Rooibos tea

All About Rooibos
Rooibos tea, made from the South African rooibos plant, is growing in popularity, but is still less common than other forms of herbal and caffeinated tea. With its health benefits, its rich flavor, and its lack of caffeine, rooibos can be a versatile and beneficial beverage choice.

Although rooibos tea has become increasingly popular in Western countries in the past decades, it is still relatively unknown, despite having a number of health benefits. Sometimes known as red tea, bush tea, or redbush tea, rooibos tea is derived from the rooibos plant, which is native to South Africa. One interesting feature of this plant, and one that perhaps contributes to its lack of popularity compared to other types of tea, is that it only grows in a particular region of South Africa. The Western Cape province of South Africa is famous for its fynbos ecosystem. Fynbos is a type of shrubland characterized by small plants growing in a Mediterranean climate. It is here that the rooibos plant is found.

History of Rooibos

Rooibos has been in use in the West since at least the 17th century, when Dutch settlers in South Africa collected it for its medicinal properties. The native South Africans were already well aware of the plant, and collected it in large quantities for use as tea. For settlers in the region, it became a less expensive alternative to imported black tea and other exotic beverages. Today, the rooibos plant is used not only to make tea but also in liqueur and as an alternative base in traditionally coffee-based drinks.

A Caffeine-Free Tea

One of the major selling points of rooibos tea is that, unlike many herbal teas, it has a naturally robust flavor, but unlike black tea and green tea, it does not contain caffeine. This makes rooibos a good choice for people who are looking for caffeine-free alternatives to tea and coffee but do not want to sacrifice flavor. Although rooibos has an excellent flavor on its own, some specialty tea companies sell flavored rooibos blends, which can include orange, lemon, or vanilla flavoring. Rooibos is also used as an ingredient is specialty tea blends containing other types of tea and fruit.

Health Benefits of Rooibos

Another benefit of rooibos tea is its high antioxidant content. The plant contains a significant amount of aspalathin, a compound with both antioxidant and antimutagenic properties. This has made rooibos a popular choice for those who hope to improve their health by ingesting high amounts of antioxidants, which are thought to fight disease-causing free radicals. A number of other health benefits have also been attributed to rooibos, which some claim can even help prevent acne. In Japan, rooibos is known as “long life tea” for its supposed contribution to longevity. It should be noted that rooibos has a lower antioxidant content than green tea, but because green tea contains caffeine, rooibos can be an excellent substitute.

Quality Considerations

As with most food and drink substances, the quality of rooibos varies. Typically, rooibos tea contains both stems and flowers from the rooibos plant. A higher proportion of flowers is thought to produce a higher quality tea because it results in a deeper flavor. Most of the rooibos that is exported from South Africa is of a high quality, whereas the lower quality rooibos remains in the South African market, but those wishing to get the most out of their rooibos experience should consider inquiring about the quality of the tea they purchase.

Where to Find Rooibos

Because rooibos is less popular than other types of tea, it can be somewhat difficult to find in various parts of the world. Most supermarkets in the United States carry at least one brand of rooibos tea, but it is often marketed as a gourmet tea and can thus be quite pricey. For those who wish to try rooibos, the best option is to shop at brand name tea companies online. These companies tend to offer lower prices for rooibos. Natural grocery stores may also carry a better rooibos selection, and an increasing number of coffee and tea cafes have a rooibos option on the menu. So with a little searching, it isn’t hard to come by this excellent, naturally caffeine-free beverage.

By Buzzle Staff and Agencies
Published: 3/2/2011

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