Rooibos loose tea

Everything you need to know about Rooibos

So, you have heard about this wonderful tea called Rooibos but you have yet to learn what it is, where it comes from or even if it is something that you want to try. We can confirm that it is seriously worth trying. 

Hopefully, as you read through this article, we will convince you to give Red Bush a go! 

So where does Rooibos come from?

The Aspalathus linearis plant also known as  Rooibos, is grown in South Africa. To be more specific it is normally grown in Cederberg in the West Coast District. It started as a drink for the poor, they would travel into the hills and harvest the needles to make tea. Black and green tea was quite expensive as it had to be imported, making it inaccessible to the less affluent. This made Rooibos a great alternative. 

Rooibos is not actually a tea, it is in fact a herb. It is harvested and dried so it can then be brewed into a deep red herbal tea. If you're in the US you will likely have heard of it using the “Rooibos” name, in the UK it is more commonly called “Red Bush”. Natively it is known as “African Red Tea”

There were some teething issues when the popularity of Rooibos began to grow. The farmers struggled to keep the production inline with the rise in demand, creating supply issues. In short the problem boiled down to the farmers struggling to germinate the seeds. 

Rooibos herbal tea

Then along came Pieter Lefras Nortier an avid naturalist, he decided he would find a solution to the problem and started working on it. He found that the solution to the germination problem was to scarify the seed pods. To do this he started grinding the seeds between two stone wheels, the same way you would with grains. From that point on, germination was simple. Pieter then went on to teach his findings to all the farmers so they could do the same.

This breakthrough essentially birthed the mass adoption of Rooibos by allowing the supply to keep up with the demand. It did however have an interesting side effect, shooting the price of the seeds through the roof. In the decade following the breakthrough 1lb of seeds cost as much as £80, making it the most expensive vegetable seed in the world. 

The current price for 1lb of seeds sits at around £1300. 

What is the story with Rooibos then?

The brewing and consumption of Rooibos began in the early 1700s when tea drinking Dutch settlers in South Africa wanted a cheaper alternative to black tea. Rooibos did not become a commercially available tea until around 1930 due to the issues mentioned previously with the supply becoming a bottleneck.

South Africa is the one and only producer of Rooibos, producing around 15000 tons of Rooibos every year. 7000 tons of which are exported outside of South Africa. The biggest consumers of this exported herbal tea are Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

This excellent tea evolved from there with variants including green Rooibos, powdered Rooibos (used for making an espresso-like tea drink), Red Rooibos and Rooibos extract used for cooking and as a cosmetic additive.

Red Rooibos 

Red Rooibos is the most common, this version is the one you are most likely to have seen before. It is also the cheapest of the 2 main types of Rooibos. The red colour comes from the oxidation process that the harvested needles have to go through.

The oxidation process is the same type of process used by those that process tea leaves to get the black teas that you will know and love. In the same way that the oxidation process turns green tea leaves black, Green Rooibos is turned red.  

This gives Red Rooibos that definitive flavour profile, with its fruity undertones and earthy base. Red Rooibos is also great with a splash of milk and a little sweetener or some lemon. 

Rooibos herbal tea

Green Rooibos 

Green Rooibos has not been through the oxidation process, it is harvested and then heat is applied. This can be done a couple of different ways but is traditionally done by leaving the harvested needles out in the sun. 

Leaving the needles out in the sun stops the oxidation process, keeping the needles green and ensuring that the grassy, malty taste is locked in and does not change. 

Green Rooibos, is thought to be superior to Red Rooibos. When the oxidation process is cut short the needles hold onto more of the antioxidants that they are packed full of. With this in mind you would think, Green Rooibos would come out cheaper than Red as it is easier to process and takes less time. 

Think again! You are going to pay more for Green Rooibos. 

Green Rooibos herbal tea

What’s this oxidation process?

Leaves, or in this case needles are harvested and then crushed or rolled and left exposed to the air. this oxidation will darken the needles and change their flavour profile.

The length of time your harvest is exposed to the oxidation process will define not just the colour of the leaves/needles but also the flavour and scent once prepared

When you want to keep the leaves or in this case needles from going through the oxidation process, then you use heat to stop the reaction. This can be done by pan frying, leaving out in the sun, steaming them or baking them.

I have another post in the pipeline that will cover all aspects of the manufacturing process of tea, oxidation and fermentation so keep your eyes peeled for it. As always, the link will be posted to our socials. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Are there any good alternatives to Rooibos?

