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I like both Redbush (Rooibos) and Honeybush teas, though both are actually the leaves of flowering legumes, and not really tea at all. Neither has caffeine, both are low in tannin, and both come from Africa. Both are rich sources of antioxidants. Both have naturally sweet undertones. Close cousins, both these herbs require a longer-than-Ceylon steeping, of 5-7 minutes. Because of the low tannin, the “tea” will tolerate this length without becoming bitter. Rooibos is only grown in South Africa, and Honeybush is rarer still, relegated to only the eastern and western cape regions of South Africa. Both are harvested by cutting and bruising, oxidizing (fermenting), then drying. Given the similarities, why choose one over the other?

honeybushHoneybush was one of the first black tea substitutes. There are 23 species, each with a slight varietal flavouring. Originally cultivated by hand in the mountainous regions of east coast South Africa, much honeybush is still hand picked today. However, in 1998, group of South African farmers formed the South African Honeybush Producers Organization (SAHPA), which promotes new growing and production techniques. As a result, two large Honeybush plantations have opened since 2001, as have many Honeybush research partnerships. If you have tasted this tea, more prolific Honeybush is a very good thing! This tea is usually composed simply of honeybush, which carries undertones of wood and honey. It is so aromatic that it can be steeped on the stove and left to scent a room. It is likened to a hot apricot or dried fruit mixture in taste and a bit of honey added while brewing enhances the natural flavour. It is said to have a stronger but more pleasant flavour, than Rooibos.

bourbonRooibos, Honeybush’s more robust cousin, has long been believed to alleviate headaches and stomach aches. It also answers to the name Red Tea, Bush Tea, and Red Bush Tea. It has an earthy, creamy, sweet flavour. Unlike most teas, there is nutrition information accompanying this herb. Though trace, a typical cup of Rooibos contains Iron, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Fluoride, and Manganese. Unlike plain honeybush, rooibos often comes flavoured: strawberries, lemon, orange, peach, pina colada, bourbon street vanilla, the list is endless. It is said to taste more “medicinal” and the flavoring helps cut down on that. Unlike honeybush, if you steep it a bit less than the 5-7 minutes, you will still get a full-bodied cup. The needle-like leaves are fermented, which gives the plant its reddish color and enhances flavor. Unoxidized Rooibos is available as “green” rooibos but is grassy, malty, and pricier than the red version.

Those who have tried both range from “very similar” to “distant cousins who don’t even talk and I much prefer…” I am drinking a porcelain cup of unadulterated, delicate honeybush right now and it suits me fine, just as a rich rooibos in a thick earthenware mug on a snowy day does.

~Your Editor

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Blue Eyes Herbal "Tea" (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Blue Eyes Herbal “Tea” (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

In tea-related discussion forums and groups, we keep encountering the discussion of whether the definition of the word “tea” should be limited to the varieties of the Camellia Sinensis plant or whether it is ok to call anything tea that will infuse in (hot?) water, as is quite common use in the English language. Never, though, will you encounter a point where this dispute is resolved, as important as it seems to be for many pure tea lovers to emphasize the difference and value it by a distinct linguistic usage of terms, reserving “tea” for the Camellia Sinensis plant and its derivate products. Considered equally crucial is the right to use the term “tea” for their herbs and fruit infusions by advocates of a language use that will call a herbal infusion a herbal tea and a fruit infusion a fruit tea, up to the point, where a 100% artificial dry granule product that will produce a sweet and citrus-like taste when stirred in cold water, can be called a lemon tea.

Rather an advocate of the “only tea is tea” claims myself, I found it quite interesting to discover that the described terminological confusion about the term “tea” is by no means restricted to the English language! In Germany, the German word “Tee” (tea) is used exactly the same way as it is in English, once for the actual tea plant, once for its derivate products, and also for “Kräutertee” (herbal tea), “Früchtetee” (fruit tea), “Gesundheitstee” (health tea), and so on. I checked on my third language, which is Thai, with similar results: while “chaa” in Thai means tea referring to Camellia Sinensis, “chaa dtôn-grà-jíap” literally translates to “roselle tea”, etc. Now, I had become really curious: what about the cradle of tea, China, where the use of tea (Camellia Sinensis) as a beverage is nearly as old as the oldest written Chinese language? It’s the end of the world as we know it: with “chá” (茶) being “tea” in Chinese, the Chinese online dictionaries also return 草药茶 (cǎoyàochá) for “herbal tea”, or  洋甘菊茶 (yánggān júchá) for “chamomile tea.”

