American phraseology has struck at the heart of one of the most
quintessentially British pastimes: tea-drinking. At least as
far as Benedict Cumberbatch is concerned, The Guardian reports.
The actor recently took to the radio waves to air his
“Shall I really vent now? I’m sick of camomile tea being called
tea. It’s not tea,” the actor said on Absolute Radio’s Dave
Berry Breakfast Show while promoting his new animated
film, The Grinch.
“Tea is a green leaf that comes mainly from the foothills of
India and South America – places that have beautiful mountains.
It needs to be a subtropical, alpine climate. It’s a very
specific process. Chamomile is not grown in these environments.
So, that’s not a tea.”
Before you get too incensed at this seemingly very British
distinction, Cumberbatch is correct. Camomile and other “herbal
teas” aren’t actually teas, but tisanes: typically
caffeine-free beverages made by infusing barks, herbs, roots,
spices and other plant matter in hot water.
So, the crux of Cumberbatch’s argument is undeniably sound: the
real deal is made from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia
sinensis. In relative terms, it would be like brewing chicory
root and calling it coffee, which Americans are also prone to
do, by the way. (Witness “chicory coffee.”)