All traditional green, white, black and oolong teas contain caffeine. This is because they are all made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea bush. Naturally caffeine free offerings differ from these traditional teas in that they are made from plants unrelated to the camellia. Examples include herbs such as camomile and peppermint, but also roots and spices like fennel seed and ginger. Rooibos tea, which is made from South Africa’s aspalathus linearis shrub, is also a much loved naturally caffeine free option.
From camomile to lemongrass and turmeric, caffeine free teas draw on a vast variety of herbs, flowers, roots, spices or fruits from all over the world and from all botanical traditions. Note however that there is a big difference between “decaffeinated tea” and “caffeine-free tea”. Decaffeinated refers to teas that originally contained caffeine and underwent a process to remove most of its caffeine. Caffeine free teas, on the other hand, contain no caffeine naturally.
Caffeine free herbal teas do not undergo oxidisation or any of the other complex tea making steps of traditional teas. Rather, they are simply herbs, flowers or fruits that have been picked and laid out to dry. Naturally caffeine free rooibos (or redbush) teas, however, are partially oxidised – once harvested, the needle-like tips of the bushes are heavily bruised, chopped and left to oxidise under the sun. It is during this process that the tea turns from green to its distinctive red colour.