Now, did Western languages adopt the double usage of the word tea from the Chinese? Or has the Chinese language adopted the confusing language usage to facilitate the herbs trade with European countries at some point in the old times? And is the issue consistent over other European languages, too? It will need a linguistic historian to tell about the first, but the answer to the second question is a clear No: in French, they call a herbal “tea” a “tisane” or “infusion”, in Spanish  an “infusión de hierbas”, and in Italian a “tisana” or “infuso di herbe”, while “real tea” (Camellia Sinensis) will be “thé”, “”, and “” in these 3 languages. A closer study of the roots of European languages reveals that the Balto-Slawo Germanic root of European languages produced languages, such as English and German, where “tea” is used alternatively for Camellia Sinensis and herbal/fruit tisanes, while the kelto-italo-tocharic language root produced languages, such as French, Spanish, and Italian, that clearly distinguish between the two.

None of this will do anything to resolve or arbitrate the dispute about what may be called tea and what not, but it might give those, who really care, some points from where to start their relevant research under a more linguistic-historical perspective, basically pursuing the question “Where and when has the mistake been made for the first time?”

See more of  Thomas Kasper’s articles here.

© 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.

Mint Tisane (Photo source: article author)

Mint Tisane (Photo source: article author)

I was recently reminded just how wonderful fresh mint tisane can be when I had occasion to order it at a restaurant. Numb from the cold, and in need of a hot drink without caffeine (it was late in the evening), I was loathe to order a “herbal tea.” I knew that would more than likely mean a sub-standard brand of bagged chamomile, lemon, or some other similarly mundane tisane. But to my surprise I saw “Fresh Mint Tea” listed at the bottom of the drinks menu. I ordered it without hesitation.

When the tisane came, I knew I had made the right decision. With the mint leaves protruding out from the tall glass, it was both aesthetically pleasing and smelled wonderful. Through the glass I watched the water turn a deeper shade of green as the leaves released all of their minty goodness.

Although technically not a tea (it contains no Camellia Sinensis leaf), fresh mint tisane, or herbal infusion, is something I really enjoy. The fresh mint is significantly more flavourful than the crushed and pulverised leaves found in bagged mint tisane. The fresh leaves also make for a really beautiful cup of tea—there is a reason that fresh mint tisane is usually served in glassware!

On top of all that, it is ridiculously easy to make, so there’s no need to hold off trying it until you find a restaurant that serves it. All you need is water and some fresh mint leaves. Just boil the water and pop the leaves in, letting them to steep for 5-10 minutes, depending on how flavourful you like your tisane. You don’t even have to pull the leaves off the stem—in fact, if you leave the leaves on, it makes them easy to remove from the tisane, and you don’t have to worry about straining them out.

Easy, and deliciously fresh.

See more of Elise Nuding’s articles here.

© 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.

Granny Green Apple Green Tea

Granny Green Apple Green Tea

Apple-flavored teas are enjoyed year round but become especially popular in the Fall, a time in the U.S. when apples are typically harvested. They are also featured in a number of caffeine-free herbal mixes.

Start with Granny Green Apple Green Tea, which blends a luscious green tea with bits of green apple. It’s deliciously refreshing, like biting into a real apple, and the all natural fruity flavor is perfect for any time of day. Each sip will give you that Autumn aura where the heat of Summer fades into cooler days and nights that lead into that time when growing things rest.

Apple Spice Naturally Flavored Black Tea

Apple Spice Naturally Flavored Black Tea

If you prefer a black tea version, try Apple Spice black tea with a flavor that is straight from the orchard blending with the taste of natural, high-grown Ceylon tea from estates at more than 5,500 feet above sea level and no chemical aftertaste. Generally, you would enjoy a tea like this without milk, but you might try a little with milk just to see if it suits you. Either way, you will be transported with each sip to a place of serenity and calm, like when the labors of harvest are ended and before the canning and baking begin.

