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Italian word of the day: ‘Deteinato’

Jessica Lionnel
Jessica Lionnel - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: ‘Deteinato’
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

You’re going to need to wake up if you want to learn about this word.


In the English language, when taking a sip of coffee or tea without caffeine in it, you’d refer to either as being decaffeinated. There is no difference between the two popular hot beverages in this case.

However, this is not true at all in the Italian language.

Should you refer to tea without caffeine as decaf tea, you may get a few odd looks. That’s because in Italy 'decaffeinated' tea is instead called deteinato.

The adjective deteinato (de·te·i·nà·to) is used to describe tea which has been largely stripped of its theine content (identical to caffeine) by means of a solvent named dichloromethane.

Theine (known as teina in Italian) is rarely, if not never, used in English. If you search either the Oxford or Cambridge dictionaries, it is not in them. That’s because caffeine is the general term used for it.

But in Italian, if you ask for a 'tè decaffeinato', Italians might think you're talking about two different drinks.


Let’s take a look at a scenario, first in English then in Italian.

Customer: one tea please.

Waiter: Would you like it with or without caffeine?

Customer: Decaf please. I need to sleep tonight.

Cliente: Un tè, per favore

Cameriere: Lo vorresti con teina o deteinato?

Cliente: Deteinato grazie. Ho bisogno di dormire stanotte

So next time you’re ordering a decaf tea in Italy, be sure to use the specific term or you might cause some confusion.

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