Tisanes : Fragrant Caffeine-Free Teas

I have a tea drawer, which is hard to explain to those who either don’t drink tea or don’t drink so much that they actually need a designated tea drawer. “What do you do with it?” ask bewildered guests suspiciously eyeing the dozens of packages that I keep in a credenza in the corner of my dining room. (Those guests become even more bewildered when they see my perfume shelf, but that’s another story). Although all tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, it exists in such a range of flavors and tastes that one box of Earl Grey simply doesn’t cover all of my cravings. But since high-quality tea is best bought in small quantities and drunk as quickly as possible, the bulk of my tea drawer is made up of herbs and dried flowers that I use for tisanes.

tisane-gingertisane-rose3

Tisane usually refers to a non-caffeinated beverage made by steeping flowers, herbs, or spices in water. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, and after 6pm I don’t drink anything caffeinated. For this reason, linden blossom or cinnamon and honey tisane is one of my favorite ways to wrap up the day. Some infusions like linden, sage and ginger have health benefits, but I drink them for their aroma and taste. It takes less than 10 minutes to brew rose tea, but the boost you receive from a steaming cup that smells like summer itself lingers for hours.

I’ve already shared one of my favorite non-caffeinated drinks, ironically named café blanc, and here five other aromatic tisanes and infusions.

tisane-linden3linden1

Linden Flower

Linden or lime blossom (tilleul in French) has a lush orange blossom and honey perfume. When the trees bloom in May, I get drunk on the aroma of linden just by throwing open my windows. In a cup, the intoxicating sensation is much more delicate, but few things are as effective in brightening up a dull, cold evening. I pour 1 cup of boiling  water over 1 Tablespoon of dried flowers and let them infuse for 5-10 minutes. Besides its honeyed scent, linden tisane has relaxing, calming properties. It’s a perfect cup of tea to have before bed.

A touch of orange blossom water in linden tisane will accentuate the white floral notes.

Dried Roses and Honey

This is another beautiful tisane that’s worth making in a transparent cup so as to enjoy the soft petals unfolding in the hot water. You can experiment with the quantity of rose petals in your infusion, but start with 1 heaped Tablespoon for each cup of boiling water. Honey is a perfect partner to rose, since their aromas share much in common. To create the illusion of a blooming rose garden, add a twist of lemon and a splash of rosewater.

Rose is also a good addition for mixed floral teas, such as linden, lemon verbena, or chamomile.

tisane-hibiscustisane-hibiscus3

Chilled Hibiscus (Karkadé, Flor de Jamaica)

Made from the dried sepals that surround the flowers of a roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) plant, hibscus tea will give you a sensory boost not through its scent but through its vivid color. It also tastes exhilaratingly tart and fruity. It’s the hue of crushed pomegranates and deep crimson roses. You can brew hibiscus hot, but I prefer a cold infusion, which makes for a drink with a more rounded flavor. I discovered the idea in a New York Times article on cold brewing tea and coffee by Harold McGee. You cover 1 cup of dried hibiscus with 4 cups of water and leave it for 4 to 12 hours. Strain and chill.

Sage and Honey

Sage tastes of sun burnt grasses, baked earth and musk. It’s an acquired taste because of its camphorous bite and lingering bitterness. I first tried it when a Greek friend brewed it for me, explaining that in some parts of the Mediterranean, sage tea is considered a panacea. I don’t know about curing all ills, but sage is very rich in antioxidants. Sage tea is comforting, and I love its bitterness that tastes the way the Greek countryside smells. I add 1 teaspoon of sage for each cup of water, let the herbs infuse for 10 minutes, strain, and stir in a dollop of honey.

tisane-ginger4

Ginger and Cinnamon

When I need a cup of something warm without a jolt of caffeine, I opt for ginger and cinnamon tea. One sip, and I feel the warm wave moving through my limbs. To make it, slice or grate a piece of ginger (about 1/2 inch long) into a cup of boiling water, add 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and honey to taste. It will pleasantly burn your lips and make them tingle, and if, like me, you get chills easily, it will become your winter staple.

Another delicious warming variation is a traditional Korean jujube tea. Red dates (jujubes) have a caramel and dried pear flavor, and when boiled with slices of ginger and cinnamon sticks, they make a spicy, rich drink. I’ve long enjoyed it at my Korean friends’ houses, but thanks to my reader Anne, I now make my own. If you would like to try, here is a  Jujube Tea recipe that I like. As Anne explained, you don’t need a pressure cooker to make it, but the dates should be boiled for at least an hour and a half.  It’s worth making a large quantity and reheating the tea as needed. Red dates are found at Asian grocery stores.

