These people invariably advocate for the usage of terms like "herbal infusion" or "tisane" that do not contain the word "tea". Some people (whom I shall not name) have even made statements that they would never buy from a company that sold "herbal tea" because, according to them, the product would obviously be inferior because the company selling it obviously didn't know anything about tea.
What does the word "tea" mean?
What does the word tea mean? We all know that it is used to refer to the actual tea plant and the beverages made from it. But does it have other valid, accepted definitions? Let's look at the dictionary definitions of tea. The Random House dictionary gives a number of definitions, among them:
5. any of various infusions prepared from the leaves, flowers, etc., of other plants, and used as beverages or medicines.
Is this particular dictionary peculiar? Let's look at the American Heritage Dictionary's definition:
3. Any of various beverages, made as by steeping the leaves of certain plants or by extracting an infusion especially from beef.
Ahh, one could object, but these are American dictionaries. Let's go for the Oxford English Dictionary's definition of tea. The British know tea after all, right?
3. a drink made from the leaves, fruits, or flowers of other plants.
But do people actually use these terms?
Let's use google to settle the score. How many hits does the term "herbal tea" get? How about other terms?
- herbal tea - 3 million
- tisane - 1 million
- herbal infusion - 179,000
So...give it up folks. Herbal tea is a perfectly valid use of the word "tea"; it doesn't refer to the Camellia sinensis plant, but the use of the word "tea" makes sense because the two beverages are infused in the same way and share more similarities with each other than with other beverages. People aren't being ignorant just because they use a term like "herbal tea", "chamomile tea" or "mint tea". But people are being pedantic when they go around insisting people use words like infusion and dismissing people or companies just because they're using a perfectly valid term that is well-accepted by the mainstream.