Go caffeine-free and fruity with Lady Hannah’s Whole Fruit Herbalwhere apple blends with a virtual fruit market for palate-pleasing flavor. Lemon, strawberry, hibiscus, rosehip, pineapple pieces, papaya pieces, brambleberries, strawberry pieces, blackberries, raspberries, and other natural flavors join in the fun. Steep for at least 5 minutes, and preferably 7 minutes, in boiling water to bring out the full flavors of each fruit. Once ready, this hot beverage can be sipped slowly to get the most of all those fruits and let them dance on your tongue. They will remind you of warm tropical nights while at the same time have you longing for that comfy sweater you stored away last Spring.

Lady Hannahs Whole Fruit Herbal

Lady Hannahs Whole Fruit Herbal

Of course, you can also stick with a nice tea to have with an apple-y dessert. Try cinnamon-flavored tea, Darjeeling, Dragonwell, Ceylon, Earl Grey, Yunnan, or Ti Kuan Yin. Enjoy any of these with a slice of apple pie, warmed and topped with a nice slice of slightly melted cheddar cheese or with a scoop of vanilla or even a big dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Gee, I have a sudden hankering to go bake an apple pie. Wait a minute… it will pass… ah, that’s better! I’ll just head to the local bakery now.

Enjoy your apple tea time!

See also:
All Flavored Teas Are Not Created Equal
An Orchard in Your Teapot, Pt. III — Teas with Fruity Aroma and Flavor
An Orchard in Your Teapot, Pt. I — Fruit in Your Tea  
Mercedes Apple Spice by The English Tea Store
Review: Mercedes Apple Spice Herbal
Review — Stash Cinnamon Apple Chamomile

© 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.

Sunshine Lemon Rooibos

Sunshine Lemon Rooibos

Name: Sunshine Lemon Rooibos

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: Rooibos, flavored

Form: Loose leaf

Review: Rooibos is my favorite herb for steeping, and this blend is truly delicious. Sunshine Lemon Rooibos combines the sweet, slightly earthy flavor of rooibos with lemon flavoring and dried lemongrass, creating a desert-like tisane that is a lovely alternative to calorie-laden treats. Reminiscent of lemon meringue pie, this tea is a wonderful way to address sweet cravings.

I’ve tried other versions of lemon rooibos in the past, and note that the English Tea Store’s version is well-balanced: The lemon flavor does not overwhelm the rooibos, but compliments it. If you are the sort that want a very heavy lemon flavor, this tisane may not work well for you, though I would suggest giving it a try. Incidentally, the price of this tisane is ridiculously low, making it an excellent value.

Preparation Tips: Use boiling water for this tea, as it is the best temperature for fully extracting the flavor of the rooibos and herbs. Allow to steep for eight minutes for a full-flavored, rich cup of lemony rooibos. Keep in mind that while rooibos is naturally sweet, it isn’t overly so. If you feel the need for a very sweet tisane, you may need to add some type of sweetener to this tea before serving. Honey may be a good choice, as would plain sugar or a bit of stevia.  Like most rooibos, it does not hold up well to multiple steepings. Discard the leaves from the first steep and use fresh ones for each infusion.

Serving Tips: This is a delightful tisane for sipping on its own, but it also goes well with plain pastries and cookies. It also, for some reason, goes extremely well with chocolate. It also makes a nice iced tea: Try adding a slice of fresh lemon to each glass to intensify the lemon flavor.

© 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.

While I definitely prefer true teas made from the Camellia Sinensis plant, I also enjoy other infusions made from various herbs, spices and fruits. Since tea has caffeine, I have to limit how much I drink during the day and typically don’t drink it at all in the evenings. So when I can’t drink tea, I switch to “tisanes,” the tea industry designation for what are sometimes called “herbal teas.”  While I enjoy many different single herb and blended tisanes (also called “infusions”), my favorite remains rooibos.