Do you have any favorite tisanes?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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118 Comments

  • rosarita: I am so ignorant when it comes to this kind of thing that I really appreciate your articles about teas and other fragrant beverages. That ginger cinnamon tisane is getting a try very soon! September 26, 2013 at 8:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I often get chills, especially when it’s damp outside, so a big knob of ginger is a must in my grocery basket. I also wanted to say that you can add a few mint leaves or lemon slices for different flavors. Even a dash of rosewater (it’s really such a versatile addition!) can be great with ginger and cinnamon. That combo begs to be made into a perfume. September 26, 2013 at 11:59am Reply

  • Ann: What a delicious and fragrant post! I appreciate your nice photos. Do you peel ginger for tisane? I must make it soon. September 26, 2013 at 8:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ann. I don’t bother peeling ginger. I just scrub it well and then slice it. But for more hit and spice, it’s better to grate it. September 26, 2013 at 12:01pm Reply

  • Celine: This post brings back so many memories of my mother making linden and rapsberry leaf tea for me when I was ill. I don’t do it anymore not sure why. Your post inspired me. September 26, 2013 at 8:56am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear that it did! My grandmother makes different herbal teas, especially in the winter, so yes, it’s a lovely tradition. September 26, 2013 at 12:02pm Reply

  • Mark: I don’t drink many tisanes, but as a tea addict, I agree on having a designated tea drawer. September 26, 2013 at 9:10am Reply

    • Victoria: I just try to keep under control, because a tea shop can tempt me far more than a perfume boutique. :) September 26, 2013 at 12:03pm Reply

  • Catherine: Perfect timing for this, because I was told by my doctor to cut back on caffeine. Why does decaf coffee taste so bad?? I’m liking rooibos tea and a fruity blend I got from Whole Foods. On the package it says hibiscus, dried currants, rose, rose hips, orange peel. September 26, 2013 at 9:29am Reply

    • Victoria: My husband had to cut down his coffee intake, and as he learned, it’s best to do it slowly. I’m sure that your doctor gave you some pointers. There are so many interesting non-caffeinated beverages out there, so it’s fun to experiment. I love rooibois too, especially with a dash of vanilla extract. September 26, 2013 at 12:05pm Reply

  • Belle: I’m more of a hydrophilic person, but an aunt of mine let me tried licorice tisane, which is really good! I think I should try more of these, especially for a caffeine intolerant person like me (green tea gives me headaches). September 26, 2013 at 9:32am Reply

    • Victoria: I have some licorice roots which I got for a work presentation, and I’ve added them to chutneys and jams. On the other hand, a licorice tea is something I’m yet to try. Does your aunt just boil them in water? September 26, 2013 at 12:06pm Reply

      • Austenfan: I know that in Holland you can buy bags with the chopped-up root. It’s called “zoethout” thee. I quite like it.
        People suffering from high blood pressure are recommended not to drink it, or at least not in large quantities. The Glycyrrhizine in it will aggravate hypertension. September 26, 2013 at 4:34pm Reply

        • Victoria: Interesting and good to know. Thankfully, none of us suffers from high blood pressure, but it’s something to keep in mind. September 26, 2013 at 6:30pm Reply

  • sara: what does everyone think about mate? i keep hearing about it and seeing it mentioned in perfume notes. what does it taste like? September 26, 2013 at 9:44am Reply

    • Karina: I tried mate for the first time not long ago and it was unlike anything I have ever had before. Without sugar it is very bitter, and it has a strong smoky herbal flavour. I put a lot of sugar in it which made it much more enjoyable for me. It is quite an invigorating drink, and not just because of the caffeine, it just seems to have a bit of a ‘zing’ to it! It was a novelty for me to sip it from a gourd with a ‘bombilla’ (special metal straw) too, it makes the whole thing a special and unique experience. September 26, 2013 at 10:36am Reply

    • Hannah: I love mate without sugar.

      I make ginger and lemon infusions often. I’ve never had linden blossom before, but now I’d like to try it.
      I’ve never used sage leaves before, but I have a sage and eucalyptus herbal tea from a German brand called Meßmer. September 26, 2013 at 11:58am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a fascinating, complex taste! It’s bitter, but then you notice the herbal, earthy, green, camphorous notes. It’s also an acquired taste, but it can get addictive. September 26, 2013 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Isis: Thak you! This makes want to run to the Maroccan store around the corner for cinnamon sticks and ginger… Sage and honey still is a favorite of mine, my stepfather would give it to me whenever I had the flu, and I give it to my children. As a result, my 6-year old son has even devloped a habit of eating raw sage leaves whenever he is in the garden…. September 26, 2013 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: How cute! He is a budding gourmand. :)
      I have always associated sage with medicine until I went to Italy and tried ravioli topped with sage scented butter. That dish made a sage convent in an instant! September 26, 2013 at 12:10pm Reply

      • Isis: (actually, I caught my 4year old daughter the other day covered in Vetiver Tonka… they love my perfumes. I have a selection of ‘magic-sleeping-perfumes’ for when they can’t sleep. More effective than a cup of hot milk :) ) September 26, 2013 at 2:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: Vetiver Tonka out of all things! Yes, you have a bunch of perfume lovers in the making. :) September 26, 2013 at 6:26pm Reply

  • Donna: Victoria, I have spent money because of the wonderful things you have told me about here on your blog. Recently, you mentioned The Pillow Book, and off I went to Amazon. A while back you mentioned Lavender Black tea, and off I went! I love that tea but mostly I crave Paris Tea by Harney and Sons. And I’m on a big honey kick so it’s the perfect foil for a nice dollop of honey. September 26, 2013 at 9:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Donna, I hope that it was all worth the trouble! :) I would love to hear what you think of “The Pillow Book”.

