taiwan and Japan, grading terms range downwards from Extra Choicest, through Choicest, Choice, Finest, Fine, Good, Medium, Good Common, Common down to Dust and Fannings.

One other designation to be aware of is “CTC.” This stands for “Crush, tear, curl,” which is a method processing black teas into small pellets.

Tea quality and processing method influences how much caffeine will end up in your cup, because the more surface area the tea has, the more caffeine will be released when you steep it.

A smaller tea leaf will release more of its caffeine than a larger leaf tea. Similarly, smaller cuts of tea leaf will release more caffeine. Broken down fannings and dust will release even more caffeine.

A teaspoon of broken, CTC, BOP, fanning and/or dust will be much more concentrated and release more caffeine than a teaspoon of large leaf tea such as SFTGFOP or TGFOP.

Bags of Orange Pekoe fannings and dust are inexpensive and easy to make, and quickly produce a strong-tasting brew that is high in caffeine. While this solves a lot of problems for manufacturers, we don’t think it makes a very good cup of tea.

“Strong” taste isn’t the same as good taste.

Larger, whole leaves take longer to uncurl the leaf when steeping, and deliver better, more balanced flavour and less caffeine. You can experience the quality of the tea, not just the buzz.

If you would like a higher-quality, better tasting cup, you should drink large leaf teas. An additional benefit is that these teas will also naturally render less caffeine.

Herbal Republic’s black teas are mostly large leaf–TGFOP, TGFOP1 or STGFOP. The exceptions are teas in which smaller leaves or pieces are an important part of how the tea is made such as our Bombay Chai which contains some CTC to help carry the flavour of Chai spices and balance better when mixed with milk, and our green tea matcha, which is by definition fine powdered green tea.

There are some interesting processes for removing caffeine from tea, but we have yet to find one that doesn’t affect the taste or other benefits in the cup. All decaffeination methods require additional processing, labour, materials and energy, increasing the cost to both the tea drinker and the environment.

Our goal at Herbal Republic is to provide the best-tasting and healthiest teas to our customers with the least environmental impact. We have chosen not to carry decaffeinated tea because it just doesn’t align well with those goals. Our high-quality teas by their nature render less caffeine than lower-quality teas, and we offer delicious and healthy herbal, tisane and Roobois options that offer great natural caffeine-free flavour without the need for extra processing.