We get it, Rooibos is not for everyone and you might not like the taste but you love the fact that it has so many positive benefits and you would hate to miss out on them. The obvious question is, are there any alternatives? 

Well, you're in luck. You have a couple of options but the most obvious one is Honeybush.

Honeybush is actually the Cyclopia plant, it is a cousin to the Rooibos plant and comes with all the positives that are associated with Rooibos. It is high in antioxidants, it is manufactured in the same way too. 

Honeybush herbal tea

It is caffeine free, so you can drink as much as you like all through the day without risking a sleepless night or getting the jitters and it also has a much more delicate flavour profile and is much sweeter than Rooibos. 

When you compare the levels of antioxidants in honeybush to that of both Red and Green Rooibos, Honeybush comes out on top.

Honeybush - ORAC of an incredible ~2705 / 8fl oz

Green Rooibos - ORAC of ~2093 / 8fl oz

Red Rooibos - ORAC of ~1537 / 8fl oz

There are some differences in which antioxidants can be found in Honeybush compared to Rooibos - 

  • Flavanon (hesperidin)
  • Xanthones
  • Mangiferin
  • Isomangeferin
  • Benzophenones
  • Phenolic compounds (tyrosol, methoxy analogue)

So is it good for you? 

We can say with certainty that yes it is good for you. This tea has multiple health benefits, making it well worth adding to your daily drinking habits. Here is a little more info to help you understand why this tea is loved by so many. 

A good place to start when thinking about the benefits that come with drinking Rooibos would be to look at which antioxidants can be found in Rooibos.

  • Polyphenol flavonoids, including aspalathin (rare in other teas)
  • Nothofagin
  • Quercetin
  • Rutin
  • Isoquercitrin
  • Orientin
  • Isoorientin
  • Luteolin
  • Vitexin
  • Isovitexin
  • Chrysoeriol 

It can help with heart health 

Rooibos has a high flavonol content, which supports the cardiovascular system due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. Those same flavanols have been linked to having a positive effect on issues like high cholesterol. 

Additionally, it has also been linked to helping reduce high blood pressure by inhibiting the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) which is known to cause the blood vessels to contract raising blood pressure.

Rooibos herbal tea

Caffeine free

That’s right, it is caffeine free. This is a herbal tea, Aspalathus linearis. It does not come from the Camellia Sinensis tea family of plants, it is actually part of the legume family. Thus resulting in it being completely caffeine free! 

It may benefit people with type 2 diabetes

Rooibos is rich in polyphenols, and the consumption of polyphenols on a regular basis has been linked to helping protect against the oxidative damage associated with type 2 diabetes. It is also a rich source of the antioxidant aspalathin, which has been shown in some animal studies to help with the balancing of blood sugar levels, in turn reducing insulin resistance.

This however has not been confirmed in humans and will need further research.

It can support recovery from the effects of Covid-19

Due to the nature of the antioxidative and anti inflammatory benefits of this wonderful herbal tea from South Africa it has the potential to aid in modulating the risk of some of the potentially fatal effects of Covid-19.  

OK, but what does it taste like? 

Rooibos is often compared to the taste of hibiscus tea, it has a sweet and nutty flavour with some earthy notes. It is a light tea and is far from overpowering, it is a brew that is perfect when you want something refreshing. 

Honey is a wonderful addition to it if you want to boost the sweetness a little. Not only does this affect the flavour of the tea but it has its own benefits from a health aspect. We have a blog post on that here if you want to find out more. 

Another excellent addition to a mug of Rooibos is a slice of fresh lemon, you honestly cannot go wrong with it. 

Rooibos herbal tea

Our final thoughts 

Hopefully, we have given you a good overview of the wonderful herbal tea that is Rooibos. It is a wonderfully refreshing tea that tastes great with many health benefits. The benefits we have listed are what we think, make up the ones with the most impact. It is not, however, an exhaustive list and there are many more wonderful benefits to drinking Rooibos. 

Did we mention that it is caffeine free, can be consumed all day at any point of the day and will not make you feel jittery or affect your sleep patterns if you want it before bed? We honestly cannot see a downside to this wonderful tea. We want you to try it so we are offering 10% off all orders for Rooibos until 20/02/2023. 

What are you waiting for, get your Rooibos now and enjoy!

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