What is Rooibos? Rooibos tea is a vibrantly colored, naturally caffeine-free herbal tea made from the South African Red Bush. Also referred to as 'red tea,' 'bush tea,' 'redbush tea,' or 'South African red tea,' Rooibos tea has a nutty, sweet taste and many health benefits.
Rooibos is referred to as a 'tea,' but, because it doesn't come from the same tea plant (Camellia sinensis) that gives us black, green, oolong, pu-erh, and white teas, tea aficionados would call Rooibos an herbal infusion or 'tisane,' rather than a tea.
The word 'Rooibos' is the Afrikaans word for 'red bush.' The Red Bush (Aspalanthus linearis), which grows only in the Cedarberg Mountain region in South Africa (see the map below), is a member of the legume (pea) family. Its needle-like leaves are harvested to make Rooibos tea.
Rooibos herbal tea is available in two types - the traditional red Rooibos tea and Green Rooibos tea. The difference between the two varieties lies in the processing.
To make red Rooibos tea, the harvested Rooibos bush leaves are bruised and then left to oxidize for several hours (this is when Rooibos develops its deep amber color, sweet fragrance, and unique taste) before being spread in thin layers in the hot African sun and left to dry. Then, final sorting, grading, and packaging take place.
For the greenish-hued, stronger-tasting Green Rooibos tea, the oxidization step is omitted. The more complex processing method for Green Rooibos means it can be more expensive and more difficult to find than traditional Rooibos.
Rooibos tea is growing in popularity, not only for its unique, enjoyable taste, but also as we learn more about the many health benefits of Rooibos tea.
Rooibos is naturally caffeine free, brimming in
antioxidants, low in tannins, and high in vitamins and minerals. It is
emerging as a remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and many other health concerns. Rooibos is even becoming known for its topical benefits.
And, because Rooibos tea is caffeine free and low in tannins, it has become a popular beverage with pregnant women and nursing mothers. Rooibos is also well known as a remedy for digestive troubles. In fact, many parents give Rooibos tea mixed with milk to their infants to soothe and relieve colic or stomach cramps.
Rooibos tea has a lovely color and aroma, and its rich flavor is enjoyable iced or hot, on its own or with milk and sugar or lemon and honey (click here for simple recipes for hot or iced Rooibos). Rooibos tea is also available in so many delightful blends and flavors, you'll be expanding your answer to the question, "What is Rooibos?" quite quickly!
Although we still have much to learn about Rooibos tea, research into Rooibos side effects has yet to discover any significant risks associated with drinking Rooibos tea.
And, because it is caffeine free, Rooibos has none of the usual caffeine side effects (such as irritability, insomnia, and anxiety).
As with any tea, if you plan to add therapeutic levels to your diet, be sure to consult your healthcare provider first, to be sure it's a safe decision for you. This is particularly important if you are pregnant or nursing, are taking any prescription medications, have liver or kidney troubles, or are currently being treated for or have a history of cancer. Check with your healthcare provider, as well, before giving Rooibos tea to babies and children.