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Herbal Tisanes (tea-zahns)

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An herbal tea, tisane, or ptisan is a herbal or plant infusion and usually not made from the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Like brews made of the tea bush, such infusions are prepared by combining hot water and fruits, leaves, roots or grains. The resulting drink can be served hot or cold. Herbal tea has been used for nearly as long as written history extends. Documents have been recovered dating back to as early as Ancient Egypt and Ancient China that discuss the enjoyment and uses of herbal tea. Among Chinese, herbal tea is commonly known as liang cha (Chinese: 涼茶; Mandarin Pinyin: liáng chá; Jyutping: loeng4 caa4).

Herbal teas can be made with fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds or roots, generally by pouring boiling water over the plant parts and letting them steep for a few minutes. Seeds and roots can also be boiled on a stove. The tisane is then strained, sweetened if so desired, and served.

How to Make Tisanes

Most tisanes should be prepared as an infusion or a decoction.

Decoctions release more essential oils and flavor from plant matter and are often used for plant matter with tough surfaces or smaller surface areas. For this reason, leaf, flower and seed tisanes are generally steeped, whereas bark, root and berry tisanes are generally prepared as decoctions.

Brewing times and proportions for tisanes vary widely. They may be as short as two minutes or as long as 15 minutes, and may require as little as a pinch of plant material per cup of water or as much as several tablespoons per cup.

If your tisane comes with brewing instructions, use them and then adjust the quantities/time to your tastes. If not, ask your supplier or search online for instructions for that particular tisane.

Warning: Never use an aluminum pot to prepare a tisane. Aluminum is a reactive metal, so it can react with the herb and, depending on the plant type, it may produce a very toxic beverage.

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