      Honey is another favorite topic of mine, and I’ll admit to having a whole shelf in my pantry devoted to honeys. There are so many different flavors and types! September 26, 2013 at 12:12pm Reply

  • Nadja Sand: I understand your tea drawer perfectly! I myself have a tea shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets and when I lived in a commune we had a whole double door cabinet solely for our tea collection. I am generally more fond of tisanes than real tea. I have dried various herbs myself and my favorite tea herb is definitely Labrador Tea! But my favorite type of tisane is spice teas, especially Yogi tea. The spicier the better, I love the feeling of my tea burning it’s way down to my stomach! September 26, 2013 at 10:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I’ve never tried Labrador tea, but I’m intrigued now. Nadja, what does it taste like? September 26, 2013 at 12:13pm Reply

      • Nadja Sand: Labrador Tea has a very unique taste that I can’t quite describe, very green and herbal. If you have ever smelled th Labrador Tea herb then you know what a special scent it has (I desperately want a Labrador Tea perfume) and it tastes like it smells! September 27, 2013 at 12:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: I haven’t, but I’ll have to look for it. Thank you, Nadja! September 29, 2013 at 1:34am Reply

    • Anne of Green Gables: Glad to find another Yogi tea lover! I keep a Thermos at work and drink Yogi tea throughout the day. Which are your favourites, Nadja? I still haven’t got around to trying all of them but my favourites are Classic Chai, Choco and Licorice Mint. September 26, 2013 at 12:54pm Reply

      • Sheri: Yogi teas are wonderful! Lately I’ve been pairing them with perfume and enjoying the interplay of fragrances. One current favorite combination is Yogi Bedtime tea with L’Artisan Coeur de Vetiver Sacre – mmmmmm. :) September 27, 2013 at 1:36am Reply

      • Nadja Sand: I like all of the Yogi spice teas but Sweet Chai and Sweet Chili are my favorites! September 27, 2013 at 12:27pm Reply

  • Cheryl: I read you all the time and while this is my first comment, I have to say you always make me want to try something new. I like your idea of taking time out for simple pleasures like making a cup of tea.

    Thank you! September 26, 2013 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Cheryl! And also welcome to BdJ. :)
      Sometimes taking a little pause makes all the difference for me, especially on one of those hectic, stressful, overbooked days. September 26, 2013 at 12:16pm Reply

  • Emma M: Great recipes and ideas, thank you for sharing them. Rose and honey has gone to the top of my list, but I will definitely be trying all of these September 26, 2013 at 10:32am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! Rose and honey are a great pairing in perfume, and as I’ve discovered, in food too. They complement each other so well. September 26, 2013 at 12:20pm Reply

  • Natalia: I knew the word “tisane” from Agatha Chtistie’s novels. It was a favorite Hercule Poirot’s beverage after creme de cassis. Now I know what it is, thank you )). Actually, upon reading your article I realized that did tried a tisane at a coffee shop once. I just didn’t know it was called that. I think it consisted of ginger, honey and some greens, too. I really liked it and I would love to try the one you describe that is made of roses and honey. These are my favorite perfume ingredients, so I keep imagining myself drinking it wearing Nahema, Soir de Lune or Knowing. I think it could be such fun! )) September 26, 2013 at 10:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, yes, you’re right! I don’t know what kind of tisane Poirot drank (was it mentioned in any of the books?), but I remember that he liked it with 3 spoons of sugar. And of course, hot chocolate is another one of Poirot’s favorite beverages. September 26, 2013 at 12:23pm Reply

      • Natalia: No, I don’t remember if any particular kind of tisane is mentioned in the books. The mere mention of it was quite enough to scare off Chief Inspector Japp and Hastings )) September 26, 2013 at 1:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: True, Chief Inspector Japp considered Poirot’s choice of beverages very circumspect. He would go for beer instead. September 26, 2013 at 6:24pm Reply

  • Jillie: Oh, all so yummy! Being the rose tea fan that I am, I can’t wait to try this recipe. Lately I have decided to have a change from my usual lemon and ginger and have tried orange and ginger instead – it’s less zingy, but really tasty.

    You are so right about being drunk on linden blossom – it really is literally intoxicating and is said to be a narcotic in great quantities! It is used in magic to cast spells …… I just love the smell. September 26, 2013 at 10:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Orange and ginger sounds wonderful! I use it as a flavor combination for marinating fish and chicken, but I haven’t tried it in my cinnamon ginger tea yet. Sounds like a must try to me.
      Lindens didn’t have such a strong perfume this summer, because the weather was cold, but last year I only needed to open my windows to fill the apartment with linden scent. Talk about intoxicating and heady! September 26, 2013 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Lydia: Thanks for this post, Victoria. Linden blossom tea is a new experience I recently tried, and really enjoyed. Its delicate aroma mirrors many of the perfumes I’m drawn to. Thanks for the suggestion to try it with orange blossom water, that sounds lovely!

    May I post an off-topic question for you and your other readers?

    I’ll be spending a couple of days in Grasse, France in a couple of weeks, and while my friend there has promised we can visit the Fragonard Parfumerie, I’m curious if there are any other “not-to-be-missed” experienced in Grasse.

    I’ll only have about a day to spend there, so your and your knowledgeable readers’ recommendations would be most welcome! September 26, 2013 at 11:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Lydia, I’m so envious of your trip! It’s late in the flowering season, but you might even catch some late blooming tuberose and jasmine. “Domaine St Jacques du Couloubrie” is an interesting place to visit (you have to reserve ahead). It’s a garden full of beautiful plants, and the owners give a guided tour.
      The Fragonard Parfumerie won’t take much of your schedule, and if you’re pressed for time, I would suggest that you do a quick visit there and schedule one of the guided tours around the gardens.
      There is also an International Perfume Museum, which is worth a visit.

