No matter which supermarket you choose to shop at, a walk down the hot drinks aisle will leave you spoilt for choice. All those varieties of coffee, the extensive range of teas...but stop right there! That colourful array of teas isn't all it appears to be. For starters a lot of them aren't even really tea. So what are these imposters sitting alongside the Tetley and the PG Tips? They're tisanes of course and if you've never stopped to think about the difference before, today's blog should sort you out!
Firstly then, what constitutes proper tea? Tea is always brewed from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant which can be processed in different ways resulting in a variety of teas such as black, white, green and oolong. Masala chai and Earl Grey are also the real McCoy; both are flavoured black teas. By contrast, herbal and fruit teas contain nothing of the camellia sinensis plant and that's why we often see them labelled as tisanes or infusions.
While tea is always brewed using leaves, tisanes can vary widely as to which part of the plant is used in their preparation. Any idea which part of the plant your top tisane is derived from? Let's take a look at some now...
-Flower tisanes: One flower tisane that we're probably all familiar with is camomile. Camomile tea has been a favourite for centuries and is touted for its relaxing properties and as a cure for insomnia, amongst much else. Other flower tisanes include hibiscus, lavender and jasmine.
-Fruit tisanes: These tisanes are made from the fruit of the plant and as such are easily identifiable. Turkish apple tea has been a popular one in recent years. All the berry teas fall into this category too and if you're out for a walk at this time of year there'll be plenty of blackberries in the hedgerows should you fancy a go at a home made infusion. Rose hip tea also belongs to this section as the hips are the fruit of the rose plant.
-Seed tisanes: These are usually the spicy ones, such as cardamom, fennel and anise. Although masala chai is first choice for many of us when we fancy a spicy brew, there are plenty of spicy tisanes on offer that contain no actual tea and thus no caffeine.
-Leaf tisanes: Like camellia sinensis itself, many plants' leaves are used to make a drink. If you're a fan of peppermint tea, or lemongrass, you're drinking a leaf infusion. Another very obvious one is nettle tea, which despite the nettle's reputation as a vicious weed, is chock full of vitamins and minerals.
-Root tisanes: Our first thoughts were of ginger and turmeric tea, but there's licorice tea too and echinacea tea can be made from the roots of the plant, as well as its leaves and flowers.
-Bark tisanes: We need this category for cinnamon, which although it's seldom found as a tisane in its own right, is frequently combined with others to enhance the flavour.
-Resin tisanes: Ok, this one is a bit of a stretch, but if you clicked on the nettle tea link you'll have noticed the unlikely sounding creosote tea further down the page. Resin is collected from the creosote bush and used to make an infusion which apparently is great for a sore throat! Feel free to stick with a Strepsil if you're not sure!