When talking about tea, green tea and black tea tend to dominate the conversation. But what you may not realize is that herbal teas are one of the few common threads running through all the world’s traditional healing practices. So why is herbal tea not considered “real tea” and what’s the difference?
Real tea is made from the leaves of a single plant, the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea are all considered to be real teas, the only difference among the four is how they are processed. Read more about the differences between green tea and black tea (as well as the other two varieties).
Herbal teas, as the name implies, are produced from any number of different herbs and combination of herbs. Unlike “real tea,” which is only brewed from leaves, herbal teas can be prepared from steeping the leaves, stems, flowers, roots, bark or rhizomes of the particular herbs. (source: sharecare.com)
There are also two different ways of preparing your herbal teas:
- Infusion: This is the most common form of herbal tea preparation, whereby you simply steep the plants in boiling water. Infusion is only used with the non-woody parts of the herb (the leaves, flowers and, in some cases, stems). When you make tea using tea bags or a tea ball, you’re using the infusion method.
- Decoction: The other method of preparing herbal tea is combining the woody parts of the herb (the roots or bark) with water, bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer. Decoction is the best way to extract the nutrients from the denser parts of the herb.
So what it all boils down to (pun intended) is semantics. You won’t get any weird looks for calling your cup of ginseng tea simply “tea” without the “herbal” qualifier...unless of course you’re talking tea with a purist. While there only four different varieties of real tea, herbal teas present a multitude of varieties and combinations to suit your tastes and target specific areas of overall health and wellness.