Herbal infusions are teas, too. Now, I’m probably going to upset a lot of tea lovers for making this bold statement and in fact, if you’d have said “herbal infusions are teas” to me a couple of months ago, I’d have found it difficult to agree with you. Why this sudden change of heart you may ask? Well, it was all down to my mum visiting me in Australia.
One day she asked me what I was working on during the week, and so I explained that I had a Tea Appreciation class coming up and was just updating my slides on the difference between tea and herbal infusions. She cocked her head to one side and tried to repeat “herbal infusions” in English; stopped mid-sentence and said “herbal-what”? I proceeded to explain that tea is a beverage derived from the Camellia Sinensis bush and that anything else from which a beverage is derived is a herbal infusion. Mum continued to look at me in a confused manner and so I carried on.
Me: “You know, like peppermint, camomile, lavender? These are all herbal infusions.”
Mum: “But they’re all tea.”
Me: “Huh?” (not very eloquent I know but it was now my turn to be confused).
Mum: “We Chinese call any herb, flower or shrub; if a beverage is derived from it, it’s called a tea.”
It was my turn to cock my head and, as I took a momentary trip down memory lane and thought back to my childhood, I realised that when I was given a pure jasmine flower “tea,” Momordica Fruit “tea” or when I made a chrysanthemum “tea,” you know what? My mother was right – we would refer to these beverages in Cantonese as “tea.” It was an amazing revelation, and I laughed as I nodded and reluctantly had to agree with mum. So you see, after years of insisting there is a difference between real tea and herbal “tea,” I might have to change my mindset and accept that herbal infusions are teas, too, because mothers are always right, aren’t they?
On to my Tea Appreciation Class and I reflected on what mum had said and decided to continue to make the distinction between tea and herbal infusions. The reason being is because teas, which come from the Camellia Sinensis bush all have very similar health benefits whereas each and every one of the herbal infusions will have their own unique health properties. Rooibos, for example, is renown for its antioxidant content, Hibiscus is packed with Vitamin C and is said to help lower cholesterol, whilst Camomile is reputed for its sleep-aiding properties. I did end the class with my conversation with mum, though, whilst we all shared a laugh and a cup of tea together.
A few days later, I translated my conversation with mum to my husband, whose initial response was what about coffee? I haven’t quite got round to asking mum about that yet.
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.