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Heyes said

Teas vs Infusions (and other related semantics)

So I’ve been scanning here for a couple of days now, and it seems like folks are not making distinctions between tea, and non-tea infusions. For instance peppermint tea. It could mean a peppermint infusion, it could mean a black tea with peppermint added to the brew, it could mean a black tea with peppermint oil added to the leaves (a la Earl Grey) it could even mean black tea with peppermint simple syrup added. Or green, white, yellow, and any other variant of tea.

But this site is called steepster, not teaster. Should we be able to mark an infusion that we rate as “true tea”, “infusion”, “spiced”, “scented”, or whatever. What are people’s feelings about this?

The same thing goes for what people call “chai”, which is in some circumstances a style of preparing tea, and in other circumstances a range of flavors added to tea, and in yet others the very word for tea itself.

I know this may be splitting hairs for some folks, but besides my thinly veiled opinion, I really am interested in how other people view this very semantic issue.

16 Replies
Cofftea said

When you enter a new tea into the data base, herbal and fruit as well as other tisanes like yerba mate, honeybush, and rooibos are already categories. If there’s a question, look at the package or website when you enter it to mark it properly, but you can tell if it’s a blend or just herbs based on the name for most teas. “Spiced” is covered in chai. I do; however, think there could be an added scented category. But as far as chai, chai is a spiced tea and while there’s a “proper” or authentic way to prepare it, I think that the category should cover the type of tea itself then use my idea for fields to log additives.

Heyes said

For me an herbal infusion is not “Tea” unless it has tea in it. In some ways the same goes for “chai” I’ve seen a lot of things called chai (not just on steepster, in lots of places) but chai can mean so many things, or rather people use the word to describe a variety of beverages. I’ve even seen stuff on shelves called “chai” with no tea in it. I’ve had Russian “chai” which was just black tea (I mean, it was good black tea) and I’ve had Indian Chai which is also black tea but prepped with spices and milk. But that’s me, and my experience.

As I think about this I guess the question that I was getting at is: Are semantics important? Does it matter that Tea can refer to a specific plant, or the usual way in which said plant is prepared?

So is pine tea still a “tea” if it has no tea in it?
is chai a chai if it has not tea in it, but has been labeled as chai by the manufacturer?
Is it enough to say that peppermint tea is “herbal” to indicate it has no tea in it?

Cofftea said

Prefacing this reply as these are just my opinions and how my brain works: For me, if the title doesn’t contain words like herbal, rooibos, honeybush, and tisane it should at least have true tea in it. It does not need to solely be true tea.
No, pine “tea” is not tea- but I didn’t log it so I’m not gonna ruffle feathers and change the name. For me, chai refers to the spices. There is chai tea (and in that category black, green, oolong, white, and yellow based chais), chai spice mix (sans tea or any other tisanes like rooibos), rooibos chai, honeybush chai. All different, but the spices are what make them, for me, all in the chai category.
I think labeling a tisane made up solely of dried peppermint leaves is herbal so it is enough.

The word cha or chai is an Asian language word that mean simply “tea”. Hence Japanese have genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice). In India, almost all tea is spiced (chai masala) and is prepared a certain way.

So cha is “tea” in another language and in some places cha is made a certain way.

I don’t consider anything without “tea” to be tea. I would consider those herbal or floral infusions.

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cha
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masala_chai
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genmaicha

The word “cha” or “chai” is what most Asians (India, Japan, China, etc) call “tea”.

Cofftea said

Yep, the word “chai” is actually Hindi for “tea”.

DavidT said

For years when saying and hearing ‘chai’ I thought of what you get at starbucks or the like when ordering a chai late. A spiced tea with some sort of cream. Since then I discovered chai just means tea, so when I asked for “chai tea” I was really being redundant. Luckily most everyone in the U.S. is making the same mistake.

So to my understanding, masala is a spice mix that has a very loose definition to it. Depending on where you go in India and surrounding countries, you’ll find variations to the mixture in both ingredients and proportions. Often it’s added to tea along with sweeteners and milk, and that’s where we get masala chai, or what I knew as a chai late. I’ve always been interested in words and etymology, so I’ve been trying to break my habit and use the traditional terminology. I also like to make my own spice mix for my masala chai. :)

Cofftea said

Now you must post your blend recipe:)

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denisend said

When I add a new tea to the database, I add the ingredients. You can tell with those what type of tea/tisane/whatever the brew is.

I’m not picky, though. My favorites are typically fruit tisanes, though. I still think of them as tea. shrug

Cofftea said

The important thing is for others to know exactly what we’re talking about considering our definition may differ from the next person’s, and those categories help. Kinda like when 2 people draw a flower, they don’t draw exactly the same flower.:D

denisend said

I would think that the ingredients list would tell you exactly what we’re talking about.

Heyes said

Denisend you do a remarkable job providing full ingredients lists for the blends you added to the database, it certainly helps for clarity in that particular instance. Of course not every entry in the database has that kind of information, and more broadly as Cofftea pointed out thought two people may read the same word, it may have subtle or gross nuances that differ.

I know that steepster is working on threaded discussions, and so in that way I wonder how different types of teas, infusions, and (dare I say) solutions (Because to me, that’s what Matcha seems to be, tea in solution rather than an infusion), and preparations will be expressed.

Cofftea said

Denisend, good point. I was talking more in a conversation type setting.

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Linda said

For me tea is tea as long as it is made from that wonderful leaf. I don’t care what you add to it, it is still tea!

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I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to the semantics of “tea” verses tisanes. I’d much prefer that when we say tea we mean camellia sinensis.

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I think we American sometimes assume we are the only ones on the web. Steepster may have members from other countries who will be using one definition of tea or cha versus an (ignorant) American definition. Since America is a young country (new world) by old world standards perhaps we should default to the traditional definitions.

Heyes said

Khürt Williams, you shared some insightful information in your previous post, and some wonderful informational links within it. I can see how this post here might be taken in an inflammatory way, and open avenues for unrelated and possibly distractingly antagonistic conversation as there informed and uninformed persons everywhere on the globe on every subject.

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