Today is National Tea Day and some of you may be partaking in a cup or two or even having an afternoon tea treat. But if you’re caffeine intolerant, indulging in this most English of traditions can, quite literally, be a headache, says our guest, community member Beryl…
It’s National Tea Day, so to mark it, I would like to propose a toast to all those who still associate this delightful ‘pick-me-up’ drink with a good old English tradition and prefer it to coffee and the coffee bars that go with it.
However, it has been widely established that this ‘pick-me-up’ can be attributed to caffeine – a substance that if taken in excess can cause symptoms, such as tremors and migraine, in a few susceptible people. These folk invariably have to turn to decaffeinated drinks as an alternative.
But this is not without its social problems, especially when invited to coffee mornings with friends who can only offer caffeinated tea or coffee. When this happens, one is inclined to either decline the invitation, or accept and suffer the inevitable consequences.
You’re met with the same problem in other situations, too. Drinks machines are now appearing in supermarkets, petrol stations and smaller retail outlets, but most only contain caffeinated beverages. Also, to my utmost surprise, during a recent short stay in an NHS hospital, the ward drinks trolley could only offer caffeinated hot drinks.
A healthy choice?
One would expect decaf to be easier on the body, but decaf tea leaves are often soaked in methylene chloride, which bonds with the caffeine molecules. It’s widely considered that this renders the tea unfit for consumption, as it leaves traces of the compound on the tea leaves.
A safer and preferred option is hot water processing. This extracts the caffeine along with almost everything else. The water is filtered through a carbon filter, which catches the caffeine molecules. It is then returned to the tea leaves, which soak up the extracted flavours. This process may explain and be the reason why you usually have to pay more when buying decaffeinated produce.
According to tea makers, by law, decaffeinated tea must contain less than 2.5% of its original caffeine. But due to this and the above limitations in its processing, no decaf tea is actually totally caffeine free. However, it’s presumably low enough to reduce the effects experienced by people sensitised to it.
Whatever your choices, as with most food products containing legalised and potentially harmful substances, moderation is key to be able to enjoy their benefits without repercussions.
So when you raise your tea cup this afternoon, please spare a thought for those whose health could be put in jeopardy by indulging in something as innocent looking as a caffeinated cuppa.
This is a guest post by community member Beryl. All views expressed here are Beryl’s and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.
Do you have to avoid caffeine for health reasons? Do you find it hard to find decaf options? What are your tips for surviving in a caffeine-dominated world?