Rooibos has quickly gained popularity among tea drinkers as an alternative to green or black tea for its many potential health benefits and earthy flavor. While this tea already has quite a large fan club, those who are just now discovering it might be wondering what rooibos is and how to brew up a cup.
Rooibos tea is a red herbal tea that is derived from the fermented leaves of the Aspalathus linearis shrub. It is rich in antioxidants, low in tannins, and caffeine-free, making it a good alternative for those looking to cut back on coffee or black tea.
Rooibos is a delicious, healthy tea that may offer more than just being a yummy beverage. Below, we’ll dive into where rooibos comes from and the best way to use it so you can brew up a cup of your own.
What Is Rooibos Tea?
Rooibos tea, also known as red bush tea, is an herbal tea that comes from the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant, a broom-like shrub native to the western coast of South Africa.
Contrary to its look and the word tea in the name, Rooibos is not actually an authentic “tea” or even related to the Camellia sinensis plant that produces the green and black tea that most of us know. Instead, it is an herbal infusion, or tisane, of the fermented leaves of the rooibos plant.
How Is Rooibos Tea Processed?
Rooibos is harvested and processed much like traditional tea. Before we get into the process, it’s important to note that there are two types of rooibos tea: red and green.
Red rooibos is the more popular variety and somewhat follows that process of making black tea.
The bush is cut by hand during harvest, and the stems and leaves are tied together in bundles. These bundles are then bruised, aired, and watered to kickstart oxidation. This is the fermentation process that brings out the plant’s rich flavor and color. The more oxidized the leaves get, the sweeter and redder the tea.
Once the leaves have had some time to ferment, they are laid out to dry in the sun. The entire cutting, fermenting, and drying process usually takes less than 24 hours.
Green rooibos, on the other hand, follows a process that is similar to green tea. It is withered and steamed to prevent oxidation, giving it a lighter look and taste.
What Does Rooibos Tea Taste Like?
If you aren’t a fan of the bitter tannins found in wine, coffee, and traditional tea, then you’re in luck. Red rooibos has a naturally sweet, smooth, and earthy flavor, making it a great alternative to black tea in a Chai Latte.
Green rooibos, on the other hand, has a sweet, mild, herbal taste. If you’re a fan of sencha, then this might be the one for you.
How To Brew the Perfect Cup of Rooibos
If you are one to get easily distracted while brewing tea, you’re in luck! Rooibos can be steeped for as long or as short as you want without taking on a bitter taste. This is due to the lack of tannins we talked about.
When buying rooibos, be sure to pick a reputable company. While the shelf life is more stable due to the oxidation process, rooibos will lose its freshness after about two years.
For the perfect cup, we recommend steeping 1-2 teaspoons for 3-5 minutes. Rooibos is excellent on its own, or with a splash of cream and sugar to taste. You can also try blending in complementary flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, or lemon.
Is Rooibos Tea Caffeinated?
As an herbal tea, rooibos contains zero caffeine. This and its taste make it a popular alternative for tea and coffee drinkers who are looking to cut back on their caffeine intake. This also makes rooibos a sound beverage option for children, pregnant women, and those with caffeine sensitivities.
Is Rooibos Healthy?
Although rooibos has no nutritional value, research has shown some benefits to drinking this herbal tea. Not only is it low in caffeine, but rooibos contains several antioxidants, is low in tannins, and has even been shown to have a positive impact on heart health.
Studies have also shown that rooibos acts as an ACE inhibitor, which may help with managing blood pressure.
Final Thoughts on Rooibos Tea
Rooibos is a tasty, caffeine-free herbal tea that can be enjoyed either hot or cold. Whether you’re looking for an alternative to black tea or you’re a tea lover looking for something new to try, this is definitely one to add to your shopping list.