Rooibos tea (pronounced roy boss) is cultivated, harvested and sun dried in a small area of the Cederberg region of the Western Cape province in South Africa. Rooibos is Afrikaans for “red bush”. Rooibos tea is also sometimes known as “Red Tea” and also comes in green tea varieties. It is a caffeine free alternative to black tea. Rooibos tea began to gain popularity during WWII when Asian tea supplies became limited.
Rooibos tea leaves are needle shaped, a bit like short pine needles. Generally, the leaves are oxidized producing the distinctive reddish-brown color of rooibos and enhancing the flavor. Green (unoxidized) rooibos tea is also produced, but the more demanding production process makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos. Green rooibos tea has a malty and slightly grassy flavor that is different from the red rooibos tea.
In South Africa, rooibos tea is made with a slice of lemon and sugar or honey. Rooibos tea is described as being naturally sweet with a slightly nutty flavor. Rooibos is most commonly prepared like black tea.
Several coffee shops in South Africa have recently begun to sell “red espresso” – a concentrated version of rooibos tea served in the style of traditional espresso. This has created the demand for rooibos variations of coffee drinks such as red lattes and red cappuccinos. Iced tea made from rooibos is also popular in South Africa, Australia, and in the United States.
Rooibos is becoming more popular in Western countries especially among health-conscious consumers. The tea has a high level of antioxidants, no caffeine and tannin levels. Rooibos Tea is claimed to help with nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems. Traditional South African medicinal uses of rooibos include curing infantile colic, allergies, asthma and skin problems.
Many flavored infused rooibos teas have taken hold in the popular market. You can find flavors such as almond, berry, cinnamon, caramel, jasmine, peach, and vanilla.