Everything you need to know about rooibos tea.
Ahhh rooibos. That tea that everyone talks about, drinks often, but kind of miss pronounces and also doesn’t really know what it is. What is rooibos, even? Why is it so popular? Say it with me: “Roy-boss”.
This is everything you need to know about rooibos tea.
First off, if you want to get technical, rooibos isn’t tea.
Yeah, rooibos isn’t actually part of the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. It is it’s own species of plants, Aspalathus linearis, originating from South Africa. This plant is actually in the legume family (wtf, right?). If you’re still scratching your head, check out this post explaining everything you need to know about tea.
Rooibos is often called “red bush tea” or “African red tea” in the industry. Because it’s not part of the tea plant, it doesn’t contain any caffeine. It’s actually a wonderful substitute for black tea because of it’s robust body and flavor.
Personally, I cannot stand the taste of rooibos on it’s own. That’s why I blended it with other delicious ingredients with it to create Citrus Dream and Red Chai. The only way I’ll drink rooibos is in a blend…
A brief history of rooibos.
Way back in the day good ‘ol days of the 1700s, these tea drinking Dutch people decided to settle in South Africa. They wanted to drink tea all day, but they were like, “Black tea is just too expensive to import, let’s find something else that’s native to this land”. I mean, could you imagine moving and you have no means of drinking tea?! So they started drinking the tea of the land, rooibos, which was naturally grown and harvested in the Cederberg region and enjoyed by the peoples of South Africa for thousands of years (3,000 to be exact). Although these dutch people popularized it, rooibos didn’t actually become a commercial crop until the 1930s.
The farming of rooibos has expanded to other surrounding regions, but South Africa remains the sole country of production for this plant. 15,000 tons are produced annually, and 7,000 of those tons are exported around the world, with the U.S. being one of the biggest importers.
How rooibos is processed.
Rooibos is processed similarly to the tea plant, camellia sinensis. So this must be why lots of people get confused about it.
The bush is cut by hand and the long needle-like leaves are bundled together. The bundles get sorted and then cut or “bruised” to encourage oxidation. This process of exposing the plant to oxygen is what brings out the plant’s natural oils and helps the plant develop it’s flavors and color. The more oxidized the rooibos, the redder the color and the richer the flavor. This is what we know as red rooibos (this is what I use in my tea blends). A less oxidized, slightly green in color, with a grassy flavor is known as green rooibos.
How to brew rooibos.
Like I said before, rooibos is it’s own caffeine free plant. This makes it a little easier to brew because it can really take a beating with super boiling water. A good general rule is to use 1 tsp for every 8 oz water. Use boiling water (200-210 degrees) and brew upwards of 7 minutes. And that’s it! Because rooibos is so flavorful and full bodied, it pairs well with milk or sweetener (if you’re into that).
Alternatively, rooibos can be finely ground and used in an espresso machine (crazy, I know). It creates a consistency similar to espresso, even producing a “crema” or head on the top of the liquid. Steam some milk and you’ve got yourself a nice red tea latte.
If red espresso isn’t your thing, check out my recipe for making a sparkling iced tea using my rooibos based Citrus Dream tea mentioned above.
Health benefits of rooibos.
Rooibos contains really high levels of antioxidants which make it a great immunity booster and may help with long term illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. It has also been proven to help reduce cholesterol.
Rooiboos is also extremely good for your skin because of it’s anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and soothing properties. Being anti-inflammatory, rooibos has been proven to reduce high blood pressure caused by inflammation, which can help the treatment of diabetes and diabetic complications.
Rooibos can also help with weight loss! Research suggests that an active ingredient in rooibos tea (aspalathin) can help reduce stress hormones that trigger hunger and fat storage. The study shows that rooibos tea has the potential for preventing obesity by affecting the balance of energy in our bodies. Specifically how it is used vs stored as fat.
So there you have it! Everything you need to know about rooibos tea (and then some). It’s a pretty awesome alternative to the tea plant, plus the health benefits are quite impressive.