A confusing aspect of tea is that a lot of the beverages we commonly refer to as “tea” actually aren’t tea at all. Tisanes (meaning “herbal infusion” in French), which are commonly called herbal teas, usually consist of dried flowers, fruits or herbs steeped in boiling water, and don’t contain any tea leaves at all.
Actually, in some countries, the word “tea” is legally regulated only to be used in describing products from the Camellia Sinensis plant. However, we are not so strict in the United States; we call just about every beverage that is steeped “tea.”
Many Tisanes, historically used for medicinal purposes, are beginning to become popular again in tea circles. Just about any flower, fruit or herb that can be steeped in water and ingested can become a tisane.
Here are just a few of the more common tisanes you will readily find:
One of the most well known herbal teas comes from ancient Egypt. Chamomile was first mentioned in a document known as the Ebers Papyrus, dating all the way back to 1550 BC.
The sweet citrus and floral flavor of chamomile has a reputation for honoring the gods, embalming the dead and curing the sick and it is still very popular today for its calming properties.
Peppermint tea has been used for just about long as chamomile, to remedy upset stomachs and to help with the overall digestive system. In ancient Greece, tables would be rubbed down with peppermint oil to make dining a more pleasant experience.
Fruit tisanes are caffeine free blends which can contain a wide variety of fruits, spices, and herbs. Hibiscus, naturally high in Vitamin C. is the most common ingredient in fruit teas. Hibiscus is a crimson flower that yields a deep red color when it is steeped; it has a strong tart, sweet flavor that is very appealing.
To achieve a perfect blend with just the right visual and flavor appeal, tea blenders will use dried fruits, fruit peels, fruit oils, blossoms and spices to their herbal blends.
Rooibos is a relative newcomer to the United States and has recently become very popular. Also known as “Red Bush Tea” or just “Red Tea,” rooibos was introduced as a substitute for black tea during World War II when all supplies of Japanese and Chinese teas became unavailable.
Only grown in South Africa, caffeine-free rooibos has a rich, slightly sweet flavor that is excellent alone or blends very well with a variety of other flavors.
Yerba Mate is a South American botanical from the holy family which is consumed throughout most of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and the Far East. Also known as simply “Mate,” this tisane has been praised as a cultural phenomenon, which both energizes and heals the body.
Yerba Mate, along with coffee, cocoa, and tea, is one of the few plants known to contain caffeine which lends to its energizing effects. With a very earthy taste, Mate can seem a little different to newcomers, however, after a few sips most people find it very pleasant, which is quickly making it a suitable substitute for coffee in the U.S.
Herbal blends are quickly growing in popularity, with the wide variety of tisanes available, the possible combinations are virtually unlimited.
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