Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) is a broom like flowering plant which is found growing in South Africa.
For generations, those living in South Africa have made a tea is from the thin, needle like leaves of the plant. While its introduction to the rest of the world is fairly recent, for years in South Africa the tea was used to treat a variety of ailments ranging from colic and respiratory problems to skin problems.
The tea is prepared from the leaves in a very similar manner to how regular tea is processed – giving the final product a reddish color. Unoxidised Rooibos leaves produce a “Green Rooibos” however the most common tea exported is the reddish, oxidised Rooibos. Higher grade Rooibos teas, those with a higher leaf to stem proportion, are usually what are exported.
Today you will find a wide range of Rooibos teas available, ranging from the standard Rooibos tea to flavoured Rooibos teas. It can be served with milk, sugar or honey may be added. Some prefer it without any milk – preparation often depends on what additives accompany the Rooibos and whether milk would blend well with the overall flavour. You can also find Rooibos iced teas on many supermarket shelves. Lemon slices are a nice accompaniment to black Rooibos.
Studies from South Africa as well as other locations worldwide have shown that, similarly to green and oolong teas, there are high levels of antioxidants in Rooibos tea. It is caffeine free and has very low tannin levels. Because of this it is easy to see why it is becoming a healthy alternative as a hot beverage. Flavonoid compounds also found in the tea are said to help steady the nerves.
Who Should Drink Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos tea should be considered by anyone concerned about health and nutrition. It is safe for children, pregnant and nursing mums to consume – so is ideal in situations where caffeinated drinks are not recommended.
What Does it Taste Like?
Rooibos tea is a full-bodied tea, with some suggestions of it having an earthy or slightly nutty flavour. Some teas may be considered an acquired taste (Pu-erh tea, in my case) and it seems that Rooibos is a little similar. In other words, some people fall in love with the taste immediately while others take a while to learn to enjoy it.
Taste differs depending on how long the tea is steeped, though unlike regular tea it does not become bitter the longer it brews – just stronger.
For starters, you may want to try unflavoured Rooibos before deciding whether you do or do not enjoy the taste. Some customers have mentioned that they thought they did not enjoy the taste when in fact they did not like the particular blend of Rooibos they were trying. There are plenty of blends available, with fruit and nut blends being some of the more popular.
Rooibos Tea Preparation
Most Rooibos teas are better if steeped for at least five to six minutes in boiling water, using one teaspoon per cup of tea. As mentioned above, it does not oversteep as regular tea does even if you leave it longer
Traditionally, in South Africa, some will have a kettle of Rooibos simmering on the stove all day long! Once the tea is depleted, more water and Rooibos leaves are added to the kettle—apparently the brew improves as the day goes by.
You can also experiment with adding the tea leaves to boiling water versus boiling the leaves in a kettle on the stove. Both of these options can tend to make a stronger brew, but you may find that’s just how you like it.
Perfect for Blending
Rooibos tea is a great tea for experimenting with if you enjoy making your own blends. It blends well with green or black teas, with fruit teas and with other herbal teas. There’s no end to the different flavours you can come up with if you use a little imagination and creativity. A great tea to have on hand for those times you want a hot caffeine-free beverage yet also do not want to be tied down to only one or two flavours – simply create your own flavoured tea, using other tea blends or even herbs and spices from the kitchen. Incidentally, you can even add it to regular Chai blends for something different.
- Try the regular Rooibos tea first, just buy a sample pack to see if you enjoy the tea on its own. Then branch out into some of the flavoured teas.
- Experiment with brewing methods and times till you find what’s right for you – don’t worry, you won’t over steep it.
- Try a cup with milk and honey, and another ‘black’ tea with a slice of lemon.
- Brew some Rooibos and leave it in the fridge overnight for a refreshing iced-tea drink in the morning.
- Have some regular, unflavoured Rooibos tea on hand and come up with your own blends. No need to buy larger packs of different blends when you can easily make your own flavoured teas.