The Difference between Tea and Herbal Infusions

The Difference between Tea and Herbal Infusions

By: Rex "Ito Domo" Fortu

It's already November, and the year as we know it, is about to end. This global pandemic urged us to stay at home for over half of the year, changing the majority of our norms and our social life not just in the Philippines but all over the world.

Mall strolling and dining in restaurants was a big no-no as to promote social distancing efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the workplace, employees now had to adapt to the new normal in the form of the work-from-home (WFH) setup. Workers who were involved with essential businesses needed to cope with limited transport services, straining their bodies even before they had reached their place of work. As a result, traveling and hanging out with our friends is now a thing of the past. Indeed, these brought a lot of changes to our everyday lifestyle.

Despite all of these, it gave us a chance and an opportunity to re-think and re-evaluate our lives. We had more time at home and for some, this meant working out and exercising alone and participating in online fitness classes because the gyms were temporarily closed. It also allowed us to reconnect with our families and develop stronger bonds with them. Lastly, it gave us time to revisit old hobbies - and for me it was cooking and spending more time in the kitchen.

Over the course of the quarantine, I was introduced to tea drinking and tea culture as most of our beloved coffee shops were closed or were operating on a limited basis. Just like many of you, I am an avid coffee drinker too.

As I was searching for natural sources of antioxidants and immunity boosters, I was delighted to learn that teas and herbal infusions also offer nutritional benefits aside from its warmth and relaxing effects. As I got more immersed in the tea culture, I wondered about its history and after a few months of reading, here’s what I learned so far.

Tea is a revered beverage from China, brought to India, Japan, Turkey and Russia. While tea drinking in the Philippines has been always alive, it was certainly limited. I really do hope that this year, we could rekindle and enrich the tea culture here in our country, but then again what could be the best way to start this endeavor?

Let’s start with the basics. The terms "tea" and "herbal infusions" are used interchangeably but these have actually different properties and characteristics. Tea is a drink that you obtain by steeping or brewing the leaves of the tea plant in hot water. This tea plant or scientifically speaking, the camellia sinensis plant, is a type of shrub native in Asia. It's subdivided into four major categories specifically black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea; depending on how the leaves are processed.

Tea leaves are often processed through oxidation, a process where tea leaves are exposed to air, oxygen, and even sunlight in order to obtain certain flavors and aromas. The process varies per variety of the tea, some are After the leaves are withered fully, rolled, crushed, or maybe even fired in ovens or pans. Black teas are the most oxidized among the true teas, green tea, the leaves are often plucked in the morning and lightly processed. The leaves are steamed which stops the oxidation process. In this way, it receives little oxidation retaining its original green color. Oolong tea is in the middle between black and green tea. The leaves are withered, rolled and semi-oxidized within a range of 10% to 70% oxidation. Its taste can range from light to roasty. White tea receives the least processing and oxidation. In the early stages of the tea plant's life cycle is when the buds are harvested and are not rolled or crushed in the tea making process.

You may be wondering, “What about ginger tea, hibiscus tea, rooibos tea and the like?” These are properly called as herbal tea or tisanes (pronounced as ti-zan). These aren't technically tea in the sense that these are not derived from the leaves of the tea plant itself. Instead these are brewed from herbs, leaves, bark, roots, spices, flowers or fruits of a particular ingredient, hence the name herbal tea. Common examples of herbal tea/tisanes include chamomile tea (made from the flowers of the chamomile plant), mint tea (made from mint leaves), blueberry tea (made from blueberries), etc.

On the other hand, herbal infusions refer to drinks prepared by steeping or brewing a variety of combined leaves, roots, fruits or flowers. They are prepared, mixed and brewed all together to create new flavors, aromas, and even health benefits. Imagine the different and complex tastes, aromas and nutrients fused into one healthy and satisfying drink; that's what you get from herbal infusions.

Now we know the difference from these varieties! So whether you're a purist tea drinker, a tisanes fan, an herbal infusion enthusiast or a novice in the world of teas, Havva Brew has got you covered. You can now enjoy these drinks in the comfort of your own home, at the office. In fact, you can enjoy these wherever and whenever you want. As the Havva Brew Family says, go Havva great day and stay safe!

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