      Enjoy and please let us know after you’re back what you’ve discovered and where you visited.

      P.S. here is a useful link:
      http://www.rivieraincentive.com/shortbreaks-gardens.html September 26, 2013 at 1:05pm Reply

      • Lydia: Victoria,
        Thank you so much for the recommendations. The gardens at Domaine St Jacques look lovely, I will definitely make a point to visit.

        The Int’l Perfume Museum is also at the top of my list, thank you! I’ll be sure to recount any tales of delight or stray sightings of famed perfumers ;) September 28, 2013 at 10:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: Bon voyage! Please don’t hesitate to ask other questions. I love visiting that area of France. September 29, 2013 at 1:47am Reply

  • Lydia: I forgot to say that two of my favorite teas are an evening infusion of verbena (also very good infused with milk and honey), and a tea a Palestinian friend of mine makes, taught to her by her mother, which combines a bit of black tea, chopped fresh mint, dried sage, and a pinch of sweet marjoram.

    It’s wonderfully fragrant but not overpowering, especially in the evening. She tosses it all into a pot on the stove, simmers it, and strains it into cups. Yum! September 26, 2013 at 11:20am Reply

    • Victoria: Your mention of tea with mint, sage and marjoram reminds me of an interesting tea recipe I learned from an Iraqi friend. Her recipe also blends lots of different herbs such as sage, rosemary, marjoram, mint, basil, and it smells like a perfume. It’s perfect on a cold winter evening. September 26, 2013 at 5:38pm Reply

      • Lydia: That does sound lovely, I’ll have to try that mix. September 29, 2013 at 12:07am Reply

  • Yulya: Victoria, thank you, once again, for a great article. Wonderful suggestions, but most improtantly, it is so well written. It is such a pleasure reading it. A word on linden. It is considered to be a panacea in Russia, and linden honey is considered to be the best, as well as the linden tea. September 26, 2013 at 11:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Yulya! I love linden honey. A few months ago Hungarian honey producers were petitioning in the front of the EU Parliament here in Brussels against the cheap adulterated honey, and they were giving out little sample of linden honey. It tastes like orange blossoms, lemon peel, with a whiff of jasmine. September 26, 2013 at 5:58pm Reply

  • zari: Thank you Victoria for this review. I am trying to stay away from caffeine save the 1 cup of coffee and green tea. And I want to say that posts like this really shine your personality through – a person of good taste and willing to share it with everyone, open-minded, and lover of diversity, truth, and beauty. Thanks again :) September 26, 2013 at 11:35am Reply

    • Victoria: Zari, thank you very much! By sharing what gives me a boost, I learn from all of you too. As I mentioned to Cheryl earlier, taking little breaks can make all the difference. And it need not be anything elaborate. So, I’m very happy that you liked this particular post. :) September 26, 2013 at 6:04pm Reply

  • Ann: Coming from the heart of American coffee connoisseurship (which is NOT Seattle, whatever people think, but Berkeley CA where Peets opened his first beanery in 1966–and because it was Berkeley the denizens were called Peetniks (I’m not kidding)!!) it has been a struggle to branch out to teas with any real commitment. But the rituals around preparing tisanes and teas have finally got me, as well as the wonderful, steamy fragrances. What also helps is that I now store all our teas in a large, beautifully designed, Nurnberg cookie chest–which just adds to feeling that the tea is treasure. September 26, 2013 at 12:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ann, I’m now curious to see a photo of your Nurnberg cookie chest. :) I mean, a cookie chest! Now, that alone sounds so wonderful. September 26, 2013 at 6:06pm Reply

      • Ann: Hmmmm… I haven’t figured out how to post my own pictures… here are some examples of Nurnberg cookie tins and chests— terrible photos… but you’ll get the idea.

        http://picclick.com/E-Otto-Schmidt-Collector-Cookie-Tin-Nurnberg-Germany-170870191724.html

        I inherited a friend (from Nurnberg, Germany) from my husband’s family when we married, who sends us these beautiful boxes every year stuffed to the gills with cinnamon, ginger, marzipan, and chocolate candies and cookies. I have never met the man, but we lift our glasses to him every cold, wet winter when his big, shiny, beautiful box arrives. Opening it is fun for all of us, but the kids expecially like unpacking each of the different types of fragrant cookies and candies and enhaling their spicy, sweet, powdery goodness! September 27, 2013 at 12:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you for the links! It looks beautiful. Since yours also has a story attached to it, it must be even more special. September 29, 2013 at 1:36am Reply

  • Mary K: Really enjoyed this article, and must try the tisanes mentioned. The linden and rose sound especially interesting to me. I am sensitive to caffeine, too, and right now I am drinking iced rooibos tea, something that a local coffee house offers and does a good job with. September 26, 2013 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can even mix linden and rose together. In fact, part of the fun making tisanes is that once you have a couple of herbs or dried flowers, you can combine them and add different spices to make your own variations. It’s like making perfume, except that you drink it rather than wear it on your skin. September 26, 2013 at 6:07pm Reply

  • Thai: Fresh mint tea for life! I’m not advertising my blog (lol) but just wanna share the pictures of my mint tea the other day http://lacrymamosa.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/eat-pastries-for-life-reviews-of-tastoe-bond-en-smolders-utrecht-the-netherlands/

    I love rosemary tisane as well! September 26, 2013 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Thai! I love when mint tea contains lots of mint, rather than a few leaves. The cheesecake looks great too. September 26, 2013 at 6:09pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: As usual, an informative post with gorgeous pictures! I feel honoured to have my name mentioned *blush*. Thanks, Victoria! I’m glad to be of some help because I’ve been benefitting so much from your blog.

