Good Question: How Can I Find Good Decaffeinated Tea?

From reader Ruibo, who is looking for a good strong tea without too much caffeine:

I love black tea. Earl grey, English breakfast, oolong, I'll guzzle it all, but I'll also be up all night staring at the ceiling or the side of my boyfriend's face. How much flavor is compromised in a decaffeinated tea, and can you recommend some quality affordable teas that retain their flavor?

We are tea-lovers, but we wanted to turn to a real tea expert to answer this question. Enter Christine Rillo, a tea expert at Adagio, one of our favorite online purveyors of fine teas and tea-brewing apparatus. (See our review here of their excellent UtiliTea electric kettle. We are quite in love with this kettle.)

Here's Christine's response:

Dear Ceiling-Gazer,

I'm sure the side of your boyfriend's face is quite captivating at 3AM, but I think that you would prefer a good night's sleep. I find that many black and oolong teas that are decaffeinated lose their nuances, which is why we do not decaffeinate our premium black and oolong teas. We do though, offer a decaffeinated line of flavored teas - the fruit and sweet flavorings help add to the tea's flavor.

However, I would suggest making a 'tea regime': keep your black and dark oolong teas to enjoy in the morning, then move on to green and lighter oolongs and white teas as the day goes by. White teas are very low in caffeine content, but have a more subtle taste compared to black, green, and oolong teas.

Once it gets later - I use 5pm as my cut off - I would recommend switching over to herbal and rooibos tisanes. Tisanes are naturally caffeine-free, and are flavorful blends of different herbs, spices, fruit, etc. Rooibos is a herb native to South Africa, and has a robust, full-bodied taste with a slight sweetness. Honeybush is also another popular tea-alternative and has a more pronounced sweetness.

Certain herbal tisanes can help you relax before bedtime- a cup of chamomile and peppermint makes for the perfect cup to unwind with.

Hope you can grab some shut eye with these suggestions!

- Christine Rillo / adagio.com

Thank you Christine! As avid tea-drinkers we support her advice; we like very strong black teas (with milk) and find that some rooibois blends are a good alternative in the evenings. Trader Joe's makes an excellent Ruby Red Chai with rooibois. Also, we are partial to Adagio's own decaffeinated Spice Tea.

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(Image: Adagio Teas)