Herbal teas — less commonly called herb teas or tisanes — and fruit teas are beverages made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, fruits, or other plant material in hot water. They do not usually contain caffeine.
The tea industry often confusingly uses the term fruit tea to refer to what are in fact fruit-flavored black teas, not fruit teas.
Herbal teas and fruit teas should not be confused with true teas (e.g., black, green, white, yellow, oolong), which are prepared from the cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis), as well as from decaffeinated tea, in which the caffeine has been removed.
Like beverages made from true teas, herbal teas can be served hot or cold. Documents have been recovered dating back to ancient Egypt and ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal teas. Among the Chinese, herbal teas are commonly known as liang cha.
Some feel that the term tisane is more correct than herbal tea or that the latter is even misleading, but most dictionaries record that the word tea is also used to refer to other plants beside the tea plant and to beverages made from these other plants. In any case, the term herbal tea is very well established and much more common than tisane.
The word tisane was rare in its modern sense before the 20th century, when it was borrowed in the modern sense from French. (This is why some people feel it should be pronounced /tɪˈzɑːn/ as in French, but the original English pronunciation /tɪˈzæn/ continues to be more common in US English and especially in UK English).
The word had already existed in late Middle English in the sense of “medicinal drink” and had already been borrowed from French (Old French). The Old French word came from the Latin word ptisana, which came from the Ancient Greek word πτισάνη (ptisanē), which meant “peeled” barley, in other words pearl barley, and a drink made from this that is similar to modern barley water.
Baskets of dried hibiscus for making karkade, or “hibiscus tea”, a popular herbal tea worldwide
In Egypt, herbal teas such as hibiscus tea (karkade) are very popular. They are served in teahouses (ahwas).
In China, the traditional Chinese medicine approach is used in formulating natural herbal teas and they are very popular in enhancing health and addressing core issues within the body; e.g. formulated recipes like hawthorn plus oolong / pu-er are used to address the high fat level in the bloodstream. The Chinese term liang cha, means “cooling tea”, and the Chinese drink it to cool down the body when it has become overheated due to weather or sickness.
In Sri Lanka, herbal teas have a long history within the local tradition of indigenous medicine. Iramusu (Smilax regelii), beli (Bael), ranawara (Senna auriculata), polpala (Aerva lanata), weniwel (Coscinium fenestratum), and kothala-himbutu (Salacia reticulata) are among the many plant species used to make herbal teas, which are used to treat a wide variety of ailments. The widely used “paspanguwa” (translated as five-portions) is a common local remedy for colds and fever containing the five ingredients pathpadagam (Mollugo cerviana), katuwelbatu (Solanum virginianum), koththamalli (coriander seed), thippili (long pepper), and inguru (ginger), often served with a sweetener of sugar or jaggery.
Dr. Rosemary painstakingly developed these recipes over the years for her patient base – and wants to share them with you and those that you love! Dr. Rosemary always has your health in mind and having a great “Tea Experience” of GREAT taste. Shop our selection of herbal and loose leaf teas.
Photography by Annie Watson Photography