    I start my day with the giginer & jujube tea (usually accompanied by sesame crunch), drink Yogi tea throughout the day and finish my day with lemon & honey tea. I was in a cafe with a friend today and the tea I had was really delicious – ginger + lemon + mint + honey. It was very warming and refreshing at the same time. I’ll be making it myself. I brought a small bag of Linden tea (it has leaves as well as flowers) from my trip to Prague. A guide at the municipal house suggested it as a souvenir because Linden tree is the national emblem of Czech Republic. I’ve only had it a few times but it’s relaxing and calming. Once I buy orange blossom water, I should try adding some to the tea, as you suggested.

    Sorry to go on but I just wanted to let you know that I finally got to try Lumiere Blanche and Tam Dao you suggested from the last ‘Recommend Me a Perfume’. I like both of them! LB is so addictive that I can’t stop smelling the blotter. One question – Is it normal for LB to be cloudy? I’ve never seen cloudy perfume liquid so I was curious as to the perfume I tested might have been ‘off’. September 26, 2013 at 12:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: Anne, thank *you*. I even bought a second bag of jujubes, because I really got addicted to the date tea. It got cold all of a sudden, and I make this tea in large quantities and then reheat it as needed. It’s delicious too. By the way, I have a pressure cooker, but I just boil jujubes, ginger and cinnamon together. I’m such a wimp that I’m scared to try using the pressure cooker for its intended purpose. :)

      Lumiere Blanche is meant to be milky white, so don’t worry, that’s the intended effect. They’ve added a tint, and it looks really unusual. It’s one of the few bottles I display, because it’s just so striking. September 26, 2013 at 6:14pm Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: You are really hooked, aren’t you? :-) But it’s a good addiction as the tea is actually good for your health. There’s Korean punch called Sujeonggwa (made with ginger, cinnamon and dried perssimon) that you might want to try during the summer(http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/sujeonggwa). Pressure cookers can be scary but if used in the right way, they can do wonders! In Korea, they’re are commonly used for cooking rice. They make a huge difference in the taste! Most of the electric rice cookers in Korea thesedays are actually pressured rice cookers.

        I’m relieved to know that LB was meant to be cloudy. I wish the initial burst of spices could stay a bit longer on me but it was a pure pleasure to smell it. September 27, 2013 at 3:57am Reply

        • Victoria: I’ve tried the persimmon punch too and even bought some dried persimmons in Korea. To my great disappointment they spoiled when I left them near a hot radiator for a few days (got moldy). So far I haven’t any here in Brussels. September 29, 2013 at 1:16am Reply

  • Maja: I love this post!

    I grew up in Southeastern Europe where everybody seems to have knowledge of local herbs and drinks a lot of tisanas. My grandma used to pick various herbs in the woods and somehow I know the right herb for every ailment :) I drink tisanes because of their smell and taste, too. I love linden blossom, lemon balm, mint, wild thyme, elderberry blossom and rose hip, but I drink marigold, lady’s mantle, St John’s wort and other stuff my mother (and everybody else) thinks is magical. I can not lie, my shelves are indecent :)

    Also, I am trying to teach my little boy about smells and herbs and just the other day while smelling thyme in our garden he said: Oh, this is tea! :) September 26, 2013 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: The more you smell with the little ones, the bigger their scent vocabulary gets and it really makes such a difference in terms of how they connect to the world around them. I see it with my children of my perfumer colleagues or even with my friend who grew up in scent loving households.

      When I went to the French doctor for the first time, they gave me a herbal recommendation instead of prescribing me an antibiotic like I expected. And it worked! September 26, 2013 at 6:19pm Reply

  • Domestic Goblin: I really like drinking rooibos tea, (or red bush in it colloquial term). It is a South African tea that is naturally caffeine-free. It is really refreshing to drink all year round. I prefer mine without milk and without sugar. September 26, 2013 at 1:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: I really like Le Palais des Thes flavored rooibos. They have one kind flavored with vanilla and caramel and it can be almost a substitute for dessert! September 26, 2013 at 6:21pm Reply

  • Ines Hourani: Oh how I love the sound of those descriptions it transports me to so many times and places, Lebanon, Jamaica, Miami – thank you! While traveling in Lebanon, I discovered Zhourat Shamia, a delicious Arabian herbal tea blend of lemon balm, chamomile, marshmallow flowers, Lemon Verbena, Damask Rose and Green Tea. I was hooked at first sip. And of course the cafe blanc..
    Needless to say, my tea drawer is not suffice, I’ve ashamedly graduated to a kitchen cabinet. September 26, 2013 at 1:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: A kitchen cabinet for tea sounds even better than a mere drawer. :)
      A Lebanese friend sent me some marshmallow roots for making marshmallow, and I’ve tried doing it once. After boiling them and obtaining a murky brownish liquid, I wasn’t at all convinced, but once I started whipping, it turned into marshmallow fluff. It was almost magical! September 26, 2013 at 6:23pm Reply

