Is it fair to call it "tea?"

46 Replies
DC said

If we want to get into semantics, then what of infusions made from tea AND other ingredients such as fruits, nuts, petals or even oils?

Is there a ratio of tea to other ingredients after which a tea can be called a tea?

Of course this borders on pedantry but going further on a point that Will made, I feel that the word ‘tea’ in itself should refer to plants from Camellia Sinensis whereas compound words- herbal tea, scented tea, flavored tea can refer to other plants, tea with ‘foreign substances’ or basically any type of infusion.

Just like in the source language- cha refers to tea, liang cha, hua cha, ju hua cha, mei gui cha, ku gua cha, dong gua cha refers to herbal tea, flowering/ scented tea, crysanthemum tea, rose tea, bitter gourd tea, winter melon tea respectively.

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How about we just call it an Elixir? That’s what it really is, isn’t it?

Angrboda said

That sounds rather magical and exciting. :)

(If ‘potion’ is magical and slightly ominous in contrast, would that refer to the types we don’t like…?)

I like the sound of that! I don’t drink “Tea” anymore I drink "Elixirs and “Potions” now lol :)

Henceforth let it be known that we do not drink the concoction know as “herbal tea”, but an ELIXIR OF HERBS!

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VeryPisces said

I think in casual conversation it is all right to call it all “tea”, as popular use of the term refers to a brew made from a steeped source. I might even use the term “tea” (in quotation marks) just to let it be known that the term is being used loosely.

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Whether or not it’s fair, depends on personal standards. In Mexico, when people refer to “tea”, 90% of the time it’s herbal tea. It’s in people’s vocabulary for many, many years, so I think it’s perfectly fair, and it would be unfair to tell them it’s not “real” tea.

In China (yeah the country with plenty of “real” tea…), there are thousands of years of culture of using herbal tea (and calling them herbal tea), and there are many books written about herbal tea (probably no fewer than books about “real” tea). And Korea has a very strong herbal tea culture too. And usually people just call herbal tea “tea” too.

After all, they are all plants, and they are all natural. I think that’s the most important.

Talking about Camellia sinensis… for some stuff, like these guys:

sometimes it’s not a clear cut what’s “real” tea ;-)

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Okay, I’ll be the curmudgeon. I would prefer it if there were a commonly accepted name other than “tea” for drinks made with herbs like chamomile and Roiboos. Calling herbal beverages or tissanes teas can be confusing and misleading to new tea drinkers. It can also turn people off to real tea when they try them or fruity flavored drinks that have only a minimal amount of tea and that usually a poor quality tea. You can also find Roiboos blends with names which sound like they are Chinese teas or Indian Chai.

I’d like to see people in the Tea World eventually come around to doing something similar to what people who care about wine do, and make a distinction. Appellation names refer to a grape or blend produced only in one country or area of a country, “similar” wines made in other countries or areas identify their wine by the grape used. Thus we have Chardonnay instead of Chablis, Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Bordeux. You know what you are getting and that practice preserves the quality and reputability of the named wines while still allowing lots of different types of wines to be grown all over the world. Most tea producers already do that and identify an oolong grown in India or an Assam grown in Kenya.

That’s what I’d prefer but I realize that most here would disagree, or find it overly fussy and doctrinaire, so I won’t hold it against you. Especially since I drink a lot of those other…. uhm, beverages and this website where we all post is named after the process used for both kinds of drinks.

There is currently a renaissance of New Tea Lovers that are building up standards for tea like that of wine. Looking towards the future of tea in the world!

Another example is Darjeeling, it can only be made in that region to have that appellation.
I disagree with companies that just make any tea into a powder and then call it matcha, for example black matcha (referring to black tea powder). In Japan only powdered tencha is considered to be matcha, all the other powdered teas are called funmatsucha.

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TO ME A “TEA” “TISANE” etc you know the terms is anything you can stick into a cup of hot water and steep for your drinking pleasure, You can have “TEA” from a pine-cone or a stick in you back yard if you want. A “TISANE” to me is the same but to me usually Tisanes is used for medicines rather than drinking pleasure BUT Tea, Tisane, Tee can all be used fairly to mean the same thing. :)

Well said!

I can see the need for “official” labeling so that we can know not to buy from companies trying to sell us the sticks from THEIR backyards for the price of a pu-erh, but beyond that there is this issue of trying to mandate language, its impossible to do. We can tell people “thats not tea! Its Herbal what-cha-ma-call-it in a cup!” but they wont stop thinking “tea” and saying “tea.” and so long as I know my black tea is black tea and not ground up rocks and cloves, I do believe I am quite content. :)

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