What is Tea/Tisane?
Tea is the infusion of leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant. There are 4 different types of tea that we are familiar with in North America, they include: White, Green, Oolong and Black. Other types of tea include Yellow, Red and Pu’ehr. Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant that loves the subtropics of Asia. It is native to SE Asia, specifically Assam, India and was first cultivated in China. This plant variety comes from the tea family or Theaceae.
White tea in the simplest form is a leaf from the camellia sinensis plant which has been plucked and dried. Other, more rare type of white tea is the bud on the tea plant. White tea in this form is only harvested for a short time each spring and should only be of the first flush. The bud is covered with a silvery coating similar to peach fuzz and is often
referred to as ‘silver needles’. White tea has a very mild flavour that is both subtle and refreshing to the palate. Green tea, traditionally produced in China, is now also commercially produced in Japan, India and Taiwan. Green tea is harvested continually and can be of any flush. Green tea is unfermented and therefore has a liquor that ranges in colour from light yellow to brilliant green.Its flavours are often mild, but refreshing, and are commonly described as grassy.
Oolong tea is highly popular as it combines the taste and colour of both green and black teas. Oolong originated from the Wuyi Mountain of Fuijian, China. Some of the best Oolongs in the world today are grown and harvested in Taiwan. Oolong sometimes referred to as ‘semi-green’ or ‘blue-green tea’ is semi-fermented and undergoes similar processes to black tea. Oolong is extremely flavourful and highly aromatic. It can range in flavour from light and delicate to very strong. You can tell an Oolong from other teas, because the leaf goes from bright green in the center to red on the edges.
Black teas are produced in many countries, with the most common and highest quality teas coming from India. Black teas are fully fermented and are rich in flavour. The characteristics of each tea are dependent on a variety of things, including the tea bush varietal, climate, elevation and degree of oxidation. Final infused flavours can range from sweet floral or muscatel to robust and malty.
What is a Tisane or Herbal Infusion?
Tisane [tee-ZAHN], both an English and French word meaning ‘herbal infusion’. Tisane references any herb other than the camellia sinensis plant.
An Infusion is a drink made from steeping a herb in hot water. There are a variety of Tisanes and Herbal infusions. Some examples include: Rooibos, Hibiscus and Chamomile.
Rooibos [roy-boss], an indigenous herb native to the mountains of South Africa, is made up of fine needle-like leaves. It is from the parent plant Aspalathus Linearis and has been harvested wild for centuries. Rooibos, when infused, produces a deep red liquor with a
Hibiscus is the infusion of calyces or sepals coming from the Hibiscus Sabdariffa flower. When infused, these petals, as we call them, produce a deep crimson colour liquor that is slightly tart and has flavours similar to cranberry. We often drink this beverage sweetened and chilled. Around the world, Hibiscus is very popular and is also known as roselle, rosella, flor de Jamaica and sorrel.
Other Herbal infusions include common herbs such as peppermint, chamomile, rose hip, yerbe maté and lemon verbena. Fruit blends are the infusion of fresh and dried fruits and berries in hot water. These infusions are often made cold for a refreshing beverage.
Is there caffeine in tea?
Caffeine is a natural product of the camellia sinensis plant and of the tea leaf. It is also found naturally in coffee, yerbe maté and in cocoa. As the tea leaf is transformed from white to black tea, the speed at which the amount of caffeine released into the cup increases. The variety of the tea, the brewing time and the temperature of the water greatly affects the amount of caffeine released. On average you can assume one cup of tea has one third to one half the amount of caffeine as does coffee.
How should I prepare my tea?
To make a good pot of tea, it is essential that special attention is paid to the quality of water, the water temperature, the amount of tea that is used, and the time of infusion.
You want to ensure that the water you are using to make your tea is below the boiling point. Different types of teas are best steeped at different temperatures. An average temperature to use is 88◦ C or 190◦ F. You should never pour your water directly on the tea leaves. This will have a negative affect on the flavour as you may burn your tea leaves. This is the same reason you should not use water at the boiling point.
The amount of loose leaf tea used to make a cup of tea is discretionary. The more tea leaves you use, the stronger the infusion you will have. You can also get a strong infusion by letting the tea leaves steep for a prolonged period of time. A general rule of thumb is to use 1 teaspoon or 2.5 g of tea for every 6-8 oz of tea. After your first infusion, do not throw out the tea leaves; you should be able to get 2-3 more infusions out of the same tea leaves.