  • Eva S.: Thank you so much for this post! :)
    My husband is also very sensitive to caffeine, and now we can try some of your recipies so he can get something warm to drink.
    I, on the other hand is the type of person who can drink a mug of coffee at 10 p.m… September 26, 2013 at 1:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: Lucky you! I love the idea of finishing a meal with a shot of espresso and a square of dark chocolate. Except I would be bouncing off the walls all night long if I did that. :) September 26, 2013 at 6:25pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely post!
    I occasionally drink a tisane. I like verbena, linden and mint in particular, but on the whole I prefer tea. I made some cold mint and verbena infusions this summer and they were very refreshing. I prefer not to sweeten any tea ( or coffee for that matter). My mother “weaned” us off sugar in our tea when I was about six years old. It must have worked as I can’t bear sugar in tea or tisane anymore. Unlike Poirot. I have been trying to find out which tisane he favoured, but all I can find is that he loved crème de Cassis, hot chocolate and tisane. And yet somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to remember that in one of the Poirot novels a specific tisane is mentioned. September 26, 2013 at 4:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t usually sweeten my teas with sugar, but I like an extra layer of flavor that honey gives in some of these tisanes. Of course, if one’s watching one’s sugar intake, it’s fine to skip honey altogether. Rose on its own has a delicate honey note.

      Do you remember if Poirot also drank creme de menthe? I seem to recall that one too. September 26, 2013 at 6:32pm Reply

      • Austenfan: He may have. I just don’t remember. (Ever since watching that Connolly sketch crème de menthe is linked to someone else.) But if I do remember I’ll report back to you. I hate it when a memory escapes me.

        I can see why you would add honey as it has a much more complex taste than plain sugar. Apart from hot chocolate and aniseed milk I just don’t like sweet in my hot drinks I suppose, which may be partly caused by the fact that I pay some attention to my calorie intake. September 27, 2013 at 11:18am Reply

        • Austenfan: Oh, and I sympathise about the drawer. I have a growing collection of teapots which everyone seems to find odd, to say the least. Mostly people don’t seem to understand that you cannot brew Lapsang and jasmin tea in the same pot. September 27, 2013 at 11:24am Reply

          • Victoria: I try to keep it under control, but then friends see that we have more than one teapot and think that I collect them. So, I often get them as gifts. Not that I’m complaining. It’s easy to find a spot for yet another beautiful addition. September 29, 2013 at 1:32am Reply

        • Victoria: Cutting out sugar where unnecessary is a good idea. In all of these recipes though if I don’t have honey, I wouldn’t add sugar. Sugar or honey in regular tea, on the other hand, taste wrong. Except in Kashmiri or Indian masala chai, but that’s a dessert rather than a beverage. :) September 29, 2013 at 1:29am Reply

          • Austenfan: I have had occasion once or twice to drink Indian chai, and you are right; that one is fine sweetened.

            I need to count calories, not obsessively but I need to pay some attention or I’ll gain weight.
            I’m not (yet) as knowledgeable about honey as you are but pondering this sweetening question I did remember that I often add honey to a vinaigrette. It softens the sharpness of the vinegar, or the lemon juice, and I find it makes for a wonderful combination with lettuce, tomatoes or whatever the salad consists of. Apples these days, as there lots of fresh ones. Did I ever mention that they are my favourite fruit? I started eating them when I was very little, less than a year old. I had only a few teeth but would actually manage to finish an entire apple! September 29, 2013 at 5:19pm Reply

            • Victoria: I love first of the season apples, especially the crisp, tart ones. Speaking of honey, they are great dipped in it. Sometimes I make salads with lettuce, apples, cheese, with a chive and honey dressing. Add some bread and it becomes a full meal. October 3, 2013 at 12:00am Reply

      • Austenfan: I have been doing some research on Poirot. Several sites mention crème de Menthe, a few mention crème de Cassis. I have yet to find out which Tisane was his favourite. September 28, 2013 at 5:01pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! I also remember from the novel “Sad Cypress” that he had a very low opinion on the British way of brewing tea. By the way, the film version is wonderful. September 29, 2013 at 1:45am Reply

          • Austenfan: It so is!. The actress playing Elinor is actually Suchet’s favourite leading lady.
            He is quite a fascinating man. Originally from Lithuania, if I am not mistaken. And such a lovely voice.
            Sad Cypress is a good story. Similar storyline to Sayers’ Strong Poison. And I remember the exact scene where Poirot is supposed to drink a cup of English tea. Not my favourite way to brew tea either. September 29, 2013 at 5:22pm Reply

            • Victoria: I didn’t know this, but what a fascinating character Suchet is. He is the Poirot for me, even more than the splendid Peter Ustinov. October 3, 2013 at 12:03am Reply

              • Austenfan: Once you are back and have a moment of leisure, this is the interview where he mentions it.
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK5oThdlYZI

                I can’t remember which novel was written first, but one of the main characters and essentially the man who comes to the rescue is Peter Lord. Now Strong Poison’s lead is called Lord Peter. I’ve always wondered whether that was a coincidence or not. October 4, 2013 at 5:19am Reply

  • Andy: What a delightful topic–I’ve had so much fun going through the comments and reading everybody’s tisane ideas! I must admit that I don’t drink a lot of tisanes myself (except for Rooibos: I drink it plain, or I add some chopped vanilla bean to the dry leaf and let it sit with that in the tin for a week or so before using it; I’m thinking of trying tonka bean in the future). In fact, I typically drink a very brisk cup of black tea before going to bed, and I actually find that it somehow helps me to drift to sleep, despite the caffeine (!). I think I also read somewhere that Lapsang Souchong contains less caffeine than other black teas, perhaps as a result of the smoking process? In any case, the only other tisane I really drink is agua de Jamaica in the summer, and a ginger-lemon-honey-matcha infusion if I’m suffering from a cold or just need a boost. September 26, 2013 at 6:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Andy! I’m going to try flavoring rooibos myself. So far, I’ve just been adding a dash of vanilla extract to the pot of tea, or using a flavored blend from Le Palais des Thes. But I like the idea of doing it myself. Tonka bean would be a terrific addition too, especially if you like a hint of cherry almond.

