By Theresa Shea and Mary Hammond
Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 10:00 AM CST
Although seemingly interchangeable, teas and tisanes are very different brews. True teas come from the species of the plant Camellia sinensis. A tisane (pronounced “ti-zan”) is an herbal infusion made from anything other than the leaves of the tea bush.
There is nothing quite like an herbal tisane! Over the years, ‘tisane’ and ‘herbal tea’ have become interchangeable. Many are used for their mildly medicinal effects. Tisanes are made from the aerial parts of the herb, including the fresh or dried flowers, leaves and seeds, and come in loose or tea bag form. Pouring steaming hot water over the plant parts and steeping, covered, for several minutes releases the flavor and oils of the tisane.
Brewing a tisane is a ceremony for the senses. Brewing and drinking teas and
tisanes is steeped in ritual and ceremony dating back to the 28th century BC.
In today’s society, we are now appreciating the benefits of these beverages.
From the healing significance, to the calming ritual of brewing a cup, herbal
concoctions give us an opportunity to relax.
Making Tisanes is Easy
Put your chosen herb or herbs into your favorite teapot or tea cup. A standard
herbal infusion is made with 1 full teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh herbs
to each cup of water. Use your sense of taste to determine how strong your tea
Before making your tea, check to be sure your teapot and utensils are clean. Kettles, teapots, cups, strainers and other tea accessories need to be gently washed on a regular basis with mild soap or baking soda (even if they are just used for boiling water or brewing tea). This helps to remove mineral deposits or residue that can alter the flavor of your infusion. Start with good tasting water. Since tea is comprised of 99% water, the type of water you use will affect the look and taste of your beverage. If your water tastes good then your tea will taste good, too.
The best type of water to use when brewing an infusion or tea is filtered or bottled water that is free of chemicals and chlorine. Heat the water until it is steaming. (The water temperature for brewing herbal infusions/tisanes is between 205 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Pour the steaming water over the dried herbs or tea bag, saturating them. Cover the infusion with a lid and let steep for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on your taste preference. Strain and drink. To experience the full benefit of the tisane, inhale the vapor and breathe in the aroma of your infusion as you sip your beverage. The essential oil that is released from the herbs hold the healing properties of aromatherapy as well. You can enhance your tisane with natural sweeteners such as honey, agave syrup or a bit of stevia. These brews can be consumed hot, warm, chilled or iced. If chilled, covered tea will keep in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours. Enjoy!
Make Your Own Tea Bags
Making your own tea bags is fun and easy! Purchase some empty, ready to fill, heat-sealable tea bags. Tea shops usually stock cup- or teapot-sized tea bags, sold 25 or 50 empty tea bags to a package. The tea cup-sized bags can hold up to two teaspoons of herbs or tea leaves. Simply fill each empty tea bag with your choice of dried herbs or tea leaves and seal with the hot iron. (I have a small hair straightening iron designated to seal my tea bags.)
Herbal Tisane and Tea Ideas
Don’t be afraid to be creative — use the list below, or make your own special blend. The following herbs can be brewed singly or combined, depending on your mood.
• At the end of a hectic day try calming infusions like: Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Wintergreen, Spearmint, Rosehips, Hawthorn, or Passionflower.
• If you have the sniffles consider: Ginger, Echinacea, Elderberry (flower or berries), Peppermint, Rose Hips, Hibiscus, Wild Cherry Bark or Green Tea.
• When your spirits need a lift try an infusion of: Saint John’s Wort, Wild Oat, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Sage or Lemon Balm.
• To chase the autumn chill away create a warming kitchen spice infusion of: Clove, Allspice, Cinnamon, Ginger and Orange or try an herbal Chai blend.
You can also use herbs that have been dried from your garden or purchase them from your local tea store. The combinations are endless.
I hope you’ll enjoy herbal tisanes as much as I do. Just remember, there are no rules… except to slow down and enjoy the process!
The information provided in this article is intended solely to inform the reader. Please be certain to ‘know your herb’ before
About the Author: Mary is the Certified Herbalist at Tea Squares on Fountain Square Park in Bowling Green, KY and is an educator of herbal practices, based on traditional folk medicine, indications of historical uses of herbs and scientific information. To have your tea and herbal questions answered, email Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll answer them in our monthly articles.