This red bush native to South Africa has long been a popular caffeine-free substitute to black tea. Mild yet tasty, rooibos (pronounced roy-bos) also lends itself to many beautiful blends through the addition of fruits, spices, vanilla, or even chocolate.
How Rooibos is Produced
Rooibos is produced much in the same way as black tea, where it undergoes the bruising and oxidation process to give it its characteristic red colour and distinctive aroma. Green rooibos does not go through the oxidation process and is instead just sun dried immediately after being cut. Rooibos tea is graded by the leaf to stem ratio, with more leaves creating a dark and richer tasting liquor. The bulk of high-grade rooibos is exported to the EU, particularly Germany, which is where The Tea Centre’s own rooibos is imported from due to their stringent quality testing.
Packed with healthful properties, rooibos is well known for its high levels of antioxidants —containing at least 50 percent more than green tea. Amongst its diverse array of antioxidants are the polyphenols: aspalathin and nothofagin, both of which are relatively unique to rooibos with nothofagin only also found in New Zealand red beech. These act as an effective protection against cell-damaging free radicals thus helping prevent a number of degenerative diseases including macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and various cancers. The Cancer Association of South Africa has even officially recognised it as leading source of natural anti-cancer chemicals. Rooibos is also reputed as an effective remedy for helping with insomnia, which may be due to its mineral density. As a result of its high mineral content, drinking rooibos optimises the body’s absorption of all available nutrients, which in turn leads to greater rejuvenation. This, paired with the absence of caffeine makes it an ideal pre-bedtime beverage. Consuming rooibos daily can also help with reducing cholesterol, protecting the liver, soothing digestive issues, enhancing metabolism, and supporting healthy skin.
Because many people use rooibos as a black tea substitute, it is also prepared in much the same way: through the addition of milk, sugar, honey, or lemon, or just as a straightforward infusion. This means it also makes a great iced tea with a little sugar syrup and a medley of fruits or mint leaves. Due to the low tannin content, there is no bitterness that is sometimes experienced when drinking strong black teas. Therefore rooibos can be steeped for as long as desired as well as having boiling water poured on it, without producing a bitter result.
Well-known, but not necessarily renowned, rooibos has not had its equal share of fanfare that its tea counterparts have long enjoyed. Flavoursome and just as beneficial, if not more, rooibos is the tisane that should be making tea red with envy.