What about all these other ‘teas?’ Confusion about what is a true tea comes from the indiscriminate use of the word ‘tea.’ It seems that any beverage made from hot water and a plant ends up with the appellation ‘tea.’ People say they like mint tea, rooibos tea, yerba mate tea, and others. While these beverages may have healthful properties, they are not products of Camellia sinensis and therefore should not be called ‘tea.’

Tisanes and Herbal Infusions

Often packaged in teabags, and also infused in hot water like tea, herbal infusions are other botanicals. These beverages are made from herbs, grass, barks, fruits, and flowers. Also known as tisanes, popular flavors include mint, lemongrass, cinnamon, chamomile, and hibiscus.

Rooibos (pronounced “roy-boos” or “roy-boss”)

Rooibos, or “red bush,” is produced from Aspalathus linearis a three-foot high
grass-like shrub which grows exclusively in the Cedarburg Mountain range in the nation of South Africa. The needle-like rooibos leaves are cut, bruised, oxidized and sun-dried. When infused, rooibos is reddish beverage with a distinct taste.

Mate (pronounced “ma-tay”)

Yerba mate, known to botanists as Ilex paraguariensis, is a member of the holly
family and grows as a small tree in subtropical South America – Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, and Bolivia. The flat green leaves are plucked and dried. Steeped in hot water in a rounded gourd-like bombilla or canudo, the resulting infusion is sipped through a straw. Taste is similar to some green teas.