What is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos translates to ‘red bush’ and has its origins in South Africa located in the Southernmost area of the continent of Africa. It is a form of caffeine-free herbal tea which, as its name suggests is red in colour. Though referred to as a ‘tea’, Rooibos is in actual terms a herbal infusion, with no amount of caffeine present in the brew.
The History of Rooibos
Fast becoming a very popular form of tea, Rooibos has a vivid history. In 1652, the Dutch East India Company established a refreshment centre at the Cape of Good Hope for sailors who travelled via the trade routes between Europe and Asia, and with that the culture of tea drinking was also established.
In the Beginning
When the first settlers moved into the Cederberg and Olifants River Valley of South Africa, they took with them their culture of enjoying a good cup of tea. In their explorations they came across the Aspalathus linearis, a plant with fine needle-like leaves that make an aromatic and tasty brew. The plant only grew in this region and attempts at growing it in other areas failed. They used axes back then to chop the leaves and stems of the plants. Thereafter, the leaves were bruised with mallets and left in heaps to ferment. Once the fermentation process was completed, the rooibos was spread out under the hot African sun to dry, leading to the creation of red rooibos. The manufacturing process for rooibos tea remains much the same, but the process is now more mechanised and refined.
Why it Gained in Popularity
The taste of rooibos was very different to the taste of the popular Chinese tea at the time, it had a very nutty, malty and sweet taste compared to its counterpart and had the added advantage of having no caffeine. Rooibos was also much cheaper than the Chinese tea that was imported at the time and this led to an increase in popularity and demand. This demand was noticed, in 1904, by Benjamin Ginsberg, a Russian immigrant. He was already a pioneer in the area, and he identified and acted on the marketing potential of the tea. He bought the tea from the local farmers and sold it to Russia. Having come from a family that was in the tea industry back home, Benjamin had all the know-how of trading in the commodity. Through him the tea reached Russia and Europe and its popularity continued to grow.
How the Market Boomed
In 1930, local doctor and amateur botanist Dr. Le Fras Notier identified how to germinate Rooibos seeds. He went onto partner with Olof Bergh to identify new methods to cultivate the tea, which marked the beginning of the rooibos tea industry in South Africa.
Surviving a War
Things were going well, until World War 2. Due to the rising conflict and tension around the world, the tea industry collapsed. However, to a certain degree the rooibos tea industry persevered. This was mostly due to the close proximity to Europe and the low prices. In 1954, after the war ended, the Minister of Agriculture appointed the Rooibos Tea Control Board. Their main responsibilities included the regularisation of the tea trade, as well as stabilisation of the market prices and improvement of the standards and quality of the tea. In 1993 the board was fully privatised and became known as Rooibos Limited.
In 2003, Rooibos Limited created Green Rooibos. This variation of the classic tea is made by special treatment to prevent oxidation, leaving it closer to its natural colour, green.
In Modern Times
In 2009, 14 of South Africa’s leading chefs came together to create a cookbook called A Touch of Rooibos that showed how this amazing tea could be used in cooking, adding flavour and a bit of adventure to everyday recipes.
In 2014, Rooibos Limited began distributing this unique tea to over 60 countries around the world while working with several of them to create new types of beverages as well as a variety of food products using rooibos as an ingredient. From there, as they say, the rest is history.
Taste of Rooibos
This green little shrubbery plant that only grows in South Africa’s Cederberg Region gets its name sake colour, a rich red mahogany, after the fermentation process.
The red rooibos tea is dark red in colour and has a stronger taste compared to the green rooibos which has a much lighter colour, and the taste differs as well, with green rooibos having a more woody-grassy, fruity flavour.
How to Brew a Cup of Rooibos
The tea can be brewed the same way black tea is brewed. Follow these steps –
- Pour 8 ounces of rolling boiled water into a pot
- Add 1 ½ teaspoons of rooibos tea.
- Let it brew for 4-5 mins before stirring well.
Additional Ways to Enjoy a Cup of Rooibos
Red rooibos can be enjoyed with milk, and sweeteners such as honey can be added for further flavour. However, both Red and Green Rooibos tea is naturally sweet on its own, therefore additions are not necessary. They can be enjoyed in different ways, whether hot or cold, in cocktails, desserts or even foods. There is no limit to the culinary adventures you can have with these teas.
Health Benefits of Rooibos
Rooibos tea, in modern times, is famous across the globe. With the lack of caffeine and unique taste and texture, it is highly sought after as a healthy alternative to the normal cuppa tea. Further enhancing its reputation as a healthy tea is the amount of natural minerals in its makeup, such as, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and zinc.
The tea initially got noticed for its health benefits by a mum who claimed it helped her baby’s allergies. From there the many health benefits have been researched and identified. The tea has shown to assist with heart health by lowering blood pressure, helping circulation and by reducing ‘bad’ cholesterol levels while maintaining ‘good’ cholesterol levels. The tea is full of antioxidants that may help in preventing the development of cancerous cells; according to some studies. Patients who have kidney stones and cannot have regular tea will also find this a healthy alternative. Further, it has also been proven to help reduce blood sugar and manage insulin levels thereby helping prevent and/or manage diabetes. It also helps keep your hair strong and skin healthy and glowing, boosts bone health and aids in weight loss. In addition, it has been found to assist with digestion by the presence of flavonoids in the tea. The tea has truly become a health wonder and with that its popularity has grown even more.
Dilmah Tea’s Rooibos Range
Dilmah Tea has a range of infusion teas that uses Rooibos. With its myriad of benefits and uniqueness, the teas are aimed towards meeting overall needs, including health, relaxation and enjoyment. The Infusions are unique in their own ways with a range to choose from. Infusions such as Green Rooibos, Coconut and Mango give a tropical taste. Red Rooibos, Moringa, Chili, Cocoa and Cardamom will leave a lingering taste of spice while Red Rooibos, Liquorice and Strawberry has a soft sweetness. Whatever the type of Rooibos you are looking for, we offer a wide variety of choice that is sure to take your taste buds on an adventure.