I’ve been making changes to my coffee drinking habits and have fallen in love with decaf. Before you judge please hear me out. Prior to this ‘unprecedented time’ I had never before had decaf. I didn’t trust it. How could something be classed as coffee without the familiar kick at the end? And if the bean has been tampered with to extract the caffeine surely the taste will be affected, making it an overall lesser experience?
But I did know that I wanted to bring my caffeine intake down over lockdown, without foregoing the taste or ritual of my daily coffee. So I tentatively started searching the decaf offerings from my most trusted roasters. Slowly but surely I started ordering one, then two, then before I knew it, I was a decaf fan. The blends I tried were anything but ordinary; some were amongst the best coffee I’ve ever had. So I’m here as a decaf convert to tell you that decaf is no longer a lesser coffee. At the hands of some of the world’s top roasters, decaf has had a re-brand and I urge you to give these blends a try. Now you’re not rushing off to social events, school concerts or team building weekends (I’ve heard this is a thing), perhaps it’s a good opportunity to reduce your caffeine intake a little and see what affect it has (at the very least, it’s something to do).
“I knew that I wanted to bring my caffeine intake down over lockdown, without foregoing the taste or ritual of my daily coffee”
Below are the five blends I’ve tried and tested. In my opinion they provide a good sounding board if you’re new to decaf and if you’re not, to expand your flavour profiles. All are from exceptional roasters, so whichever blend you go for, you’ll be getting an outstanding coffee. (If you’re a coffee pod user, scroll down to the bottom for my top picks.)
“The blends I tried were anything but ordinary; some were amongst the best coffee I’ve ever had”
Some things to know:
–a coffee bean isn’t naturally decaffeinated, hence the bad press it gets when big coffee companies extract the caffeine using chemicals (this is usually in instant coffee). Fortunately, most specialty coffee companies extract the caffeine using natural processes, like the Swiss Water Process, mountain water process, sugar cane, CO2… Always look for the roaster’s decaffeination method when buying decaf coffee as this is your assurance it’s been done in a natural way. (Visit the Swiss Water Process website for more info on their pioneering decaffeination method.)
–a tiny percentage of caffeine remains in decaf coffee, so don’t be drinking gallons of it before bed if you think it’ll affect you.
-if you go with the right roasters, you can get the same level of depth and flavour as in normal caffeinated blends.
Caravan Coffee Roasters – for those that like it mellow and smooth
Name: Primavera Family
Decaffeination process: washed, Co2
From Guatemala, this blend has notes of malt loaf, baked apple and black treacle, culminating in a smooth and rich coffee experience. This is an absolute treat of a coffee and it sits like caramel in the mouth. ‘Thick, syrupy and comforting’ – I couldn’t put it better myself. Wholly recommend for an afternoon treat to mellow out. Click here to buy. (*at time of writing, Primavera Family blend is currently out on rotation. If you don’t want to wait for it to come back, their other decaf blend, El Carmen, is supposed to be excellent.)
Origin – for those who like a complex, balanced blend
Name: Liza Lot 1 & 4 Decaf
Decaffeination process: washed, CO2
This has a great punch to it and – as always with Origin – it gives a complex, balanced taste. With notes of peach and dark chocolate, it has a smoothness to it which is followed with a twist of brown sugar. Beans are from Rwanda. Perfect for a mid morning coffee break. Click here to buy. (Nb. Currently 20% off with the code COFFEE20 at the checkout)
The Barn – for those that like an unusual, creamy blend
Decaffeination process: none (see below)
If you want to venture further afield, look to The Barn, a world class roasting company in Berlin. I first came across this company at the World of Coffee last year, and they explained to me their ‘low caf’ coffee. They don’t produce decaf coffee because no matter how natural the process is, you’re manipulating the natural taste of the bean. Their response is producing ‘low caf’ coffee which means the crop has a naturally low caffeine content. This particular varietal, Aramosa, is a crossbreed between arabica and racemosa beans with just 0.7% caffeine, compared to the usual 1.4%-1.8% in arabica beans. At this particular coffee estate in Brazil, new varietals undergo 15 years of testing before being released. You can be assured buying your ‘low caf’ from here, you’ll be getting the end result of some of the finest coffee growing and roasting in the world.
This was slightly unusual in taste, which I enjoyed. Tasting notes include honey melon and praline, so expect a creamy, buttery taste that lingers in the mouth. The level of caffeine was not any more noticeable than that of the other blends I tried. Beans are from Cerrado, Brazil. Note: they don’t sell coffee pre-ground so make sure you have a grinder if you buy from here. Click here to buy.
The Gentleman Baristas – for those who like chocolate
Decaffeination process: Swiss water
Similar to Caravan, this is a smooth, luxurious blend from Guatemala. With notes of caramel, cherry and dark chocolate, expect the chocolate to linger in the mouth long after you’ve finished. If you like hot chocolate, this one’s for you. A total revelation. I couldn’t stop drinking it. Perfect for an afternoon treat. Click here to buy.
Monmouth Coffee Company – for those who like a soft acidity
Name: Decaffeinated Lo Major de Narino
Decaffeination process: Mountain water
With notes of molasses and caramelised citrus, this is the perfect marriage of a smooth richness and a clean acidity. As ever with Monmouth, it is a crowd pleasing blend that offers an interesting complexity. Beans are from Colombia. Click here to buy.
If you want an every day balanced blend with a delicious flavour profile I’d go for Caravan. It rivals some of my favourite coffees out there and I came back to it time and time again. If you’re a decaf sceptic, this is the blend that’ll convert you.
Let me know what you go for and if there are any others you swear by. Happy drinking!
The Snob x