True Teas, how what you are drinking might not be tea, actually

Read it in Spanish!

I belong to a number of tea related groups in social media and sometimes I cannot help but noticing that some people use the word tea to refer to some beverages that are actually not tea. Many seem to ignore that true teas come from the Camellia Sinensis plant only, whereas everything else doesn’t.

This is somewhat a controversial topic since it is widely extended and deeply ingrained in people’s mind. Changing the way it currently is doesn’t look like an easy task. Yet I do not stop trying, if I see that someone is using the word tea incorrectly I point it out politely. Then it is up to them if they want to read more on the matter or continue using it the way they do. At least I tried. So why are they referring to tea when they mean tisane or herbal infusion? One of the reasons could be that tea is widely popular, in fact is the most consumed drink around the world if we don’t count water. So everything that has the name tea on it might be more appealing to consumers.

Another option is that the herbal infusions and tisanes are steeped in a similar way to tea, specially if they come in teabags. Therefore, the majority call it tea since is something familiar they can relate to. Plus tea is such a short and easy word that it makes it easier to remember and to pronounce than herbal infusion or tisane.

The truth is that often times these herbal infusions or tisanes are sold with the word tea written in their packages. However, just because the word tea can be read it doesn’t mean that what we are buying is actually tea.
 
A very good example is rooibos. I always find it written as a rooibos tea yet rooibos is not a tea since it doesn’t come from the Camellia Sinensis. As a fresh leaf, it has a high content of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), which is lost when made into tea. Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine and has low tannin levels compared to true teas. So if what you are looking for is a caffeine kick rooibos is not for you.

In addition, it doesn’t have L-Theanine, an amino acid that is only found in true teas. Many people drink teas with high L-Theanine content due to its attributed benefits such as stress reduction, cognitive functions boost among other things. L-Theanine and caffeine work in a synergistic manner which means that caffeine in tea is released gradually thanks to the L-Theanine. This is why we don’t feel jittery or suffer a sudden crash when drinking teas.

If you drink teas for their health benefits or for a gentle caffeine kick, herbal infusions or tisanes outhere don’t usually have these components. This includes chamomille, melissa, moringa… However, some of the herbal infusions do contain caffeine.
Yerba maté, guayusa and yaupon are good examples.

SO WHERE THE TRUE TEAS COME FROM?

Camellia Sinensis plant, an evergreen flowering bush from the Theaceae family which leaves (and sometimes stalks and stems) are used to produce tea. The two major varieties in use today within the tea industry are Sinensis Sinensis and Sinensis Assamica. Even though historically each variety has been used to produce either green or black teas, nowadays both varieties are being used to produce both, black and green teas. It is worth noting however that the use of each variety to produce green or black teas is still predominant in some countries, for example, Japan uses Sinensis Sinensis and mainly produces green teas whereas India uses Sinensis Assamica and mainly produces black teas.

 

WHAT TO DO?

With my article, I do not mean or want to imply that drinking other herbal infusions or tisanes is a bad thing, neither that drinking tea is better. In fact, teas, herbal infusions and tisanes can be all consumed daily by almost anyone and all of them have their moment, time, place and function. I drink a cup of chamomile each night before going to bed. What I want is to raise awareness about this (trivial for some) issue. You as a consumer should be aware in order to get the right products and make the right decisions when buying teas, herbal infusions or tisanes since they are not all the same thing.
 
Next time you are purchasing tea, pay attention to the list of ingredients to ensure that what you are getting is what you are looking for.

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