Tea vs Tisane (Herbal)

The first thing I usually come across when reading a tea blog (or any blog for that matter) is a definition of the topic being blogged about. This, of course, is important. So here goes…

TEA (Korean: 차 cha) – is a product of a specific type of plant, increasingly becoming more well known by its “real” name…camellia sinensis. No matter what, if it doesn’t come from this plant/tree, it’s technically not “tea”. Until the more recent boom in the interest in tea, the term “tea” was used more loosely to describe hot beverages made from infusions of plants, leafs and/or flowers. (It’s the same in Korea – when steeping a leaf, flower or plant in hot water, the resulting product is usually called —cha).Nowadays, there is more of an effort for differentiating between tea and tisane (or more commonly, “herbal tea”).

Photo taken during a trip to the one of the tea farms in the Honam Tea Estate (managed by the company I work for…Hankook Tea) in July of 2009. (Please do not use photo without permission.)

Two leaves and a bud – a phrase commonly used to describe the tip of the tea tree/plant. The stem branches out from the tea bush and on each stem is a series of leaves. At there very tip, there is a bud in the center and two small leaves on either side. This portion is hand-picked to create some of the world’s highest quality artisan teas. Depending on the plant, this will grow back several times for multiple hand-pickings. The larger leaves below this section are harvested later on (usually by machine) to produce other types of teas.

Depending on where and when the leaves are picked and how they are processed, the name, flavor and appearance will all differ. There are thousands of variations but most teas will fall under one of these major categories (more details to follow in a future post): white, green, oolong, oxidzed, black and pu’erh (or pu’er).

TISANE…a.k.a. herbal tea (Korean: 기능성 음료 gi-neung-sung eum-ryo – directly translated to mean “functional drink/beverage”) – Tisane is the French term for aromatic or herb-flavored tea. An herb is “a flowering plant whose stem above ground does not become woody; such a plant when valued for its medicinal properties, flavor, scent, or the like.” Depending on the type of herb, the flavor, appearance and health benefits will all differ. There are probably as many (if not more) types of tisanes out there as there are variations of teas.

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