When you begin using herbs, one of the many ways you will find to use them is through the use of teas. This may sound simple enough since most herbs and flowers can be dried and mixed with green or black tea, or simply taken as a pure tea on their own.
The truth is, as you move into the world of herbal teas, you will find that there are different kinds of teas and each is referred to differently when you start discussing medicinal properties of the tea. The two main teas are simple teas and tisanes. If you aren’t sure what the differences are, here are a few key points to help you differentiate between the two.
The first and most important aspect that determines if you are buying a tea or tisane is the type of material used to create the drink. If you are using only tea leaves then you are making or drinking a simple herbal tea. This tea can be enhanced with dried herbs, flowers, or fruits. However, if the base of the tea is an actual tea leaf then it is simply a tea. If you are drinking a tea that has been made with no tea leaves and is only a flower, fruit, or an herb then that is a tisane. Tisanes use no tea leaves and are derived strictly from the steeping of the fruit, flower, or herb in hot water for a duration of time to extract the properties of that material.
Most teas are used to soothe or calm the body in some way. For example, you may purchase a chamomile tea that is cut with black tea or green tea. This is generally used to help soothe the body before sleep or help soothe the stomach. Though it can have medicinal properties, it is dulled by the use of the tea leaves. If you are using the tea for a strict medicinal purpose, such as for pain reduction, management, or for other health issues then you will likely be using a tisane. This is because you do not want to reduce the properties of the herb or plant that you will be using. You want the full potency that you can extract. This would be a tisane.
A Learning aspect of understanding about tea is that many of the hot or even cold beverages which are called “tea” are actually not tea. Herbal teas that we all know, where some tea experts csll: Tisanes (a French word for “herbal infusion”), are usually dried flowers, fruits or herbs steeped in boiling water (no actual tea leaves are included).
As you can imagine, the preparation for the tea versus that of a tisane is a bit different. For example, a black tea may take as little as three minutes to brew and steep. A green or white tea takes as little as two minutes. When you are extracting from an herb, plant, flower, or fruit to get the medicinal properties of that material you may brew for longer.
You want to extract as much as you can. A tisane is also generally brewed at a lower temperature for a longer period of time before drinking. This is to ensure that you are not actually cooking the material, but instead extracting from it.
These are the three basic criteria that set traditional herbal teas apart from tisanes. If you are buying your tea leaves or herbal materials for your teas and tisanes from a tea shop, make sure you are asking how they are harvested. This can be vital to determining if they hold the medicinal properties you need.