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What Is a Tisane?
A tisane (pronounced tea-zahn) is an infusion of fragrant herbs, fruit, bark, flowers, or spices that is steeped or simmered in hot water. Tisanes are a popular alternative to traditional tea that is usually caffeine-free. These herbal teas are a soothing and refreshing finish to a meal, complementary to most desserts, and a mild alternative to coffee.
5 Types of Tisanes
Herbal tisanes feature a range of different flavors and ingredients.
- Leaf tisanes: Leaf-based tisanes like lemon verbena, peppermint, chamomile, and echinacea are among the most common tisanes. Tisanes like dill and chamomile were often used by ancient Egyptians for their health properties, while mint tisane has long been used for its soothing properties. Yerba maté and South African rooibos, a red tea made from a native bushy shrub, mimic the more savory aspects of a traditional tea leaf—Yerba maté is one of the only caffeinated tisanes. When preparing leaf tisanes, bring your water to just below its boiling point before steeping the tisane to avoid scorching the more delicate herbs.
- Fruit tisanes: Fruit tisanes are naturally sweetened, caffeine-free blends of fruit, spices, and herbs that are traditionally made with a hibiscus base. Most fruits can be used as ingredients in a fruit tisane. Fruit pieces, fruit leaves (raspberry leaf is a popular fruit tisane ingredient), and natural flavorings like cocoa and vanilla are commonly used to make fruit tisanes. Adding citrus rinds like lemon or orange peel to a tisane can add a level of brightness and acidity without the addition of juice. Combine fruit pieces with herbs and roots to add balance to a homemade tisane infusion.
- Flower tisanes: Flowers like rose hips and lavender are the most commonly used ingredients in flower tisanes. This herbal tea blend tends to taste herbaceous and vegetal, rather than like perfume. The familiar fragrant smells amply the taste of the tisane, setting a relaxing tone with the first sip.
- Spice and root tisanes: Spicers like cardamom and fennel deliver big flavor in a tisane. Using crushed fresh cardamom, caraway, fennel seeds or leaves, or licorice (star anise) in a tisane is an exercise in restraint and balance: using too much and the tisane may taste bitter, but the right amount of spice can enhance the character of these harmonious ingredients. The earthiness of green cardamom can be a natural partner for mint, for example. Steeping whole slices of fresh turmeric or ginger root in your tisane can dial back the intensity of the roots while still delivering their healthy properties.
- Toasted whole grain tisanes: Toasted whole grains like barley create a distinctly savory tisane. Versions of a barley tisane, like agua de cebada, often include sugar and lemon or lime juice to taste; the steeped grains can be strained out before consuming or left in the drink. Be sure to toast the dry grains before steeping them to take advantage of the natural oils that are brought out in the cooking process.
What Is the Difference Between Tea and Tisane?
The steeping process may be the same, but there’s a distinct difference between tea and tisane: Oolong, green tea, white tea, and black tea are among those considered “true teas,” a term that refers to decoctions of the Camellia sinensis plant, the species from which all tea leaves are harvested. A tisane refers to any drink derived from a plant outside of the Camellia sinensis family.
How to Make Your Own Tisane
To make a tisane, you’ll need to rinse several branches of fresh herbs, put them in a teapot (or saucepan), and pour boiling water over them. Let the tisane steep for several minutes and serve. Always use the freshest ingredients possible for the best expression of the essential oils, and toast any whole grains before using. If you prefer, you can also use a teabag, reusable silk sachet, or even a French press to make tisanes.
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