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what is rooibos tea?

Posted by sarah on 13th July 2018

what is rooibos tea?

You’d be forgiven for not having heard of this South African tea, but thanks to the green needle-like leaves of the rooibos plant being naturally caffeine-free, along with its beautiful coppery color and natural nutty and full-bodied flavor, this tea is fast becoming sought after as a great caffeine-free alternative to black teas. But what is it exactly, and why should you be making it your cuppa of choice?

It seems like everyone has their own way of saying rooibos – we like to say ‘roy-boss’ but many people prefer to stick to its literal meaning of ‘red bush’. You know where you’re at with red bush, but it’s just not as fun to say.  

Botanically speaking, rooibos is not a true tea at all as it doesn’t come from the tea plant. It’s a herb that grows as a small shrubby bush in just one place - the Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town. The ultra-clean air swirling around the craggy mountains provides the perfect environment for the rooibos plant. Efforts have been made to grow rooibos outside the Cederbeg region but so far, none have been successful.

Fun fact for you, the red color of this tea comes only from the fermentation process – the rooibos bush is actually green, just like the tea bush. More than 300 years ago, the original bushmen of the Cederberg area – the Khoi and San peoples – discovered rooibos. They would bash the leaves and pile them in heaps allowing them to ferment, then spread them out in the sun to dry. And that’s pretty much what the commercial rooibos production is like today. The drying out of the rooibos under the African sun changes the colour of the leaves to a deep mahogany.

This soothing drink is sweet and nutty in taste, is naturally caffeine-free and low in tannins. Making rooibos your go to cuppa is thought to ease headaches, nervous tension and insomnia (check out 6 more amazing benefits of rooibos here) – it’s packed with micronutrients, including copper, iron and potassium, and has become the ‘it’ tea for those looking for a healthy, yet tasty brew.

How to drink rooibos tea

To make rooibos tea, simply brew it like you would a normal black tea - use boiling water and let it brew for at least 3 minutes (although we often keep the bag in) - it's even strong enough to be drunk with a splash of milk.  Thanks to being naturally caffeine- free, it can be drunk any time of day, and is perfect before bed. If you’re after something really decadent, try it with a squeeze of honey or have a look at our rooibos crème caramel which has real caramel pieces in and could easily compete with (or pair with) most desserts! 

You can even go one further and try baking with it! Our spiced winter red tea with rooibos and cinnamon, orange pieces, orange peel, ginger and cloves is a great secret ingredient for all sorts of festive baked goods. Our resident cake expert, Sophie, used the tea to make thisgingerbread cake with much success! The tea helps keep the cake moist and gives it a delicious spiced flavor as well.   

Interested in more information about rooibos teas?