Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rooibos Tea

By Jess Hodges

In our ever more health conscious modern society many people have turned to tea for it's many benefits, substituting it for coffee or fizzy drinks. Some people have gone even further, looking for ways to make their tea drinking more healthy by converting to decaf of switching to herbal teas and tisanes. One alternative to be popularized recently has been rooibos or red bush tea. A popular drink from South Africa, rooibos is full of antioxidants, has no caffeine at all and is very low in tannins.

Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the red bush plant, Aspalanthus linearis, which is native to South Africa in the Western Cape province and grows in the Cedeberg region alone.

It was brewed and drunk by the native Khoisan tribe originally and became more widely known when it was discovered by Swedish botanist Carl Humberg in 1772. In 1904 a Russian Jewish settler called Benjamin Ginsberg began to manufacture and market 'mountain tea'.

Once the most expensive vegetable seed in the world and extremely difficult to gather, the rarity of the plant and the difficulties in cultivating it meant that the rise of Rooibos tea was slow and challenging. It became gradually more well known but it wasn't until 1960 that it really took of when a South African woman called Annique Theron wrote a book extolling it's various health virtues.

Rooibos is prepared in a similar way to black tea but it should be steeped for a couple of minutes longer. Many people chose to extend the similarity by adding milk but in South Africa it is more normally enjoyed with a little honey or sugar for sweetness or a slice of lemon. Very distinctive in taste, rooibos has been described as naturally sweet and nutty or earthy. As with so many things you really do have to try it yourself to appreciate it.