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Alternatives to Tea

For some people, tea just isn’t a good idea. There can be a number of reasons for this: They can’t have the caffeine; they’re pregnant; they can’t drink a beverage where the name only has three letters in it. Whatever.


Unfortunately, it can be hard to sort out the teas from the non-teas. The term “tea” seems to be getting used for both these days. So, first I need to clarify: “tea” is made from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which has several varietals such as Camellia Sinensis assamica and Camellia Sinensis japonica, and “non-teas” are made from other plant matter, such as flowers, fruits, herbs, red bush (rooibos), and honeybush.


The main alternative to tea is a tisane made of other plant matter (mainly flowers, fruits, and herbs). There is quite a wide variety, ranging from such well-known ones as chamomile to exotic concoctions containing a blend of items. Some of the ingredients in tisanes include: anise, juniper berry, sarsaparilla root, caraway, ginger, lemongrass, peppermint, dandelion, rosehips, sassafras root, yerba mate, hibiscus, chrysanthemum, black pepper, blackberry, cinnamon, ginseng root, spearmint, eucalyptus, lavender, thyme, gardenia, cardamom, nettle leaf, cranberry, rosemary, apple, and fennel.


It seems that just about anything classified as “flora” and that is non-poisonous to man can be put in a tisane. That may be an exaggeration, but the above list is by no means complete.


Plenty of true tea is grown on the African continent, but they also have a non-tea that is gaining in popularity. It’s a drink made from a plant called by the Dutch name “rooibos” (Aspalanthus Lineris bush, literally “red bush”). It’s grown in the Cederberg Mountains in the Cape Town area in South Africa and has been enjoyed there for many generations. It constitutes a healthy (in more ways than one) portion of the country’s economy.

This herbal, unlike black tea, is caffeine free, loaded with vitamin C, high in antioxidants and flavonoids, and low in tannin. Rooibos undergoes oxidation during the processing, giving it a red brown color. The liquid is said to have a sweet, nutty flavor but can be bitter if oversteeped. It is often flavored with vanilla, mocha, mint, and more. Some people add milk and sweetener to their cupful, but many drink it straight, hot and cold.



Another popular herbal from South Africa is honeybush, harvested from the Cyclopedia Intermedia plant while it is in bloom with honey-scented flowers. It’s also extremely low in caffeine to which some people are overly sensitive. The liquid is reddish brown and has a sweet, citrusy, yet mildly spicy taste with virtually no tannin and lots of dietary minerals and vitamins. Honeybush is also flavored with vanilla, mandarins, oranges, and other items.

As you can see, there are lots of alternatives to tea. Unfortunately, since they can often also be called “teas”, you’ll have to check the ingredients carefully. Happy hunting!

If you do nothing else today, make sure to stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

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