How Can I Naturally Decaffeinate Tea?

Teabag being lifted from glass cup of tea
Andrew Pini/Getty Images

Question: How Can I Naturally Decaffeinate Tea?

I heard that it's possible to make decaf tea at home by "rinsing" it with hot water before brewing it. I prefer not to drink much caffeine, so I'd like to learn to naturally decaffeinate my tea at home. Can you tell me how to do this?

Answer: For about ten years now, there has been a recommendation circulating about how to make decaffeinated tea with a hot water "rinse." It usually went something like this:

First, bring your water to a boil. Then, pour it over your tealeaves and steep for about [20, 30, 45] seconds. Last, pour off the water (discarding it) and then brew the tea as you normally would. You have just removed [50, 75, 80, 90] percent of the caffeine, but kept most of the antioxidants and flavor.

Sound too good to be true? Unfortunately, it is.

Science has since disproven the idea that you can make naturally decaffeinated tea with a hot water "rinse," as described above. Worse yet, science has shown that this kind of preparation method removes many of the antioxidants, but very little of the caffeine. Many people were fooled by this wishful thinking (myself included), and the myth of home decaffeination runs rampant despite evidence to the contrary.

If you prefer to consume less caffeine, I recommend trying one of the following approaches instead of "home decaffeination":

  • Drink better quality tea, savor each sip and drink less tea overall

If you're trying to reduce caffeine in your diet, you might also want to read up on how to reduce caffeine intake and check out readers' tips on cutting down on caffeine.