The world of tea is vivid & enormous. Did you know that within a day, over 159 million Americans drink tea for enjoyment? These figures get larger and larger when we include the other parts of the word. So, when we look at the world of tea, it contains many categories such as Black tea, Green tea, or Herbal tea. However, the one fundamental difference regarding these categories would be that all teas deriving from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) are pure teas and all other herbal or plant-based teas are categorized as tisanes. Apart from these, there are many combinations among the pure teas and tisanes, which make countless tea options. However, the focus of this article will remain on understanding the differences between pure tea vs tisane tea, and this is a very important distinction to learn.
What is Pure Tea?
Pure teas (also known as true teas) originate from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Currently, there are six main categories of true teas named white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and pu'erh. Based on additional processing methods applied to the tea, other subcategories have been developed over the years. As a result of this, there are thousands of tea varieties available today for our enjoyment.
Pure teas are popular for their unique flavor and aroma. These teas contain caffeine and polyphenols, which are antioxidants that reduce free radicals (atoms, molecules, and ions that have unpaired electrons) in the body to keep you healthy. It also contains flavonoids that may help with weight loss and stress reduction when consumed regularly. The words pure tea and true tea refer to the same and you can use them interchangeably. They both refer to tea obtained from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.
What Are the Main Types of Pure Tea?
As you already know, the category of pure tea includes hundreds of teas made from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, there are six main categories we must learn as tea lovers. White, green, yellow, oolong, black, and pu'erh tea. (Learn more about pure teas in the article different types of teas)
- White teas derive from the youngest tea buds of the tea plant and don't go through any steaming or oxidation phases while it's processing. The tea appears in white to a velvety texture, with an opaque brew.
- Green tea is also an un-oxidized tea, and its processing style helps retain its greenish appearance and the precious leaf chemicals. Even the tea brew appears in pale yellow to greenish color and the tea has soaring popularity for its health benefits.
- Yellow tea is an extremely rare kind of tea even within China, this tea is available in limited quantities. This tea follows a specific processing style called “yellowing” to achieve its taste profiles and appearance.
- Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized tea, which involves different oxidation, roasting, or smoking techniques in processing. Oolong is a mild tea with light golden to deep orange color and a fantastic aroma.
- Black tea is the most popular pure tea around the world. This is a fully oxidized tea and contains an unmatchable reddish hue and a vibrant flavor profile. When we are comparing tea vs tisane, black tea shows the most contrasting attributes due to its complex flavor profile.
- Pu’erh is a fully oxidized tea that has undergone a post-fermentation phase to develop its specific flavor profile. This tea usually appears in pressed format rather than loose leaf tea, which is a tradition from the ancient pu’erh culture. Pu’erh carries a very refined flavor profile due to its aged nature and is an acquired taste.
What are Mixed Teas?
Mixed teas are blends of multiple ingredients, including Camellia sinensis & flowers, fruits, or herbs of other plants. Mixed teas generally have a lighter taste than pure teas because they do not contain only pure tea. Examples include herbal tea blends or fruit tea blends.
What is Tisane Tea?
Tisane is an herbal infusion made from flowers, roots, leaves, or even spices which are anything but the Camellia sinensis plant. There are many terms used to identify tisane teas, such as herbal teas, botanicals, infusions, or herbal infusions. The best part about tisanes is that they don't require artificial flavors or additives, making them completely organic and healthy. When we compare pure Tea vs tisane tea, one of the main differences is the caffeine content available in these two tea types. Pure tisanes do not contain caffeine except for Yerba Mate, thus making excellent caffeine-free tea solutions for caffeine-conscious tea consumers.
Pure tisanes have many health benefits that include: improving digestion (dandelion); aiding in weight loss (hibiscus); helping with gas issues like bloating or constipation (lemon balm); fighting colds & flu symptoms (peppermint); reducing nausea or vomiting in pregnant women (ginger) and more!
It is important to note that these benefits will vary based on what kind of tisane you are drinking. Some herbs are better than others when promoting specific health benefits. Also, floral and fruity tisanes may not possess the same health benefits as tisanes containing herbs. The most popular types of tisane include chamomile, rooibos, peppermint, lemon balm, and hibiscus flower. These herbal tisanes are delicious to consume as a hot beverage or cold brew.
What Are the Main Types of Tisanes?
Tisanes originate from various parts of the plants, such as flowers, fruits, leaves, bark, or root. Tisane tea is not an entirely new concept to the tea world, but is not as well documented as pure teas in official documents. Only traditional know-how was passed from previous generations. These teas generally contain dehydrated versions of plant materials, while few herbs like Rooibos undergo special processing techniques. This simple dehydration style processing is regarded as another difference between pure Tea vs tisane when compared to the complex processing steps of true teas.
- Leaf tisanes come from different plant leaves, and the most popular types include peppermint, lemongrass, rooibos, moringa leaves, and lemon verbena.
- Flower tisanes include processed (dried) plant flowers and often contain specific flavors and aromas. Some popular flower tisanes include flowers like chamomile, lavender, hibiscus, rose, and jasmine.
Fruit / Berry Tisane
- Fruit tisanes contain dried fruits processed to suit the functionality of a tea. Fruits like strawberry, blueberry, citrus, apple, and peach are some popular options of this tea type.
Seed or Root/ Spice Tisane
- Spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, fennel, licorice or ginger are some examples of seed and root tisanes. These kinds of ingredients create some delicious tea options, alone or as complex blends.
Pure Tea vs Tisane Tea, the key differences
Some people use the words tea and tisane interchangeably, but there are significant differences in the attributes of tea vs tisane. The below list highlights a few of these main differences.
Source of Tea
One of the key differences is all pure tea types-white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and pu’erh, come from this one plant, Camellia sinensis. Pure tisanes, on the other hand, include components like plant roots, barks, fruit, and flowers. They don't include any Camellia sinensis leaves at all!
True teas originate from the Camellia sinensis shoots that contain caffeine and other substances such as catechins and theanine. This gives them their characteristic flavor, color, and health benefits. However, it depends on the type of tea. Black and green teas have high caffeine content, while white and yellow tea has a lower level of caffeine.
Aside from Yerba mate, tisane teas are made from herbs, fruits, or flowers and are free from caffeine. Since most tisane teas usually don't contain caffeine, they are suitable for those who want to avoid this stimulant entirely.
Flavor Profile of Pure Tea vs Tisane tea
Pure teas are often known for their robust flavor, which comes from the active compounds that contribute to the overall flavor profile. One of the main compounds that is responsible for bitterness in tea is caffeine. Another compound that contributes to bitterness is catechins, which are flavonoids found in green teas. Sweet and savory flavors in tea come from L-theanine, which is responsible for the umami flavors.
In contrast, the flavor or taste of tisanes is determined by the ingredients used to make them. Flavors of the tisanes vary depending on the type of herbs and flowers used. However, the most common flavor notes include sweet (such as chamomile and peach), spicy (ginger), or tangy (lemon or bergamot) notes, whether you want something floral or citrusy, there's a tisane out there for everyone!
Now you know the difference!
Both pure teas and tisanes belong to the world of natural beverages, and we highly recommend that you explore all these options depending on our moods and preferences. At Tea J Tea, we strive to offer you all these tea solutions to help you on your tea journey. However, if you have any medical needs or conditions like pregnancy, be mindful to check the precautionary details of these teas, as some might not be safe for your health. Furthermore, if you plan to use herbal teas as remedies rather than for pure enjoyment, it's always best to consult with your doctor before trying these as herbal remedies!