I love tea. I read books about tea. I’ve taken classes in tea. And, I pour over all the tea catalogs that come in the mail as much, if not more than, the seed catalogs in the winter.
It was in one of these tea catalogs that I first discovered Rooibos tea “Hmmm,” I thought. “I wonder what this tastes like.” Let me tell you what it tastes like. Sweet. Fruity. Delicious. Our family hasalmost replaced our “Southern Brew” with iced Rooibos in the summertime.
Only growing in the Cedarberg region of South Africa, Rooibos tea comes from the fine needle-like leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant. The word Rooibos means red bush in the Afrikaans language. Efforts to grow red bush in other parts of the world have failed.
When harvested, the fermentation process turns the green leaves to a deep red color. The needles, bark, and woody stems are used to make the tea. When infused, the resulting cup is a beautiful, sparkling red color.
Without caffeine, Rooibos touts many health benefits. The Africans call it “Baby’s Lullaby” because it soothes the symptoms of colic. According to the Metropolitan Tea Company, “Those that consume Rooibos have claimed that it has a soothing effect on headaches, disturbed sleeping patterns and digestive problems.” High in antioxidants and low in tannins, red bush also sports an impressive list of minerals. With the highest mineral content being potassium and sodium, Rooibos tea is ideal for that iced summertime drink. Also, its high antioxidant and vitamin C content makes Rooibos an excellent remedy for hay fever-type allergies.
Rooibos is also sold green. Manufacturing of green Rooibos is trickier as just the slightest touch begins to turn the leaves red. However, green Rooibos is higher in antioxidants making the demand for it strong. The flavor of green Rooibos is not as sweet as the red, either.
Another tea indigenous to the Cedarburg area of South Africa is Honeybush. However, that is where the similarities between it and Rooibos end. Honeybush has a refreshing taste with the hint of honey flavor. The infusion is a bright orange color.
Honeybush (Cyclopia spp.) is manufactured much like black tea with the four steps of harvesting, cutting, fermenting, and drying. Currently, these steps are all done mechanically. And the resulting tea is as healthful as it is delicious.
Scientific research on this magnificent herbal is relatively new; however, Dutch botanical records mention using the Honeybush as early as the mid 1600s. We do know that the caffeine free, Honeybush tea is high in antioxidants. Also, its isoflavones, xanthones, and flavones give it anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.
How To Brew
To make the perfect cup of hot Rooibos or Honeybush tea, pour fresh, boiling water over a teaspoon of leaves. Let steep three to seven minutes. Add milk and sugar to taste. For a refreshing pitcher (one quart) of iced tea, pour 1 ¼ cups of boiling water over six teaspoons of leaves. Steep for five minutes. Put one cup of cold water into your pitcher. Strain the hot infusion and add to the cold. Add ice and top with more cold water. Sweeten to taste.
Even staunch Camelia sinensis (the real tea plant) connoisseurs will agree that Rooibos and Honeybush both are worth adding to your regular tea time. And now, you can purchase them both from most tea companies or bulk herb suppliers.