What is Rooibos?
October 1, 2015
Rooibos is not a true tea, in that it does not derive from the Camellia sinensis plant. Instead, it is an herbal tea that is made from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis, more commonly known as the South African red bush. The leaves of the plant are harvested and fermented to produce a reddish colored herbal tea that is known as rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss), or red tea. Unfermented rooibos, or green rooibos, can also be produced from the leaves and makes a slightly “greener” tasting tea. The highest quality rooibos is known to grow in the mountainous region of Cederberg in the Western Cape of South Africa.
Rooibos has long been consumed by the Khoisan Bushmen of Africa. Gathered and consumed for medicinal purposes, the wild leaves of the red bush would be picked by locals and packed onto donkeys to be transported down the mountain. Then the leaves would be chopped and bruised with hammers and left to dry in the sun. Red tea was highly valued by the indigenous people of Africa for its health benefits. Later on, Dutch settlers who were trading in the region discovered the tea and began to consume it as an alternative to black tea.
In the early 1900’s, a Russian tea merchant, Benjamin Ginsberg, who had a background in Chinese and Indian tea production, began using Chinese fermenting techniques to cure rooibos.
Later in the 1930’s, Dr. Pieter Les Fras Nortier, who saw the commercial potential of rooibos for the region, began to research the cultivation of the tea. Successfully propagating the seeds, Dr. Nortier trained local farmers in his techniques, which led to an explosion of rooibos farms in South Africa and the exporting of the tea to Europe. While the tea was well received, it wasn’t until World War II, when tea exports from China were limited, that the popularity of rooibos began to take off.
Later in the 1960’s, an African mother, Annique Theron, authored a book on the health benefits of rooibos, which triggered numerous studies on the benefits of drinking the herb. This launched another wave of interest in rooibos that continues today.
Rooibos is an herbal tea and contains no caffeine.
Rooibos tea contains powerful antioxidants, is naturally caffeine-free, and actually contains even more health-promoting properties than green tea.
On top of its super polyphenols and flavonoids, which limit the effects of free-radicals, rooibos contains zinc, alpha hydroxy acid and magnesium, necessary for a healthy body.
Rooibos is also known for its ability to promote healthy digestion.
When combined with other herbs, fruits, or spices, rooibos can have additional benefits. Some popular rooibos blends are Good Hope Vanilla, Organic Double Red® Rooibos, Republic Red Chai and get clean®.
How to Steep
Steeping rooibos is easy. Simply heat fresh, filtered water to a rolling boil, then pour water over tea and steep for 5-7 minutes.
Rooibos tea can be used to make a variety of recipes including cookies, puddings, and cakes. A favorite rooibos recipe is our Good Hope Vanilla Rooibos Cookies.