"Vanilla tea" is a term typically used to describe a tea that is flavored with vanilla. In some cases, a vanilla tea is made from actual tea leaves, picked from the camellia sinensis plant, while in other cases vanilla is used in concert with other herbs and spices to create an "herbal tea," more properly known as a "tisane" or "herbal infusion." Vanilla is a sweet-tasting spice that is a popular flavoring agent in many areas, and is often used in flavoring teas and other hot beverages.
While tea leaves have a delicious flavor of their own, they also easily absorb other flavors and scents, making it easy to make vanilla tea. In fact, one way to make vanilla tea at home is to simply store tea leaves in a jar with a slit vanilla bean for a few days. Many commercial tea blenders incorporate vanilla into their tea blends. As a general rule, higher quality vanilla tea and tisane is made with actual vanilla bean, while lower quality products are made with extracts or flavorings.
One classic type of vanilla tea is Earl Grey Creme. Earl Grey is black tea blended with oil of bergamot. In an Earl Grey Creme tea, vanilla is added to the blend, giving some soft, creamy and sweet notes to the crisp and tangy Earl Grey tea. Many tea companies also offer several types of tea flavored with vanilla. The flavors of black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea all blend well with vanilla.
Another type of tea blend that may use vanilla as an ingredient is chai. While "chai" simply means tea in many places, many Americans use the word to describe a heavily spiced tea that is often blended with milk and sweetener to make a creamy, sweet drink that is often consumed in cold months. Chai typically contains a number of spices, including cinnamon and cloves and peppercorns; Vanilla is often added to the mix as well.
Some individuals and tea companies may refer to herbal teas and infusions that contain vanilla flavoring as "vanilla tea," even though these beverages contain no tea leaves. These blends may include a variety of herbs and spices to which vanilla bean or vanilla flavoring has been added. As with true tea, vanilla blends well with a variety of herbs and spices and can add richness and natural, calorie-free sweetness to herbal and fruit tea blends.