I have a small confession to make. As much as I've written about tea in the last Garden posts, what I've been talking about isn't really "tea" at all. Tea is described as "a widely cultivated shrub native to China, northern India, and southeastern Asia and having glossy green leaves and fragrant white flowers." or " the leaves, leaf buds, and internodes of the tea plant prepared for use in beverages." Since nothing we've talked about comes from the tea plant, it's technically known as a Tisane. The reason we call hot-infused drinks "Teas" dates all the way back to the beginning. Around the 6th century, the Chinese would use the word "cha" to describe the drink they make by boiling tea leaves in water. Unfortunately, they would also use "Cha" to define all other infused drinks as well. The word "Tea" wouldn't come about until 17th century and Chinese traders began selling their "cha" under the more vulgar term "te" in Europe and England. That word became associated with the hot drink, and Tea was born. A Tisane, on the other hand, is "a medicinal drink or infusion made with barley." It comes from the Greek ptisane, which means "peeled barley." From what I can tell, the Greeks used Barly Water as a part of their Eleusinian Mysteries, which is a secret and sacred religious festival in honor of the grain goddess Demeter. That was about three thousand years ago, and the Tisane has since evolved to include everything we've talked about and more.
Now, that doesn't mean that Teas and Tisanes can't work together. Some popular blends include: You can find most of the blends at the grocery store, but I want to warn you that some "Herbal Teas" on the shelves are nothing but tea leaves and artificial flavoring. If you can't find a blend that's tea and tisane together, that's ok! These blends are also very easy to make on your own. You can find most ingredients at the Health Food Store, or Online, and all you need is a tea ball and some hot water. To get you started, here's a simple recipe for Mint and Black Tea.
Place a bag of your favorite Black Tea in the bottom of a mug. Add a teaspoon of dried or fresh Mint to a tea ball and place on top of the tea bag. Boil about a cup and a half of water and pour into the mug. Let steep about 3-5 minutes, then remove both the tea ball and the tea bag. Add some honey and enjoy!
You can use that recipe for any of the blends above, and it's always fun to experiment with the different flavor combinations. Now that I've explained the difference between a Tea and a Tisane, I think it's time we dove more into the Tea side of things. The three most popular Teas are Black, Green, and White, and they feature prominently in most tea/tisane blends. They may come from the same plant, but the way their processed gives them some pretty different benefits. Benefits which I will explore in the next three articles! We'll start with Black Tea and work our way down to White, and I'm excited to see what we discover! To learn more about the difference between a Tea and a Tisane, check out Teapedia, Tea Class, Ito En, Oxford Dictionary, Learning Herbs, and Dictonary.com. The photos are my own.