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All about tisanes, or 'herbal teas'

Lavender, growing in San Jose at History Park.  A common tisane ingredient.
Lavender, growing in San Jose at History Park. A common tisane ingredient.
Elizabeth Urbach

Tisanes -- you may have heard the term before, but what does it mean? Tisanes are more commonly known as "herbal teas" in the U.S., and they consist of any edible or medicinal plant -- except the actual tea plant, Camellia sinensis -- or spice that is infused in water and drunk as a beverage. Bubble teas are often made with a tisane as a base. Tisane ingredients can include naturally caffeine-free items like rose petals, mint, hibiscus, or rooibos, as well as naturally caffeinated herbs like yerba mate and guarana. Commercially-produced tisanes are a good item to have in your tea party pantry.

Make sure that your ingredients are not only from an edible plant, but that they are free from chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides, weed-killers, or traffic fumes. Culinary herbs can generally be found in the produce section of the grocery store, and sometimes food-grade flower petals can be found there, too. Edible varieties of flowers from a traditional florist shop or the floral department in a grocery store – unless specifically identified to be organic and food-safe – are not suitable for making tisanes, because of the chemicals used in their cultivation. For instructions on making a tisane, and tips on where to get food-grade flowers, click here.

Copyright 2014, Elizabeth Urbach.

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For more information:
“What should I keep in the pantry for tea parties?”
“Enjoy San Jose’s warm weather with a floral tea menu”
“Bubble tea: one of San Jose’s most popular drinks”
“5 ways to treat cold and flu symptoms with tea”
"Can you really de-caffeinate your tea in 30 seconds?"

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