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Camellia Sinensis (Tea) vs. Tissanes (Herbal Tea)

May 13, 2017 1 Comment

Camellia Sinensis (Tea) vs. Tissanes (Herbal Tea)

Out of all the most consumed beverages in the world, tea is a notable one, second only to water. Statistically, about 80% of Americans drink tea where the percentage is higher for millennials. Popularly, most people opt for a single type, but with over 3,000 types of tea in existence, there are a lot of alternatives to choose from. These varieties, however, does not contain herbal teas (tisanes) which are not actually teas at all.

What Is Tea?

Generally, tea refers to the leaves and other floral parts of a plant. All genuine tea is made from the leaves of Camellia Sinensis plant which is an evergreen Asian native shrub. Nevertheless, many other types of tea like black teas (England Breakfast and Ancient Golden Yunnan), Japanese, and Chinese green tea can be obtained from this same plant based on the modalities for processing the leaves.

Black teas, undergo oxidation. Just like the process that converts banana to brown, tea leaves get oxidized and attain their rich and dark color. With the presence of oolong, the process becomes time-consuming with the shaking of the leaves in bamboo baskets to slightly bruise and dry the leaves. On the other hand, white teas are only left out to dry.

What Is Tisane?

Commonly called herbal teas, tisanes (ti-zahn; as pronounced) cannot be called teas (i.e., they are not derived from the Camelia Sinensis plant). Rather, they are made from spices, bark, seeds, berries, roots, and leaves via infusions. Examples of popular tisanes are mint, rooibos, chamomile, and verbena. Boulder Tea Shop has a variety of herbal tisanes, found here.

Tea vs. Tisane: Caffeine

Another major difference between tisane and tea is caffeine. All teas contain caffeine. Nevertheless, the amount may vary from as low as 35 mg per 8-ounce cup for green tea to as high as 90 mg for black. On the other hand, herbal infusions, does not contain, thereby making them fit especially after meal.

Steeping the Perfect Cup

Different types of tea come with their custom steeping strategy. According to Melanie Barbusci, the customer department director for DAVIDsTEA, "The best way to steep green and white teas is with shorter steeping times and cooler water". She continued that if you are a type that doesn’t fancy green tea, you may be over-steeping or burning the delicate leaves. Normally, it should taste vegetal and sweet — not bitter. On the other hand, black tea can withstand a hotter temperature and a longer steeping time.

Yet, tea averagely requires an average brewing time but the case of tisanes is very different. As explained by Kristi Grotsch, a Shangri-La Toronto sommelier-in- training, "while a perfect tea cup might take 2 or 3 minutes to steep, a tisane or an herbal infusion will require around 4 to 15 minutes", "Flavors need time to develop”, she added. We recommend a steeper of your own if you do not already have one.  These can be found here

Conclusively, another major tip to achieving a perfect tisane is by using boiling water and covering up your teapot or cup while steeping. While this will conserve the heat, it will also prevent the exclaiming aromas from escaping.

1 Response


November 16, 2018

Learned how to make and enjoy many years ago. Unfortunately, few if any tea shops or restaurants carry even one tea that’s worth drinking! Have been growing my own herbals for tea for a number of years now. True tea trees don’t grow this far north.

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