Monday, October 03, 2016
Teas and Tisanes
As you can tell from the picture, I have a large collection of over 250 teas and tisanes. What is the difference between the two? Technically, tea is only those infusions made with the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). These are naturally caffeinated and where they are grown, harvested, and treated is how the different types of teas are made. White, green, oolong, black and pu'erh teas all come from the same plants.
So what are tisanes? Those are infusions of things other than tea leaves. Peppermint leaves make a wonderful tisane. Herbal teas are tisanes, from the lovely combinations like Cinnamon Apple Chamomile to the rooibos blends. Rooibos is an African bush that (at least to me) has a less bitter taste than tea leaves and makes an excellent base for additions. Both teas and tisanes can be flavored and have added ingredients. Both can be in tea bags or loose leaf.
Not many people use the term 'tisane' but it is a useful one to know. Understanding the difference between a tea and a tisane might help if you are writing a story, for instance. Tea came rather late to the Western World, but tisanes were always present. That doesn't mean you can't call everything tea. I do. However, there is one point of difference between the two that can make a huge difference in your life. Most teas are caffeinated and most tisanes are not. When you want something warm to drink before bed, a nice strong cup of Lapsang Souchong is probably not a good choice. On the other hand, Ti Kuan Yin Goddess of Mercy Oolong might be the perfect start to a day.
The Republic of Tea's Peppermint Chocolate tea -- there are a lot of chocolate flavored teas out there -- is a wonderful blend using a rooibos base. Their Caramel Apple is probably my favorite go-to drink, both hot and cold.
Stash Tea's Maple Apple Cider is a great autumn tea. So is Adagio's Masala Chai. Oh and Celestial's Bengal Spice. And... and... and...
I could easily list a hundred teas to try, just from my four favorite companies. One of the truly fun parts of being a tea drinker is the variety of choices in flavors. I order teas directly from the companies on line. This is because many of them simply are not available in my area of the world. Celestial Teas are the most common in this area, and they do have some wonderful blends. In fact, for those of you who crave the pumpkin spice flavors, I suggest you try Celestial Tea's Sweet Harvest Pumpkin which is a black tea blend that not only contains the usual pumpkin spices, but also pumpkin flavoring. Most 'pumpkin spice' products are the spices only.
There are, of course, elitists in the tea world just like in everything else. They'll sniff disdainfully if you don't drink 'true' teas or if you use bags instead of loose tea. Don't listen to them. Make your cup of tea of the type that suits you and in a way that works best for you. Don't get into the cup versus mugs debate -- it simply will not add to the taste of your choice of drink. (I recently learned that cups only come with saucers and mugs are all the rest. I still call them all cups.) Sweeten the tea or not.
Do try various types, though.
Here is are links to my four favorite tea sites. There are others who are good, too -- but I limit myself to these:
https://www.stashtea.com/ (Stash Tea is a wonderful place to shop for cups, mugs, teapots and more as well as some great teas!)
http://www.republicoftea.com (Republic of Tea has wonderful teas of all sorts. They also put a free sample in each catalog, which is a wonderful way to try new ones. Some of my favorite teas come from here.)
http://www.adagio.com/index.html (Adagio is primarily a loose leaf tea company and they have some exquisite teas. They also have, under the Blends tab, a section called Fandom Blends, where anyone can put together their own combinations and give it a fandom name. You can also do combinations without the fandom link.)
http://shop.celestialseasonings.com (Celestial Tea is one people in the US are most likely to be familiar with, but you might be surprised by the huge selection that never makes it to the store shelves. Buy direct from them and the tea is fresher as well!)