Tisane sounds so old fashioned, but that may just be the fact that I associate the word with Agatha Christie’s fussy little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. I can just see David Suchet, the actor who plays the character, ask his secretary, Miss Lemon for his tisane. No English tea for Poirot!
Tisane is actually a French word meaning tea – specifically infused leaves (such as scented geranium, lemon verbena, sage), hips (such as those from roses), flowers (for example, linden and hibiscus), seeds (e.g. fennel), peel (such as citrus), roots (like ginseng, ginger, liquorice), weeds (such as nettle, dandelion), spices (e.g. cinnamon). In other words, anything organic with flavor to impart to the boiling water. Tisanes are often touted as rich sources of antioxidants and certain combinations are used as home remedies for sleeplessness, upset stomach, sore throat and other similar ailments.
Most cultures have traditional tisanes or herbal teas, not least Greece. The photo above is the stock in a shop in the old market in the major northern Greek town of Thessaloniki that specialises in spices and herbal teas (τςάι). Similar shops with bags of τςάι can be found along Αθηνάς Street, the area of numerous traditional covered and open air markets, running between Monastaraki and Omonia Squares here in Athens.
To translate a few of the labels above: lemon balm (ΜΕΛΙΣΣΑ), calendula (ΚΑΛΕΝΤΟΥΛΑ), mallow (ΜΟΛΟΧΑ), rose hips (ΚΥΝΟΡΟΔΟ), hibiscus (ΙΒΙΣΚΟΣ), elderflower (ΣΑΜΠΟΥΚΟ), polykompi or wild mint (ΠΟΛΥΚΟΜΠΟ), nettles (ΤΣΟΥΚΝΙΔΑ), hyssop (ΥΣΩΠΟΣ) and eucalyptus (ΕΥΚΑΛΥΠΤΟΣ). Common herbal teas in Greece also include wooly sage (φασκόηλο), Greek mountain tea (dried leaves and flowers of Sideritis syriaca), chamomile, red saffron, linden flowers, and the list goes on.
One tisane that I particularly like that is easy to produce at home is a tea using dried apple peel. This tisane or tea is usually associated with Turkey, but is also drunk in Greece. It is a perfect way to make use of those peels from making apple butter, apple sauce or apple jelly. My first batch of apple peel tea here in Greece was an offshoot of making apple butter – comfort food from my childhood.
Apple Peel Tisane
My recipe is based on one in The Mediterranean Pantry by Aglaia Kremezi. The dried tea takes several hours to make, but can keep up to a year if sealed and stored in a dry place.
Dried Apple Tea
- Peel from 10 to 12 Organic Apples (free of pesticides)
- 1 stick (about 2 to 3 inches long) of Cinnamon
- 3 to 4 whole Allspice berries
Preheat oven to 80 degrees C. Place the peel directly on the rack in the oven and let dry for 4 to 5 hours. Let them cool and break up into small pieces. In a mortar, lightly crush the cinnamon stick and allspice into small bits, and add to the apple peel. Seal in a container with a tight fitting lid. Store in a dry place.
Apple Peel Tisane (for two)
- Dried tea (above) – approximately 2 rounded spoonfuls (or more according taste)
- 300 to 350ml water
- Honey (optional)
In a small saucepan – or μπρίκι (a special pot for making Greek/Turkish coffee) – add the tea mixture and the water. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for at least 4 minutes. Strain and serve with the honey.
It tastes like cold days in by the fire, hot cider/apple juice with spice. A great way to make use of those apple peels.