Tisane – an infusion or decoction or herbs, spices or other plant material in hot water.
A tisane conjurers visions of delicacy and elegant refinement and seems a more enchanting invitation than the offer of a cup of herbal tea. It is strange that the interchange of one term for another can create an entirely different impression. Herbal tea still carries a medicinal whiff and a suspicion that it will be a dark green, evil tasting concoction. In contrast a tisane is light, refreshing and if it does not heal the body it will sooth the spirit.
Plants are integral to traditional and alternative medicine and in the modern pharmacopoeia many modern drugs are either derived from plants or synthesised from botanical compounds. So a glass of herbal tea might aid your digestion, help you relax, assuage the fevered brow, or even contain the elixir of eternal youth and if not, it can be enjoyed as a refreshing drink on a hot afternoon, a pleasant end to a good meal or a healthy start to the day.
The best tisanes are made with fresh leaves and water that has almost reached boiling point. The time for the infusion depends on personal taste and the strength of the herb. Delicate herbs like lemon verbena are left for the mere twinkling of an eye, mint and sage for a minute or two and ginger or fennel seeds about 5 minutes. A sliver of lemon or lime, a spoonful of honey can add to the pleasure and remove the lingering medicinal association. If you miss the caffeine kick, try a rosemary infusion to start the day. This is not for the timid and is reputed to be a reliable hangover cure.
On the next sultry afternoon when reduced to somnolence in the garden try a light infusion of sage with a sliver of lime and a tiny teaspoon of honey as an alternative to a cup of Earl Grey. Not as good as Pimms, but scores points with the Health Police!