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Is your decaf coffee really decaf?

June 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Do you worry that your decaf coffee isn't? Now there is a way you can find out for sure."Coffee makes me very anxious," says Caralee Hathaway. "Very big sleeping problems, especially if I've had it after 12."

Like many who drink decaf, Carralee Hathaway has trouble with caffeine's side effects, so she did something about it.

"It was about 2:30 in the afternoon and I said, 'I have a feeling this is not decaf,' but I wish there was a way I could find out if it's decaf coffee. A simple strip that I can dip in there and it could tell me if it's got caffeine in it or not," says Hathaway.

She found a lab to create them: D+caf Test Strips.

"You get 20 strips in a pack and I believe it's $10 per one package of 20 strips," says Hathaway.

Dietitian Jerrod Libonati says for the caffeine-sensitive, it's worth 50 cents extra to enjoy a cup and be free of these symptoms:

"Irritability, maybe insomnia, some G.I. [gastrointestinal] distress, maybe some bathroom habits, irregular heartbeat," says Linbonati. "Some of those common things we experience with too much caffeine."

Here's how it works: A five-second dip-stick in your cup produces a red bar, either on the decaf side or the caffeine side.

Two bars indicate there might be more than 5 milligrams of caffeine. Five milligrams or less is what constitutes true decaf.

Compare that with a typical 20-ounce regular coffee that contains anywhere from 150 to 300 milligrams. For those expecting a mere 5, that decaf decoy can be trouble.

We went to Starbucks, McDonald's and 7-11 to put their decaf to the test. The good news? Starbucks and 7-11 tested out as "true" decaf. And while the McDonald's test strip did show two bars, 5 milligrams is still less than regular coffee, but more than a true decaf.

Now if you order decaf latte, cappuccino or other milk-based drinks you're out of luck. Normally the testers only work on regular joe.

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