Sunshine Lemon Rooibos

Sunshine Lemon Rooibos

I’ve written about rooibos in the past: Grown in South Africa, rooibos is famed for its anti-oxidant content and tummy-taming qualities. Many people also appreciate its natural sweetness, which makes it an excellent base for various flavored tisane blends. While it doesn’t really taste that much like true tea (it lacks the astringency of the real thing), it can nonetheless brew up to a rich, hearty liquor that can be quite comforting as an evening beverage. It’s my standard remedy for a stomachache and a handy sore-throat soother when I can’t handle any more caffeine.

Unfortunately, some tea companies don’t pay as much attention to their rooibos offerings as they do their teas, and the results can be unpleasant. Poor-quality rooibos has an unpleasant quality that I can only describe as “skunky”. It also lacks the sweetness that characterizes a good rooibos.

On the other hand, quality  rooibos can be really superb, particularly when properly blended with complimentary flavors, such as almond, lemon, or even chocolate. The flavor of a good rooibos can resemble that of a liqueur, only you can drink as much rooibos as you like without getting tipsy. Be sure to let a rooibos blend steep for at least 5 to 8 minutes, unless the blend contains hibiscus, which can sometimes overwhelm other flavors if allowed to steep too long.

Some tea companies combine rooibos and true tea in their blends. For example, a rooibos/tea blend can work very well in chai, as well as in lower caffeine “afternoon” blends.  Home tea blenders may also want to try getting some plain rooibos and blending it with favorite teas to both cut caffeine and develop new flavors.

What do you think of rooibos?

Good, bad, or indifferent, your thoughts on rooibos are welcome here!

© 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.

Bella Coola Caffeine free herbal

Bella Coola Caffeine free herbal

Name: Bella Coola

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: Herbal/fruit tisane

Form: Loose Leaf

Review: This is a fruity tisane that tastes remarkably like a cross between fruit punch and a low-sugar cranberry juice.

The blend is typical of many tisanes, and includes a base of rosehips and hibiscus (the tisane is bright fuschia). This makes for a decidedly tart brew: I don’t think it needs sweetening, but you may want to add a bit of sugar (or a sugar substitute) to the blend to soften its tartness.There is a significant citrus backnote that makes the blend more interesting than plain hibiscus/rosehips.

Incidentally, this is one tisane that is much better cold than hot. You can try it hot, of course, and it isn’t bad, but I think that the heat doesn’t do the fruit flavors justice and that drinking it hot is a waste of the blend. Save this for hot days when you need tangy cold drink.

Preparation Tips: Experiment with the amount of dry Bella Coola that you use in its preparation, as this is the best way to control the intensity of flavor, particularly the tartness that comes from the rosehips and hibiscus. Use boiling water and allow to infuse for about 5 minutes for a drink that isn’t too tart. If you want it more tart, steep for a few more minutes.

Serving Tips: I’d only recommend serving Bella Coola hot if you are fighting a cold and need a hot, tangy, caffeine-free drink to soothe your throat. As noted above, it isn’t bad hot, but it’s intense tang is much better cold. Bella Coola is a great substitute for fruit punch, so make plenty of it to keep and serve on ice. You may also want to get creative and blend it with fizzy water, sodas or spirits to make interesting cocktails.

© 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.

Nile Delta Camomile

Nile Delta Camomile

Name: Organic Nile Delta Camomile

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: Herbal

Form: Loose leaf

Review: Organic Nile Delta Camomile tastes different from most of the camomiles that I have tried over the years. While it’s beautiful yellow flowers do a great job of infusing to a gorgeous rich yellow, this chamomile has some interesting characteristics. If you are a camomile lover, I’d be interested in getting your opinion on this tisane.

Unlike some camomiles, this stuff has something of an edge: I’m picking up some spice in the backnote that I wasn’t expecting. Many of the camomiles that I’ve recently tried are extremely mild and buttery, but this tisane has a lot more structure, yet a slightly lighter body, than I expected it to have. If you prefer a gentle, mild and buttery camomile, Organic Nile Delta is not for you.

Overall, I think that this is a good camomile tisane, but would recommend trying a small amount first before buying in bulk, just to make sure that you actually like it.

