This sweet and woody tea has been working its way into specialty beverages and personal care products for its flavor and wellness properties — it’s high in antioxidants and naturally caffeine-free. But what is rooibos?
Rooibos is a shrub with needle-like leaves exclusively grown in the mountainous Cederberg region in the Western Cape of South Africa. Rooibos carries a geographical indication, meaning for it to be called rooibos – it must be grown in this region. In Afrikaans (one of the 11 official languages of South Africa), rooibos translates to “red bush,” yielding the Western nickname “red bush tea,” named for its rich amber infusion when steeped.
After harvesting, rooibos goes through several processing steps, including an oxidation process that turns it from its raw green color to the familiar fiery red and orange. It’s then dried for a certain length of time in the sun before being sorted and packaged. While “red” rooibos is traditional and more common, green rooibos is also available. In its processing, the oxidation stage is avoided by applying heat to the fresh leaves in order to retain its light green color (and grassy, slightly mineral flavor). And while [traditional red] rooibos blends great with milk, green rooibos is best enjoyed straight. Both are delicious as an iced tea— refreshing, lightly sweet and naturally caffeine-free.
Rooibos Tea Taste
So what’s a tea drinker to look for in a good cup of rooibos? Primarily “honey,” “woody,” “spicy,” and “caramel.” While rooibos is a botanical, its chemical make-up includes polyphenols, which provides a tannic-like structure (usually only attained with pure tea leaves), making it an ideal base for many herbal blends. These distinctions add layers of richness and complexity that is often reserved for specialty coffee drinks and craft cocktails. Additionally, rooibos can be infused in culinary recipes for added depth and flavor.
Rooibos Tea Benefits
Rooibos is highly sought after for its antioxidant and iron-rich properties. Drinking rooibos promotes heart health, weight management, and can support healthy skincare regimens when applied topically to the skin after steeping. Many habitual drinkers of rooibos also praise the beverage for its help with digestion and seasonal allergies.
Rooibos holds high distinction in the beverage world for having its own sensory wheel for the diverse flavor profiles that exist within various harvests and terroirs. A common tool in the coffee, tea, and wine industries, a sensory wheel helps identify different flavors and aromas within when tasting. For rooibos, it helps establish quality standards for flavor that didn’t exist before. The wheel will aid professionals in not only describing the perfect cup of rooibos, it may help identify where it comes from and how it was processed, including specific locations, types of soils, pollinators, and the like.
Steeping Rooibos Tea
Besides its sweet, earthy flavor, one of the best characteristics about rooibos is the ease of steeping. While most pure teas require patience and attention when brewing to avoid bitterness (especially green tea), rooibos is different. It is forgiving if “overbrewed” and shines when served hot, over ice, or cold-brewed.
Best Rooibos Tea: Our Products and Recipes
At The Spice and Tea Exchange®, we offer several blends of rooibos and even honeybush. Each blend is bold in flavor and can be explored in unique beverages and infused in your favorite recipes.
Naturally sweet with notes of honey, wood, and spice, this refreshing pure African herbal tea has a deep red, nectar-like infusion.
A combination of green rooibos with summer fruits and flowers, this tea is delicious served hot or iced.
The best of rooibos and chai come together in this assertive blend full of naturally sweet and spicy flavors.
A creamy blend of rooibos flavored with orange, vanilla, flowers, and citrus. Serve straight up or with milk or cream it’s a naturally sweet treat.
A relative of rooibos, honeybush and rooibos share many similarities, though they are different plants with different flavor profiles. While rooibos is described as woody or even nutty, honeybush is sweeter and has a fuller flavor.
However you choose to enjoy our rooibos and honeybush herbal tea blends, we hope you’ll share your favorite recipes with us on Instagram @spiceandtea.