Rooibos tea, which directly translates as ‘red bush’ in both Afrikaans and Dutch is grown only in a specific region of South Africa – the Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town. The ultra-clean air swirling around the craggy mountains provides the perfect environment for the rooibos plant. Efforts have been made to grow rooibos outside the Cederberg region but so far, none have been successful.
The plant itself is a broom-like member of the legume family growing in the Fynbos ecoregion.
Rooibos is a herbal tea and is not related to green or black tea. Rooibos tea is usually consumed like black tea. Some people add milk and sugar — and rooibos iced tea, espressos, lattes and cappuccinos have also taken off.
The indigenous Bushmen in South Africa made use of the Rooibos leaves for centuries as a remedy for all sorts of ailments. However, as time went on the number of tribesmen started to dwindle. And with their thinning numbers went the knowledge of the rooibos plant. However, botanist Carl Humberg rediscovered the leaves in the 1700s and the plant slowly regained its status.
As tea from Asian countries became harder and harder to import over the second World War, rooibos was quickly seen as a suitable alternative throughout Europe and the USA – that was despite of the scarcity of the seeds and the cost that came with it. In recent years, South African woman Annique Theron wrote a book about the benefits that come with the tea and the runaway success of the book has only reaffirmed its popularity. It can be found on most, if not all supermarket shelves throughout the US, Europe and Australia.
Rooibos tea is low in tannins and is totally caffeine free. While consuming moderate amounts of caffeine is generally fine and can improve mood and concentration – too much caffeine consumption is linked to increased anxiety, headaches and sleeping issues. And with that in mind, there are those that choose to limit or avoid caffeine altogether – making Rooibos the perfect choice.
It’s a great alterntive to green or black tea due to its caffeiene free status, and unlike the aforementioned teas – rooibos contains absolutely no oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can increase your risk of kidney stones, so those with kidney issues may find rooibos a great tea alternative.
Rooibos is also associated with its high levels of health-promoting antioxidants. Antioxidants may help protect cells from damage by free radicals.
If you look online, the health claims surrounding rooibos tea vary widely and there are some tall tales out there. However, there is a lack of evidence to support many them. Unverified benefits include –
Bone health: Evidence linking rooibos consumption to improved bone health is weak, and specific studies are scarce.
Improved digestion: The tea is often promoted as a way to reduce digestive problems. However, evidence for this is weak.
Others: Despite anecdotal reports, there is no strong evidence that rooibos can aid sleep problems, allergies, headaches or colic.
Of course, the lack of evidence does not necessarily mean that these claims are false — just that they haven’t been studied fully
Over the long term, their effects may reduce your risk of illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. There is some evidence that rooibos tea can increase antioxidant levels in your body. Antioxidants are linked with a healthier heart.
In addition, rooibos tea is the only known natural source of the antioxidant aspalathin, which animal studies suggest may have anti-diabetic effects.
One study in mice with type 2 diabetes found that aspalathin balanced blood sugar levels and reduced insulin resistance, which could prove promising for people who have or are at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Rooibos tea and tea in general however must always be paired with a prescribed dose of medication from a medical professional – there is no such thing as miracle tea!
The taste of rooibos is incredibly smooth, naturally sweet and almost nutty! When brewed correctly, you can smell the warm and wooded aroma lifting from your teacup. As rooibos is low in tannins (it comes from a different plant to green or black tea) you never get a bitter taste if you were to leave the teabag in the mug.
To each their own when it comes to drinking rooibos, some like it rich and strong while others prefer it a bit milder. Some add milk while others wouldn’t dream of it! Either way, it’s a great alternative to traditional tea and is totally caffeine free.
As it’s naturally sweet there’s no need to add a teaspoon of sugar. For those with a sweeter tooth, we’d recommend adding honey over sugar as it pairs better.
As with all things herbal, rooibos tea can have a few side effects that can come up in some people.
Hepatotoxicity implies chemical-driven liver damage. In case report done in 2010, the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology claimed the potential development of hepatotoxicity as a result of drinking rooibos tea. This is due to an increase in liver enzymes that can damage the internal structure of the liver organ.
As we mentioned previously, Rooibos tea is high in antioxidants, and this factor has often been considered as a health advantage or benefit. But they could also cause some health problems. This is because antioxidants may cause harmful effects when combined with chemotherapeutic drugs. Those who are going through chemotherapy may want to pause and ask for their doctor’s advise before drinking rooibos.
How to Brew
It’s best to brew Rooibos as you would a herbal tea – letting it sit for several minutes before drinking. The longer the tea leaves brew – the more antioxidants are released. In South Africa where it originates from, rooibos was boiled in water rather than water being added after its boiled.
Rooibos is also delicious as a chilled tea and is naturally sweet.
To serve it chilled, the Hario Filter in a Bottle is ideal as you can add aromatic rooibos leaves to the filter, add water, and leave overnight in the fridge for a refreshing morning pick me up, or the perfect beverage to sip through the day to keep you refreshed and oxidized!