Preparation Tips: Use about three grams of leaf per  eight ounces of boiling water. This organic camomile has some spicy notes that are not improved by a long steep, so let it infuse for four minutes at the most.

Serving Tips: Camomile is generally an evening beverage, and I like to drink it right before bedtime. I suggest you do the same.

Warning: While camomile is generally considered safe, some people may develop an allergic reaction, so be careful about drinking Organic Nile Delta Camomile or any other herbal, particularly if you are being treated for allergies or are taking any medications. Some medical professionals caution that drinking camomile might make you drowsy or enhance the effects of medications that can cause drowsiness. Talk to your doctor about any concerns that you may have.

© 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.

French blend tea

French blend tea

Unlike the United Kingdom, in which rose is relatively common flavoring for candies and other sweets, the American palate has never really adapted to the notion of “edible” flowers. However, many teas and tisanes are blended with rose buds and petals, often with stunning results. Rose not only adds a lovely scent to teas and herbal infusions, but it’s unusual flavor perks up even tired tastebuds, particularly when blended with vanilla or citrus flavors.  Rose can be a bit temperamental, though, so for best results, I suggest following these tips for brewing rose teas and tisanes:

  • Watch the Water Temperature: The natural sweetness of rose can be blunted by too-hot water. Even with black tea blends, I advise bringing down the water temperature a bit (200F or so seems to work well). With green and white teas that contain rose petals, you can, and should, bring the water temperature down a bit more.
  • Be Careful with Quantity: You don’t need a lot of rose petals or buds to flavor tea, and too many can result in a perfumy, disagreeable flavor. If you decide to add rosebuds or petals to a tea or tisane, do so sparingly at first, adjusting the blend to your personal taste.
  • Rose on Ice Is Yummy: For reasons that I don’t fully understand, rose flavored teas and tisanes are simply delicious when served over ice. Try an iced rose-flavored black tea on a super-hot day — so very refreshing. If you have the patience, try cold-brewing rose flavored tea in the fridge overnight: The flavors are often spectacular and you don’t run the risk of ruining the rose notes with too-hot water.
  • Brew in Glass: Rosebuds and petals look gorgeous during steeping, so do consider using a glass teapot so that you can admire the visual effect of the flowers and tea leaves together.

See also: Roses in Your Teacup Pt. I and Roses in Your Teacup Pt. II 

© 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.

Mercedes Apple Spice Herbal Loose Leaf

Mercedes Apple Spice Herbal Loose Leaf

Name: Mercedes Apple Spice

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: Herbal infusion (tisane)

Form: Loose leaf

Review: If you are an apple pie fan, Mercedes Apple Spice may well become your next favorite tisane. If you don’t like either, pass this one by.

The English Tea Store notes that the apple flavor in this tisane is “intense”. That is putting it mildly. The blend is chock-full of of dried apple bits and the resulting tisane tastes profoundly “apple-y”. It also boasts a strong cinnamon kick. A bit of hibiscus adds some sweet-tart notes as well. This is not one of those cloying fruit tisanes that leaves you guessing as to what fruits actually make up the blend: This is all about the apple, so if you like apple cider or juice, but not their calories, check out Mercedes Apple Spice as it just may prove to be a good substitute.

Preparation Tips: Mercedes Apple Spice contains both hibiscus and cinnamon, both of which can be troublesome (but for different reasons) when it comes to brewing. Hibiscus often dominates blends, making them too tart, but you can prevent this by not over-steeping the tisane. Instead, use boiling water for a quick flavor extraction and allow to steep for no more than five minutes. If you want stronger flavor, use more leaf.

Cinnamon is problematic because its scent is very hard to remove from teaware. Brew this tisane using metal, coated ceramic or glass teaware and then scrub the teaware thoroughly after use. You may also want to use disposable T-Sac filters instead of standard teaware.

Serving Tips: This is definitely a tisane for experimentation. If you drink alcohol, try making a toddy from Mercedes Apple Spice by adding a bit of bourbon or whiskey to your cup. You may also want to try it as a punch base.

© 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.

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© Online Stores, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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