Is Herbal Tea Actually Tea?

There’s tea and then there’s herbal tea. Why are there two different names? Are they not the same thing?

There’s tea and then there’s herbal tea. Why are there two different names? Are they not the same thing?

The Short Answer

No, herbal tea is not the same thing as real tea.

The Long Answer

Lots of people seem to have the belief that tea is nothing more than hot leaf juice. Not true at all. It is hot juice made from one specific type of leaf. That leaf comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. Yes, there are different variations of tea, such as oolong, green, and black teas, but those differences come from processing and have nothing to do with the plant that they come from.

Herbal teas do not come from Camellia sinensis. They are an entirely different animal. An herbal tea is created from various herbs, and oftentimes a combination of many different herbs. Something like rooibos and chamomile teas are not true teas at all.

It would be more accurate to call herbal tea an herbal infusion, as there are no actual tea leaves present in the creation of the beverage. Instead, this herb combination is infused into the water creating a whole new beverage.

Another huge difference between herbal tea and real tea is that real teas contain caffeine. The majority of herbal teas are caffeine free, but some do have a low caffeine count. That’s why most “bedtime” teas are herbal, as caffeine is known to keep people awake.

Tea leaves are also an excellent source of antioxidants, while herbal teas vary in this regard.

It’s important to remember that there are only four types of actual tea.

  1. Black Tea
  2. Green Tea
  3. White Tea
  4. Oolong Tea

That’s it. Chai tea uses original tea leaves, but it is still not considered real tea. Anything else that you see that is not one of these aforementioned varieties is an herbal infusion beverage and should not be considered tea.

So why do we call it tea? Convenience mostly. On its surface, herbal tea looks and tastes a lot like tea, so we call it tea.

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Is Herbal Tea Actually Tea?
Is Herbal Tea Actually Tea?

Kevin Kessler

Kevin J. Kessler is an experienced professional writer and published author living in Orlando, Florida. With a lifelong passion for food, this sandwich loving Italian boy enjoys exploring unanswered questions about the foods we all know and love so well. Kevin’s foodie lifestyle was born through his love of Walt Disney World and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. A lover of stories, he enjoys trying new dishes from all over the world and learning everything there is to know about where food comes from, how its prepared, and what variations on it exist.