If you’re a certified caffeine head, chances are that hearing the following at a café may give you a shudder: “a cup of coffee please, decaf”. The thought of having a cup of joe without that sweet caffeine kick is not entirely alien and is not a concept reserved for counter-culture coffee drinkers, but instead brings to the front some real needs for people who may not be able to have caffeine.
For starters, let’s look at what exactly makes a coffee decaf. Despite the label, there actually is a bit of residual caffeine, as not all of it can be removed through the decaffeination process. Another important point to note is that the coffee goes through the decaffeination process when it is still green, meaning before it is roasted. For many years, the process involved using solvents or chemicals to remove the caffeine. While it’s highly unlikely that those chemicals carry over into the final product, it might be better for a drinker’s peace of mind to know that their coffee didn’t go through any form of chemicals to get where it needed to go, which is where the Swiss Water Process comes in.
The Swiss Water Process was first introduced in 1979 and had its claim to fame for being the chemical-free solution to decaffeinating coffee. By having green (unroasted) coffee run through a solution of water containing its flavor, the water absorbs the caffeine molecules, then running through a cycle of eliminating it and reintroducing the coffee to the water till it reaches a reported 99.9% decaffeination. This helps to produce a coffee that retains its flavors while getting rid of most of the caffeine.
Thanks to its process, it is able to get certified as organic coffee. With no chemicals in the coffee, you can be sure to have as much of the flavor retained as possible without worrying if any possible chemicals could have mixed in with your coffee. The great thing about the process is that its also helped to provide more specialty cafés the opportunity to provide decaf to coffee drinkers who, although love the taste, might not necessarily be able to process the caffeine in their bodies.
Whatever your feelings about decaf, its availability has created opportunities for more people to be able to try out coffee in whichever way they feel like it. If you just need to have a taste of coffee without worrying about losing a night’s sleep, perhaps a bag or two of decaf with your coffee stash could be the right way to go. With a growing group of new and old coffee drinkers looking to try and maybe even integrate decaf into their lives, having a great quality decaf made through a natural and organic process is definitely a step in the right direction in gaining a confidence for the product from everyone.
Words by Ryan Uy