This week we will be delving into one of our favourite teas, the sweet and nutty Rooibos tea.
What is rooibos you ask? Rooibos is a South African herbal tea which was made popular by the Dutch settlers in the 1700’s as it was a cheaper alternative to black tea at the time.
Rooibos, pronounced “Roy-Boss”, is a naturally caffeine free tea. Indigenous to South Africa, Rooibos has been produced and marketed commercially since the 1930’s and over 7,000 tons of tea is exported each year.
The early growers of wild rooibos discovered that ants collected the seeds, so they had the unenviable task of searching anthills for the seeds they needed to sow a new crop of tea. Today, farmers sift the sandy soil around the rooibos plant to gather the fresh seeds that start the new crops each spring. Rooibos plants take about 18 months to go from seedling to harvest-ready and are typically harvested during South Africa’s summer months
Rooibos classed as an herbal tea, but is technically not a true tea. Rooibos is actually a herb which when harvested, dried and oxidised, can be brewed into a tea. Known as red tea or red bush tea, red rooibos gets its colour from the oxidation of its leaves. The longer the leaves are left to oxidise, the stronger, richer and sweeter the taste.
In the late 1990’s a green rooibos was created, a less oxidised variety of the red rooibos. Green rooibos has a more grassy taste and is more green in colour.
Rooibos does have lots of amazing and powerful antioxidants that can be beneficial to our health and over time can help increase the body's antioxidant levels.
Love to have a cup of tea before bed but can't because of caffeine? Or maybe your caffeine sensitive? Rooibos is naturally caffeine free and is a great alternative to black and green teas. It's also low in tannins, meaning you can brew it longer for a more flavourful cup of tea without the bitterness you'd normally get from black tea.
Rooibos is quite a versatile herb, it makes for a great tea and when mixed with chai spices and has an earthy, slight vanillery taste but is also used in in ready made drinks, such as lattes, iced teas and even cocktail mixes.
Chefs in South Africa use rooibos in recipes as a herb, with one tea company teaming up with chefs to create recipes dedicated to cooking with rooibos. Click here if you’d like to check out some recipes!
Red rooibos can also be used in cosmetics as an extract or powder or because of the red rooibos deep earth red colour it can be used as a natural dye.
Do you like trying new teas? Have you tried rooibos chai? We would love to hear from you! Drop us a comment below.