Teas vs. Herbals - What's the Diff?

Sometimes the words “tea” and “herbal” are used interchangeably. It’s an honest mistake – teas and herbals each provide a level of comfort or joy. Add nature’s variables and our own ingenuity into the mix and the conversation becomes even more of a mish-mash. Let’s try to pluck through the clutter; what are teas and what are herbals?

Silver Needle Tea, Organic Golden Green Tea, Organic Darjeeling Tea

All teas: white, green, oolong, black and more come from two sub-species of the Camellia Sinensis plant: Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. Sinensis plants are typically found in countries with more temperate climates: China, Japan, Taiwan and even northern India. Assamica plants like it hot: India, Sri Lanka, Africa, southeast Asia.

Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis teas like Silver NeedleOrganic Golden Green and Organic Roasted Iron Goddess are generally less processed than black teas. Processing means how the tea leaves are withered and when and how the leaf’s oxidation is stopped, whether they are steamed, baked or pan-fired. The less a tea leaf is processed, the higher level of antioxidants it usually contains.

Imperial Golden Monkey Tea, Cream of Earl Grey Tea, Organic Assam Breakfast Tea

Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica leaves are typically used to create black teas - Assams, high and low grown Ceylon teas and black teas from Kenya and other parts of Africa. Black teas are the foundation for popular Cream of Earl Grey, Organic Assam Breakfast or rare Imperial Golden Monkey. All teas from white to black contain flavonoids & amino acids that become more complex the darker the tea gets.

And yes, all teas also contain caffeine, which can range from roughly 30mg per cup for a white tea to 50mg per cup for a black tea. Still a third or less the amount of caffeine than you’ll find in a cup of coffee, but it releases over a longer period of time. No ups and downs.  

Organic Chamomile Lemongrass Tea, Organic Blue Delta Tea, Organic Elderberry Hibiscus Tea

Herbals, like Organic Chamomile Lemongrass, Organic Blue Delta or Organic Elderberry Hibiscus are created from a blend of flowers, spices, fruits and more. And these are grown and harvested almost anywhere. Many herbals are said to calm or energize, help with a sore tummy or lull you to sleep. Herbals that contain some tea are called infusions, while pure herbals can also be called tisanes. Pure herbals, or tisanes, have zero caffeine.

Fascinating how it’s all about how one leaf, where it’s grown and how it’s processed can offer a universe of taste experiences. The same goes for herbals and their innovative, fun mash-ups. There’s a tea, an herbal or something in between for everyone. The fun comes in exploring which ones resonate most with you.