ROOIBOS: Truly a Red Tea!
If you haven’t had rooibos yet, now is the time—especially if you are looking for a delicious tea that doesn’t have caffeine.
Well, actually it’s a tisane
Although rooibos is commonly called “tea,” it is really an herbal tisane. While true tea is produced with Camellia senensis, rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a legume, the same family of plants to which peas and clover belong.
From a red bush
Rooibos is native only to the Western Cape of South Africa, where is it a popular drink; translated from Afrikaans, rooibos means “red bush.”
Still produced only in South Africa, young branches are cut from the shrub once a year, from December to April. These cuttings are finely chopped and bruised to promote oxidation, are then moistened and layered (a “sweating” step), and finally are dried. During this processing, the green leaves turn red, yielding a flavor that is somewhat woody, sweet, and creamy.
And then there’s GREEN ROOIBOS
This variety is less known.
Still from a red bush
—but by skipping the oxidation step, the rooibos retains its green color and results in a fresh, slightly tangy flavor, somewhat akin to green tea.
And with loads of health benefits
Both rooibos varieties are low in tannins, high in antioxidants, and naturally caffeine free (in Japan, rooibos is called “Long Life Tea” due to its health benefits).
However, according to the South Africa Rooibos Council,
green Rooibos has higher levels of antioxidants than traditional fermented Rooibos and demonstrates even higher antioxidant and—in some cases—antimutagenic (cancer-fighting) activities.
ROOIBOS and ROOIBOS
Around 12,000 metric tons of rooibos are produced each year. About 7,000 tons of that are exported to over 30 countries, particularly to Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, the UK, and the US.
Rooibos’ natural sweetness and creaminess complement all sorts of things—tea, spices, herbals, fruits, caramel and chocolate, nuts—so rooibos blends abound!
To brew rooibos, use boiling water and a brew time of 5–10 minutes (you can’t overbrew it). Enjoy it hot or iced!