      I would imagine that the longer the tea is roasted, the less caffeine it contains. It’s much like coffee. If I have a cup of tea in the evening time to time, it’s ok, but I can’t do this every day. Not being able to fall asleep is the worst feeling.

      By the way, thank you. Your ginger-lemon-honey-matcha infusion is delicious! My husband also liked it very much. September 26, 2013 at 6:39pm Reply

      • Andy: Have you ever tried Le Palais des Thés’ Mélange du Cap? It contains Rooibos with cacao nibs and vanilla bean pieces, I believe, which sounds like it would create an incredibly sensual flavor.

        Glad you enjoyed the ginger infusion! September 26, 2013 at 6:47pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, that’s the one I’ve tried, and it’s delicious. The chocolate flavor is rich, but it’s not overpowering. Sometimes I add milk to it to create an even more luscious effect. September 26, 2013 at 7:13pm Reply

          • Andy: Mmm…that sounds so wonderful. I will have to try it, or at least experiment with adding cacao nibs to my own rooibos at home. September 26, 2013 at 8:55pm Reply

            • Victoria: And some tonka bean shavings! September 27, 2013 at 3:21am Reply

              • Andy: Oh my, this is going to be so decadent! I can already picture an incredibly rich brew in my head… September 27, 2013 at 8:18am Reply

                • Victoria: I’m sure you will soon develop your own interesting recipe, knowing your knack for flavor pairings. September 29, 2013 at 1:19am Reply

      • Hannah: I like the Mariage Freres Rouge Sahara, rooibos with mint and rose. September 26, 2013 at 6:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: That sounds wonderful! Mint and rose is such a winning combination. September 26, 2013 at 7:14pm Reply

        • Andy: In the summer, I sometimes like to flavor my water with a dash of rosewater and add a few crushed spearmint leaves–I can just imagine how great that would work with rooibos! September 26, 2013 at 8:57pm Reply

  • Aisha: I used to have a tea drawer but had to switch to a tea cupboard because of the tea and tea-related items I collect (strainers, teapots, Moroccan teapots/cups, etc.)

    I don’t drink a lot of herbal teas (other than licorice flavored), but I do enjoy white tea (usually pomegranate or ginger flavored). My favorites are black teas like Darjeeling, Earl Grey and Chai spice (the “real” spicy loose-leaf variety, not the overly sweetened powder stuff). I like to add a little rosewater to the Darjeeling, and just milk/sugar to the Chai and Early Grey.

    Love your photos, by the way. September 26, 2013 at 7:19pm Reply

    • Victoria: Tea paraphernalia accumulates quickly! I’m not surprise a single drawer won’t fit them all. Since we moved, I reduced my collection significantly, but it slowly starting to accumulate again. As it is we already have 3 tea pots.

      I love your idea of rosewater in Darjeeling. It would add such a nice twist. September 27, 2013 at 3:19am Reply

  • maggiecat: I want a tea drawer! These suggestions are wonderful, and I’ll be trying them, especially as the chilly, dark days of winter come nearer. September 26, 2013 at 8:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: Once you start playing around with different teas and herbs, you’ll definitely need a tea drawer. :) September 27, 2013 at 3:20am Reply

  • Mel: This topic couldn’t have come at a more auspicious time for me! I’m sick as a dog w/ the flu which is cutting a very mean swatch through Venice! I’ve been recumbent for five days – pounding bourbon-infused hot toddies and jack-hammering Zero Dark Thirty! I was ready for a break. Thank goodness I had ginger, cinnamon, and honey on hand! It’s a revelation! Can’t wait to try the blossomy/petal-y ones! September 26, 2013 at 11:16pm Reply

    • Victoria: Hope that you’re feeling better! If you have any lemongrass on hand, that’s another great addition to ginger and lemon. And the scent will clear your head immediately. Take care, Mel! September 27, 2013 at 3:23am Reply

  • Sally: Great article Victoria. As a tea merchant and tea-cher (I offer tea tastings/tea 100 classes), I get asked all the time about caffeine in tea. It depends on several things – location, temperature, humidity, soil, growing method such as how much shade. When making the tea, it depends on the water temperature, how long you steep the leaves and whether you use bags or loose tea. Brewing for longer at higher temps (generally done with black teas) results in higher caffeine than shorter time at lower temps (white teas). Ironically, white tea is often lauded as having the least amount of caffeine, but because the highest amount occurs naturally in the youngest leaves (near the top of the plant) and white tea is the top 2 leaves and bud, it contains the most. However, as white tea should be steeped for a short time at a lower temp, it results in lower content in the cup. One of my favorite blends is (decaf) white tea, jasmine flowers, rose petals and olive leaf. Aromatic, pretty and loaded with antioxidants. I’m going to try your linden and orange blossom recipe – it sounds heavenly! My tea shelf morphed into a tea pantry and then I got bit by the tea caddy bug and so started a collection of those to keep them in. Because I didnt want to shut them away, my ever patient hubby built me a shelf that runs all the way round my kitchen to display them… September 27, 2013 at 2:51am Reply

    • Sally: oops – that should be tea 101 :-) September 27, 2013 at 2:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Sally, what does olive leaf taste like? I’ve smelled them burned in Italy during religious ceremonies, but I have never tasted them in tea.

