Rooibos Tea

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Rooibos Tea 

Rooibos tea (roy-borss - Red Bush), unique to South Africa, is produced from the slender stemmed shrub, Asplanthus linaris, found growing wild in the Cedarberg and now cultivated around Clanwilliam in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

The young green bushes are cut back in summer and the branches are chopped into small pieces, bruised with wooden hammers, then dried.

Infused in boiling water, rooibos tea makes a refreshing beverage high in vitamin C and minerals, and is free of stimulants such as caffeine. It is also said to relieve allergies, particularly in babies.

Rooibos tea is made by steeping the leaves in boiling water or milk, and will not become astringent when reheated because of the reduced tannin.


  • In South Africa, it is common to prepare rooibos tea in the same manner as black tea and add milk and sugar to taste.

  • As a drink it can be served either hot or cold, added to punch or used to flavour other beverages.

  • Serve hot with a twist of lemon, a cinnamon stick or a spoon of honey.

  • Serve cold with a sparkling mixer, fruit juice or slightly sweetened with a hint of lemon and a cube of ice.

  • It can also be used as a liquid in a pork or chicken stew or for flavouring tea breads, desserts, tarts, cakes and biscuits or for steeping dried fruit.

  • Several coffee shops in South Africa have recently begun to sell red espresso, which is concentrated rooibos served and presented in the style of ordinary espresso. This has given rise to rooibos-based variations of coffee drinks such as red lattes and red cappuccinos.

  • Iced tea made from rooibos has recently been introduced in South Africa, Australia, and the United States. A variant of the drink London Fog, known as a Cape Town Fog, can also be made using rooibos steeped in steamed milk with vanilla syrup.

Rooibos Tea Facts courtesy of the South African Rooibos Council

  • Rooibos is not a true tea, but a herb. The brew made from the dried Rooibos leaves is therefore a herbal infusion (known as a tisane) rather than a tea, but is widely known as Rooibos tea.

  • Rooibos has a distinctive colour, flavour and aroma, which differentiates it from most other teas. The flavour can be described as slightly sweet and fruity.

  • The vibrant amber colour of Rooibos comes from the natural colour that develops during the post-harvest "fermentation" (oxidation) process, brought about by natural enzymes in the plant.

  • Rooibos is a pure and natural product as it contains no colourants, additives or preservatives.

  • Rooibos has no kilojoules.

  • Rooibos is available as plain or flavoured tea, as loose leaves or in tea bags. It is often blended with other herbal teas.

  • Rooibos is graded according to colour, flavour, and cut length.

  • Rooibos ages well and can be stored for long periods without any deterioration in quality, flavour and taste.

  • In many countries Rooibos is enjoyed as a hot or cold beverage without milk, with or without sweeteners. Many South Africans enjoy Rooibos as a hot beverage with milk, sweetened with sugar or honey.

Rooibos at Home Tips courtesy of the South African Rooibos Council

  • Keep a fresh pot of Rooibos warm for hours; it won’t lose its flavour or taste

  • Keep cold Rooibos in the fridge for up to two weeks.

  • Reheat cold Rooibos several times; it won’t develop a bitter after taste like black Ceylon teas.

  • Rooibos is a natural meat tenderiser; use it as the basis of your chicken, beef or lamb marinade.

  • Give a tangy taste to stews or potjiekos by replacing the water with Rooibos.

  • Rooibos adds extra flavour to sauces. Dissolve stock cubes in Rooibos for an aromatic taste.

  • Rooibos can be used to substitute milk or water in almost any recipe.

  • Soak dried fruit overnight in cold Rooibos. There is no need to add sugar when cooking the fruit.

  • Add colour to your marmalade by cooking the fruit in Rooibos.

  • Dilute powdered and frozen cold drink concentrates with Rooibos instead of water.

  • Substitute coffee with Rooibos when making Irish coffee and serve as a caffeine free alternative.

  • Make delicious ice tea by mixing ice cold Rooibos with sugar and lemon, or mixing it with your favourite fruit juice.

  • Sweeten a pot of strong Rooibos with honey to taste. Stir well to make sure all the honey is dissolved. Leave in fridge overnight. Serve as an ice cold, refreshing drink.

Rooibos Health Facts courtesy of the South African Rooibos Council

  • Rooibos is a good source of antioxidants and is the only known source of a potent antioxidant aspalathin, which could play a role in combating several lifestyle diseases.

  • Unlike black and green teas, Rooibos is naturally caffeine free (not decaffeinated) and therefore suitable for children, infants and breast-feeding mothers.

  • Rooibos has proven cancer-fighting properties in animal research studies, and exciting new research points towards the role that Rooibos can play in promoting heart health and preventing diabetes.

  • Rooibos contains low amounts of tannin. (Tannins are astringent, bitter-tasting plant polyphenols that bind and precipitate proteins and interfere with iron absorption in the body.)

  • After centuries of use, no negative side effects of Rooibos have ever been recorded.

Category: South African Cuisine

Subcategory: Indigenous

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