Before we can learn to make a good cup of tea or tisane, we should get some definitions first:
Tea: While used as a ubiquitous term for all plant material hitting water, this is not technically correct. Tea comes from a specific plant (Camellia Sinensis), which includes:
- black (mature, aged, and possibly treated leaves),
- green (dried, mature leaves),
- oolong (mature and fermented leaves)
- white (immature leaves, contains less caffeine)
as well as
- stems (in the case of Kukicha, or "twig tea")
Tea, being that one plant (Camellia Sinensis), all contains caffeine unless specifically decaffeinated.
Tisane: is an infusion of anything else- herb leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, barks, seeds, roots, berries, and/or spices. Technically, using this specific definition, coffee is a tisane. Other tisanes, such as Yerba Maté, also contain caffeine, so don't assume all tisanes (not tea) are decaffeinated.
Herbalists mix plant and water in a couple ways:
- Hot Infusion: The typical way most people "make tea": boiling water poured over plant material and letting it steep.
- Cold Infusion: Think "sun tea"- you take plant material, let it sit overnight in room temperature water, then strain and refrigerate.
- Decoction: This is when you need to really extract a lot from your plants or your plants are hard and woody (like roots)- you boil the plant material in a pot, covered fr at least 20 minutes to do an extraction. This is the traditional ways syrups start.
Steeping times and ratios for tea:
- Green Tea: Steep 1-3 mins. 1- 2 teaspoon in 8 oz. water
- Black Tea: Steep 3-5 min, 1 teaspoon in 6-8 oz. water
- Oolong Tea: Steep 3-5 mins, 1 teaspoon in 8 oz. water
- White tea: Steep 4- 5 mins, 2 teaspoon in 8 oz. water
- Twig Tea: Steep 4-5 mins, 2 teaspoon in 8 oz. water
Steeping times and ratios for tisanes:
(Generally speaking, if you are taking a tisane for medicine, your herbalist will direct you to steep longer (always covered). If you are steeping for pleasure, though, here are some guidelines.)
- Flower or leaf: Steep covered for 5 mins, 1-2 teaspoon in 8 oz. water
- Seed, bark or root: Steep covered for 15-20 mins, 1-2 teaspoon in 8 oz. water
- Fruit or spices: Steep covered for 5- 10 mins, depending on the fruit 1-3 teaspoon in 8 oz. water.
ALWAYS steep your tisanes covered. We want all the goodness and magic these plants have to offer. When the hot water hits the leaf, flower, root, seed, fruit or spice, it starts to “pull” out the constituents of that plant. That is where the healing is. That is what you want in your body. If you do not cover your tea, that medicine evaporates with the steam.
Tips from Iderah on making tea time a wellness ritual:
When making your tea or tisane, I suggest you make it a ritual, do some breathing and introspections. This process of making your drink can be very simple and quick or require lots of time and attention- it's up to you. I appreciate both the simplicity and the long ritual of a cup or pot of tea. Each day, each cup is different.
First, do your research. Get a good book on tisanes, consult your local herbalist, find out what plants might be best for you through trial and error. Make this research part of your self care routine- learning about herbs in your jammies is comforting and fun!
Second, you choose your plant. Do you want a tea or a tisane? Caffeine or none? Are you wanting a warm liquid filled with medicinal benefits to calm your nervous system, clear up mucus, or other remedy? Would you rather have something cold or room temperature? Are you needing some emotional comforting? What plant ally helps best with that for you?
Third, your vessel matters. When you’ve made a decision about the plant(s), pick a cup that calls to you and makes you happy. Investment in a good mug is another way to show you care- so much nicer than a paper cup or travel mug!
Fourth, since tisanes are two ingredients (plants and water) the quality of each matters. Don't use tap water if you can. Invest in a good filtration system whenever possible. For a hot tisane (the most common), boil your water (in a kettle on the stove, in a pot on the stove, or in an electric water kettle, never a microwave!)
Next, place your tea in a bag or a metal or wood strainer. We encourage loose leaf teas, as these are more potent and flavorful than those pre-bagged boxes from the store. You can get so many tea accoutrements online or at your local tea and herb shop.
Now, ritualize that tisane! If you have a candle, light it and set your intention for the day, add some deep breaths, journal, and perhaps some yoga stretches. All of this makes for the start of your tea ritual. It makes for a better day.
Lastly, add your tea to your cup. When the water has boiled, take it off the heat and take 5 deep breaths. Now its time to pour water over your tea or tisane. Steep appropriately.
Tea or tisane can make or break your day, I think so anyway. Tea and tisanes are "where its at". They heal you with plant love from the inside out. They give you ritual time, self care, and various nutrients, depending on which plants you choose. Good luck and happy steeping!
Shop Haven Herbs' family of medicinal and flavorful tisanes or join our Tea of the Month Club!