      I can just imagine what a splendid collection you might have. :) September 27, 2013 at 3:28am Reply

      • Sally: Olive leaf tastes somewhat sweet – not like sugar or honey sweet, but a little vanilla-sweet. It can go bitter if steeped for too long though. Thats why I pair it with white tea which tastes best steeped for a short time :-) September 29, 2013 at 9:55pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, Sally! I will have to look for it too. October 3, 2013 at 12:04am Reply

  • Fabrice: Hello Victoria,
    Thank you for this very interesting post. What I especially noticed among all the infusions presentations you made along this blog, is your extraordinary collection of china cups. They all are just fabulous !!
    I love tisanes and teas as well, but what I crave for is honey. I usually spend most of my summer vacations in various remote places of France buying honey to small independent beekeepers. I’m especially fond of one I found in Ariège (eastern Pyrenees) last summer. It is pure solid white… linden blossom honey ! It is pure heaven: every time I open the lid, a whiff of l’Heure Bleue is coming to my nose. I don’t know which plant bees have found, but they found it for sure!
    I love your blog.
    Fabrice. September 27, 2013 at 3:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Fabrice! I have about 6-7 cups total, but they are all different. When we have guests over for tea, our table is mismatched. But it’s more fun this way, and I have a little story that goes with each cup. The green one, for instance, is a local antique store find.

      I’m very happy to meet another honey lover. Your description of linden honey makes my mouth water. By the way, in France the lavender fields cultivated for the perfume industry support the local honey producers. Raw, unheated lavender honey really tastes of lavender flowers with their distinctive note of hay and toasted almonds. September 27, 2013 at 3:35am Reply

      • Ariadne: Oh yes! I am loving all your porcelain too! Wonderful thread, thanks all! I never thought much about Tisanes before but I recognize a lot of reader’s suggestions as things I steep in a pan of boiling water, then turn off the heat and inhale the steam for my sinus issues. I even went so far as to dump some of these things in my hot bath one time.
        I swear by steeped chamomile for an upset tummy which then reminds me of another aromatic fix…..bitters. I suspect that this community shares a lot of insights on that subject and would enjoy a conversation on that some day.
        Meantime I am going to start harvesting the rose petals out of my garden. Who could EVER argue against a drawer full of them!!?? September 28, 2013 at 9:53am Reply

        • Victoria: A drawer full of rose petals sounds terrific! Ah, you can definitely use many of these tisanes as infusions for baths. Rose and honey is such a luxurious treat. September 29, 2013 at 1:41am Reply

        • Sally: Rose, lavender and calendula blossoms in a little muslin bag is *great* in the bath… September 29, 2013 at 9:59pm Reply

    • Illdone: Oh dear, oh dear, why do perfume lovers all like tea and honey’s too? I’m drooling.
      Victoria, I’m waiting for more confessions ;)
      You admitt to having a small tea drawer ,a small? perfume closet , a little shelf with a honey-selection. Certainly there must be a little beer-shelf somewhere too.
      If you mention a cigar humidor in one of your next posts I wouldn’t be surprised.
      Have a nice weekend all and everyone! September 27, 2013 at 11:09am Reply

      • Victoria: No cigars, that’s for sure! We also don’t collect beer.

        But I have a spice drawer, or rather several of them. Spices fascinate me very much. September 29, 2013 at 1:24am Reply

  • Aisha: I have the beginnings of a cold, so I made your recipe for Ginger and Cinnamon tisane. Very soothing — and delicious. Thanks! :-) September 30, 2013 at 2:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so glad that you liked it, Aisha! It is my favorite for soothing the early symptoms. I even tried it with brown sugar when I had no honey, and it also tasted great. October 3, 2013 at 12:06am Reply

  • Dao: Hi Victoria, totally relate to this post. I am a huge fan of linden. I happened to be in Toulouse this summer and the fragrance was intoxicatingly present in streets. Didn’t want to leave :) I drink it, I cook it (did a fluffy pastry with orange blossom and tonka,litteraly like a herb pillow). You may want to have a look http://wp.me/p3iY4S-kg

    And your collection mention made me smile, reminding me of movers dealing with mine.. One came to me (guess he was fed up wrapping all bottles and box) saying “wow , you’re terrible with teas and fragrances.. So many.. kind of maniac disease?..:) Thanks for the lovely post, love it! October 1, 2013 at 5:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: So funny! Our movers were puzzled too, but then they told us a story of how they had to move someone’s taxidermy collection, and I remarked that my few boxes full of perfume are not so weird next to that.

      The linden stuffed pillow sounds fantastic! I imagine sleeping very well surrounded by the light herbal-floral scent. October 3, 2013 at 12:09am Reply

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