Herbal Infusions Are Teas, Too!

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.

Nile Delta Camomile
Nile Delta Camomile

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.

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3 thoughts on “Herbal Infusions Are Teas, Too!

  1. lol! I can’t wait to hear about the coffee conversation 🙂

    You’ve resolved something for me- MayKing Tea educated me about herbal infusions- they’re all that I drink, because I don’t drink caffeine of any kind, but I can’t stop call them tea- now thanks to you, I can rest easy knowing that I am indeed, correct 😉

    Thank you!

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Actually, the French started calling them “tisanes,” and the term caught on. The English language has 3 or 4 times more words than other languages and so we tend to split out things that others use just one term for. This is a good example. May King is pointing out the need for that separate term here and makes a great case that tea types all have similar qualities whereas herbals do not, and I agree. Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

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