Although many tea aficionados love a cup of herbal tea, they're not officially a tea. Because herbal teas do not contain any leaves from the Camellia plant family, it's often referred to as a tisane.
Herbal teas are described as any beverage made from the infusion of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water, they are naturally caffeine-free and can be served hot or cold. It's thought that they have been enjoyed for as long as written history extends, with evidence of herbal teas being enjoyed by the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Chinese.
There are a few different types of herbal tea:
Herbal infusions can be made from a variety of ingredients such as fresh or dried fruits, flowers, leaves or seeds. When boiling water is poured on the mixture flavours are released, just as they would be with other teas, although often steeping is needed for much longer to bring out a fuller flavour.
Herbal infusions can be boiled on a stove too; the action of the boiling water moving the mixture around helping to release more flavour.
Rooibos is classed as an herbal tea as it does not contain leaves from the tea plant either. The rooibos plant, found only in a specific region of South Africa, has long been used for medicinal purposes locally, but found its way into the mainstream after a book uncovered its health benefits in the 60's.
Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free and produces a smooth, slightly sweet but refreshing tasting drink.
Mate teas are also an herbal tea, made from the South American Yerba Mate plant.
Most yerba mate comes from Argentina and is deliciously bold in flavour. Mate tea is traditionally consumed from a gourd with a filtered straw and shared among friends.