What is Tea?

What is tea? Delicious hot or iced, a single type or an aromatic tea blend, with or without milk or sweetener, tea is a beverage that is much loved around the world. In fact, tea is the second most widely consumed drink worldwide (second only to water).

To many tea aficionados, the word "tea" refers only to traditional teas from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), including black, pu-erh, oolong, green, and white teas (which all come from this same plant, but are processed differently). Tea estates from around the world - China, Sri Lanka, Kenya, India, Japan, and more - share their traditional tea with us, inviting us to experience exotic flavors, aromas, and locales we've only dreamed of.

What is Tea? | The Tea Talk

To others, the answer to the question, "What is tea?", also includes herbal teas or "tisanes," such as Rooibos, chamomile, ginger, and peppermint teas. Countless fragrant and delicious herbal teas are available to promote our good health and well-being. 

Making and Enjoying Tea

Tea is made by adding freshly boiled or hot water to loose or bagged tea and steeping the infusion for the desired amount of time (usually just a few minutes). While the amount of tea and steeping time are a matter of personal taste to the individual tea drinker, each tea type has its unique suggested tea amounts, water temperatures, and brewing times. 

What is a 'tisane?'

An herbal tea is also called a "tisane" (pronounced "tea-ZAHN"). Tisanes are hot or cold infusions or concoctions made from leaves, flowers, herbs, spices, fruits, seeds, berries, roots, bark, or a combination of these. Naturally caffeine-free, flavorful, and aromatic, tisanes are enjoyed not only for their taste but for their healthful properties, too. Get to know more about these beneficial brews on our Herbal, Spice, and Fruit Teas Pinterest board

Many tea drinkers add extras to steeped tea, such as milk, sugar, honey, lemon, or a cinnamon stick. 

| Related:  Making the Perfect Cup of Tea

Herbal teas or tisanes can be "infusions" (where hot or boiling water is added, and the tea then steeped for the desired amount of time) or "concoctions." Typically preferred when the tougher parts of the plant are used (such as bark, seeds, or roots), a concoction is made by combining the tea ingredients with cold water, bringing the mixture to a boil, and simmering it over low heat for a period of time. Then, simply strain the mixture and enjoy. 

As delightful as hot tea is, teas or herbal tisanes are also wonderful served at room temperature or iced. To make iced tea, simply brew tea at twice the usual strength, and pour immediately into a glass filled with ice cubes. Or, chill the tea and serve over ice later (get more helpful tips here for making iced tea). 

| Related:  Yummy Iced Tea Recipes on Pinterest

While it does take longer to make, "cold brewing" is another favorite way to make tea. According to Plum Deluxe, beautiful cold-brewed tea can be achieved simply by adding about 2 teaspoons of loose tea to 8 oz. cold water, and chilling in the fridge for about 8 hours. Yum!

What is Tea? | The Tea Talk

Tea and Wellness

Not only aromatic and a most delectable beverage, tea may also support and enhance our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Traditional herbal wisdom has treasured the benefits of teas from the Camellia sinensis tea plant for centuries, and scientific research is now confirming how tea contributes much more to our lives than just a comforting, refreshing beverage.

Drop by our Tea Recipes section for lots of tasty recipes for hot or iced tea, as well as some recipes for topical tea uses (tea baths, steams, compresses, and more). 

Herbal tisanes, such as South African Rooibos tea and hibiscus tea, have also been valued for many years for their countless healthful and nurturing properties. Herbal teas provide a plethora of wellness benefits... Whether you're looking to calm a troubled tummy, ease a headache, ward off a cold or chill, or alleviate achy joints, chances are there is an herbal tea that may help.

We can enjoy and benefit from tea in so many different ways... as a hot or iced beverage, in a tea latte or tea smoothie, and even added to sweet and savory dishes when cooking or baking. Tea is lovely used topically, too. Or, why not share a cup of tea and a chat with a good friend, or color tea illustrations in a Tea Coloring Book to lift your spirits? The list of ways we can take pleasure in tea is endless.

Be Safe - Safe-Use Tips for Tea

What is tea? Not only is tea delicious, fragrant, versatile, and available in a multitude of blends and flavors, it can be incredibly good for us, too.

Even so, it's important to keep abreast of any potential precautions associated with any of the teas in your tea stash. As you include tea in your day, here are some general safe-use tips to keep in mind...

Use your good common sense when consuming tea. Drink tea in moderation, and, rather than drinking very hot tea, let tea sit for at least 4 minutes before sipping (research suggests that regularly drinking lots of very hot tea - 70C or more - may be harmful to the esophagus). 

Also, if you are keeping an eye on your daily caffeine intake or cutting back on caffeine, you may want to avoid traditional teas, and consider a caffeine-free herbal tisane, instead. To learn more about caffeine in tea, drop by our Tea and Caffeine section

If you're considering adding a new tea to your routine, have a chat with your natural health physician about best teas for you. This is important especially if you are taking any herbal remedies or medication, are being treated for any condition, or if you are expecting or breastfeeding. 

What is tea to you? A soothing drink on a cold winter's night, a simple and natural way to promote wellness, a tasty way to hydrate... or does it play many roles in your life?

Whether you are a long-time tea expert or simply enjoy a comforting cuppa each afternoon, you are one of the millions of lives that tea has changed and benefited through the centuries.

More about... What is Tea? 

Get more answers to the question, "What is tea?", on our All about Tea Pinterest board

> What is Tea?


Aggarwal BB. Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing, 2011. 

Farhad I, Akram P, Dariush N, et al. Tea drinking habits and oesophageal cancer in a high risk area in northern Iran: population based case-control study. BMJ. 2009;338:b929. 

Gladstar R. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2012. 

Kakumanu N, Rao SD. Skeletal Fluorosis Due to Excessive Tea Drinking. N Engl J Med. 2013;368:1140. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1200995. 

Mars B. Healing Herbal Teas: A Complete Guide to Making Delicious, Healthful Beverages. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, 2006. 

Medical College of Georgia. "Tea may contain more fluoride than once thought, research shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100714104059.htm>.

Thankachan P, Walczyk T, Muthayya S, et al. Iron absorption in young Indian women: the interaction of iron status with the influence of tea and ascorbic acid. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):881-6. 

Tillotson, AK. The One Earth Herbal Sourcebook. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2001.

Zak V. 20,000 Secrets of Tea. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1999.  

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