I recently heard from a friend that Decaf coffee need not necessarily be a good alternative for coffee lovers after all. Apparently, there are 2 processes involved in decaffeinating coffee. The Swiss Water process cleans up the coffee seeds with high temperature water and steam to get rid of the caffeine. The other process uses solvents like dichloromethane (methylene chloride) to take the caffeine out of the coffee seeds. It has been proven that methylene chloride can cause tumor in humans.
One of my friend wrote to both Starbucks and Peet’s coffee and he found that most of the decaf varieties use the methylene choride solvent. Their story is that, after treating with the solvent, they roast the coffee seeds at a significantly higher temperature (400 F, boiling point of methylene chloride is around 114 F) and hence shouldnt have any problems since the solvent will be vaporised. But, it is highly possible that there are residues (in the order of ppm (parts per million)). The reason why the water processed beans are not common is because they are not as flavorful as the solvent processed ones. So, if you are one of those people who think that decaf is the way to go and consume it in large quantities, be aware of this.
Following is the list of decaf coffee from Peet’s. They have a total of 6 decaffeinated coffees. Decaf House, Decaf Special Blend, Decaf French, Decaf Sumatra, and Decaf Sierra Dorada all are processed with a “direct contact method”. Decaf Mocca-Java is water processed. In Starbucks, Decaf Komodo Dragon Blend is the only water processed and all the others (House Blend – Decaf, LightNote Blend – Decaf, Shade Grown Mexico – Decaf, Sumatra -Decaf, Espresso Roast – Decaf, Caffè Verona – Decaf, Starbucks Decaf Christmas Blend) are solvent based.