What is a Tisane and How is It Different from True Tea?

Legend has it that tea itself was created by accident all the way back in 2732 B.C.. In the story, Emperor Shen Nung was sitting near a tree with a pot of boiling water when a leaf happened to drop into the pot. A pleasant smell wafted from his drink and the emperor was immediately captivated. He decided to give it a drink and unknowingly began the world’s love for tea as we know it. 

What is the difference between a tisane and a true tea? 

Well, a lot has changed since that leaf found its way to the emperor’s boiling water. Today there are hundreds of different types of teas and it can be hard to keep them all straight. So, we want to share a little more about tisanes and how they’re different from true teas. As we shared in our post, “True Teas vs. Herbal Teas, what’s the difference?”, true teas are made from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia Sinensis. Tisanes, or herbal teas, are made with herbs or any combination of herbs and are naturally caffeine-free.

whole flower chrysanthemum tea in a glass tea cup with wooden tongs, a teapot, and flowers.

Tisanes can also be classified as medicinal. This is because a lot of tisanes, like our whole flower teas, are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rose teas have been used to treat abdominal pain and gut issues for thousands of years. Chrysanthemum teas were used to promote circulation, preserve vitality, and subdue inflammation. Other tisanes are simply consumed for their calming and enjoyable nature.

Also, unlike true tea, tisanes are steeped from entire plants like leaves, roots, flowers, bark, seeds or berries, while true tea is only brewed from tea leaves. 

Here are a few examples of the main types of tisanes:

Leaf tisanes: nettle, peppermint, and holy basil

Root tisanes: ginger, valerian, and licorice

Flower tisanes: rose, chamomile, blue lotus, and chrysanthemum

Bark tisanes: cinnamon, sassafras, and Pau D Arco

Seed/spice tisanes: clove, cardamom and aniseed

Fruit/berry tisane: blueberry, rosehip, and apple

whole flower blooming blue lotus tea in glass teacup with hand

American Tea Culture

While many countries have been drinking herbal tea for thousands of years, it wasn’t until much later that it was popularized in the western world. During the Revolutionary War, true tea was a popular drink on both sides of the Atlantic. While the colonists and the British couldn’t agree on whether the colonists deserved independence or not, they did agree on the fact that they enjoyed a nice cuppa. Unfortunately, the British heavily taxed the tea they imported to their new world colony. So the crafty colonists decided they would find a substitute and invented “liberty tea,” a tisane that couldn’t be taxed since it technically wasn’t considered tea.

This “liberty tea” was made from local herbs and plants and included drinks like Labradore tea, Yeepann tea, red sumac tea, and raspberry leaf tea. Since then the line between true tea and tisanes has become a little blurry. Most Americans refer to all tea no matter if it’s made with herbs or Camellia Sinensis, just as “tea.” But in other countries, like France, the difference between un thé (tea) and une tisane (herbal tea) is always clearly stated. Some people think the word tisane came from the word thé and the word sans, meaning “without,” thus created a word meaning “tea without tea.” 

But no matter if you’re calling your delicious drink a tea, a tisane, or an herbal tea, you’re still getting the incredible benefits of what you’re drinking. With that, we wish you to drink flowers and be well. 🌸

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