A tisane is any beverage made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices or other plant material in hot water, and usually does not contain caffeine. When we in the world of tea talk about “tisanes” we generally refer to any drink which does not contain Camellia Sinensis (of either variation). Almost all fruits, flowers and spices can be steeped in boiling water to make an infusion.
This includes all teas that have a base of herbal teas, fruit teas and rooibos. We will refer to tisanes when we wish to draw distinct clarity away from beverages which do contain Camellia Sinensis, like black, green of white tea.
The word tisane comes originally from the french language and means “herbal infusion” and “medicinal drink”. The word came back in fashion in the 20th century. Herbal tea, Herbal infusions and tisanes are used interchangeably.
However, most European people still refer to tisanes as “herbal tea” or “fruit tea”. We don’t wish to be all pedantic about this, and for the most part we will let assume the reader clearly understands that:
- Herbal Tea does not contain any tea (Camellia Sinensis)
- Fruit Tea does not contain any tea (Camellia Sinensis)
- Rooibos does not contain any tea (Camellia Sinensis)
Mostly, all of the above tisanes never contain any amount of caffeine whatsoever.
Herbal tea generally contain usually a blend of different herbs, spices, or other plant or vegetal material.
Fruit teas generally contain a mixture of dried whole or chopped fruits. Often they also contain some natural flavorings too.
Rooibos is derived from the broom-like plant of the Fabaceae family which comes from South Africa.
Types of tisanes
In the tea world a few types of tisanes are determined:
Leaf tisanes are made from the leaves of a plant, for example pepermint or verbena.
Spice & seed tisanes are made of spices and grounded seeds, for example cardamom and fennel.
Berry & fruit tisanes are extracts of the fruits of a plant, for example blueberries, lemons, oranges and apples.Tea blenders use dried fruits, fruit peel, fruit oils and blossoms to achieve just the right mix of visual appeal and flavor profile.
Flower tisanes consist of the flower leaves or the whole flower, for example rose, hibiscus or chamomile.
Bark tisanes are infusions of made of bark, for example cinnamon.
Root tisanes are made from the roots of the plants, for example ginger.
Kombucha is not a tisane, since it is a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria (or “SCOBY”).
Any “teas” that are made with the above ingredients are actually technically “tisanes”, though you may have called them tea all of your life. As with all “teas”, you can mix and match the ingredients to make your own delicious herbal tisanes. A lot of tea brands mix and blend these categories of tisanes together, or add black, green, white tea to the blends. The tea producers take great pride in blending flavors together and tea bars are experimenting with exciting new recipes.
The history of tisanes
The arguably most famous herbal tea finds its roots in ancient Egypt. The first recorded mention of Chamomile being enjoyed was in a document known as the Ebers Papyrus, dating back to 1550 BC. Used to honor the gods, embalm the dead and cure the sick, chamomile has endured a lasting fame. This light, sweet and floral beverage is still revered for its relaxing calming effect.
Peppermint has been used as a caffeine-free home remedy aiding digestion and soothing the stomach for millennia, dating back to the Greeks. During these times, tables were rubbed with Peppermint to make dining more pleasant. However, not all herbal teas of that time were so pleasant. Some were, in fact, deadly. Philosophers will kindly remind us that Socrates, the father of modern thought, was sentenced to death by drinking a brew known as Hemlock. The line between folk remedies and witchcraft where also thin sometimes when reading historic writings about tisanes.
There are two ways to prepare tisanes properly:
This involves placing the plants in the pot to boil, and boiling 2/3 of the water away – leaving just a thick, rich “tea”. This method of preparation is usually used for root, bark, and berry tisanes, as the longer boiling time extracts more of the flavor from the ingredients.
This involves boiling the water in a kettle or pot, and pouring the hot water over the plants or berries. When you are going to drink the tisane, you simply strain out the plants. Real tea – black, green, white, or oolong – is made using this method, along with most leaf, seed, and flower tisanes are also made using this method.
Often herbal teas are considered save to drink for a pregnant women. However, a few exceptions apply because some fruits, herbs and spices are considered abortifacients. So, always check the ingredient list or buy a maternal tea.