Herbal teas, also known as herbal infusions or tisanes, are not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea bush like white, green, oolong and black teas. Rather, herbal teas draw on the full variety of herbs, flowers, roots, spices or fruits that the botanical kingdom has to offer, from classics like peppermint and camomile, to the more exotic cardamom and turmeric. They are typically caffeine free, do not contain tannins, and can be brewed as normal tea leaves.
Herbs have been grown and prepared for infusion for many thousands of years, across cultures and geographies, from Egypt to China. Because of their purported health benefits, they have a strong rooting in the ancient medicinal traditions of all the great European, Middle Eastern and Asian civilisations. Besides relieving certain ailments, some herbs were also considered to open the mind for spiritual insights.
Herbal teas do not undergo oxidisation or any of the other complex tea making steps of traditional teas. Rather, they are simply herbs, flowers or fruits that have been picked and laid out to dry – the key is to intervene as little and as judiciously as possible so that the full natural flavour is retained. Some of the more popular herbs can even be blended with traditional teas to create wonderfully aromatic brews – in Morocco, for example, the national drink is green tea blended with spearmint leaves.