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By Cindy Nawiesniak

Flavor-fueled tisanes for summer

Ample hydration during summer is mandatory, but drinking overly sweet drinks or just plain dull beverages to cover your need for fluid is not. Incorporate some of these ideas and introduce some new flavors to your warm weather beverage menu this season.

A tisane, simply put, is a tea that's not made with tea leaves. That means it is fruit, herbs, vegetables, or spices that are steeped in hot water. So, tea, but not. Suddenly it's goodbye sweet tea and hello Jamaica-Ginger-Lemon Tisane, fruity and tart with just a bite of ginger. Starting to sound interesting? It should because tisanes can be customized in every way to suit anyone.

A tisane can also be made into a sparkling beverage with your CO2 injector; some lend themselves nicely to a delightful summer cocktail. Tisanes are made in small batches the day they will be consumed and when the best quality ingredients are used the bright, fresh flavors shine through.

The basics

Select ingredients that are fresh and combine flavors that sound appealing. Cucumber-Mint is a nice combination for summer. Cucumber-Cinnamon not so much. Many good flavor combinations can be borrowed from cultures that live with heat year-round and berries pretty much go with everything.

Don't boil, steep

Some ingredients will release bitter flavors at higher temperatures. When making a tisane the rule to follow is first bring the water to a rolling boil, remove from heat, and add your ingredients. The time a tisane needs to steep depends on the ingredients used and personal preferences. Don't forget, for drinks that need a pop of color add a few slices of fresh-peeled beet root. It won't add much flavor, but will turn the tisane a shade of red and maybe even get the kids to give it a try.

Acid is your friend
Many tisane flavor combinations benefit from the addition of an acid ingredient. Try lemon, lime, pineapple, vinegar (try a touch of cider vinegar in a fruit tisane). Not too much, just enough to balance any sweetener that is added.

Brew it up!
Following is a simple recipe for a tisane that is inspired by a favorite found in most Mexican restaurants and made with the calyx of a hibiscus flower.

Jamaica Ginger Lemon Tisane

3 quarts water
4 oz. Jamaica flowers (also called hibiscus and found in Mexican grocers or online)
4 oz. fresh ginger root, sliced into medallions
2 large lemons
1/2 to 1 cup granulated sugar

Wash the lemons. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin from the lemons. (Only remove the yellow part and not the pith, as the pith will add a bitter flavor.) Slice the ginger root into medallions. Set aside.

Boil the water in a saucepan with a tight lid. Be sure there is enough space to add the other ingredients. Remove water from the heat source and immediately add the Jamaica flowers, lemon peel and the ginger to the hot water. Steep for 5-10 minutes and drain off the liquid.

After the tisane has cooled, but is still warm add the juice from both lemons to the tisane. Add sugar to taste. Chill and serve.


  • Mock sangria (non-alcoholic): Add oranges, apples, peaches, nectarines and ice and serve in a clear glass pitcher.
  • Cocktail: Pour tisane into a champagne flute and top off with a sparkling white wine, such as Prosecco.
  • Sparkling beverage: Use a soda maker such as SodaStream.
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