What is Rooibos (Red Bush) tea?
By Isabelle Wilkinson
Rooibos is a caffeine-free, herbal tea made from the leaves of the Aspalathus Linearis shrub, grown in the Cederberg mountains of South Africa, in a small town called Wupperthal. The Cederberg is the only place in the world where Rooibos and other varieties of indigenous fynbos (fine bush) grow wild. The seeds are planted in South Africa’s late summer months (February and March), but the crops aren’t ready for harvest until up to eighteen months later, at which point the branches are 30-40 cm above ground.
The leaves are then cut, bruised, aired and watered, before being left to dry and oxidise in low heaps. It is this oxidation that turns the leaves a beautiful rust-red, while for ‘green rooibos’, just like its green tea counterpart, this step is skipped and the leaves are instead dried immediately.
At the moment of oxidation, it becomes clear why Rooibos, or red-bush by its English translation, is so-rightly named, as the leaves turn a beautiful burnt-red colour, of which each individual leaf varies in shade. This is also when Rooibos develops its deliciously sweet, cherry-vanilla aroma.
It is worth mentioning that although we refer to all of our herbal teas as ‘teas’, Rooibos, as well as all other herbs, does not actually originate from the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, so should technically be referred to as an infusion or tisane. You can read more about why herbal teas aren’t really teas here.
How to pronounce Rooibos tea
Often the subject of debate and confusion among our customers, Rooibos is an Afrikaans word and can be pronounced [ˈrɔɪbɒs] roy-boss.
What does Rooibos tea taste like?
We love this Wild Rooibos because of the unusual combination of robust, malty flavour and lack of caffeine, making it a great caffeine-free alternative to a breakfast tea. Honey-sweet with notes of dried cherries and vanilla, it brews a rich and full-bodied cup, perfect with or without milk.
The health benefits of Rooibos tea
The popularity of drinking Rooibos tea in South Africa is in no small part thanks to a belief in its numerous, powerful health benefits. High levels of antioxidants mean it has been associated with everything from lowering blood pressure and tension, and thereby helping fight heart disease, to balancing blood sugar and boosting the immune system. It is also rich in fluoride, manganese and calcium, making it a great choice for healthy bones. Its anti-inflammatory properties are believed to help ease abdominal pain, and even work magic on children suffering from colic, and finally (as if that wasn’t enough) this herbal infusion even has naturally occurring acids which can reduce the signs of wrinkles!
Caffeine and Rooibos tea
Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free, making it a great, robust alternative to black teas.
How best to enjoy Rooibos tea
Cederberg locals have been drinking Rooibos for hundreds of years for its numerous health benefits and delicious taste. We enjoy it for the same reasons - as the first cup of the day with breakfast, or for that mid-afternoon rejuvenating pick-me-up with a biscuit or two. Rooibos is also a versatile and exciting ingredient for all number of creations, including cakes, biscuits, cocktails and even wines. The cherry and honey notes are best paired with orange and vanilla flavours. Madeleines with Rooibos creme fraiche, anyone?