The smell and taste of rooibos tea, redbush or red tea is something you’ll either love or hate. Rooibos tea indeed has a unique taste, but is well-known for its many health benefits.
As far as I know the Cederberg in the Western Cape, South Africa, is the only place in the world where the rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis) grows and is harvested to produce rooibos tea.
Many years ago the indigenous Bushmen of the area would climb the Cederberg mountains to harvest the leaves (fine needle-like leaves) of the Aspalathus linearis plant. They would then roll the bunches of leaves into hessian bags. They would bring the bags down the mountains where they would chop and bruise the fine stems and leaves before leaving it in heaps to ferment. After the fermentation the leaves would be left out in the sun to dry to create rooibos tea leaves. These days the process, although similar, has been modernised.
A businessman, Benjamin Ginsberg, established the commercialisation of rooibos tea. Ginsberg descended from a family who had been in the tea industry in Europe for centuries which provided him with a solid background to market this new ‘mountain tea’ or rooibos tea. A doctor and nature lover, Dr Le Fras Nortier, together with a commercial farmer, Oloff Bergh, researched the benefits of rooibos tea. They developed new cultivation methods and soon rooibos was produced on a much larger scale.
The Irish are originally a tea drinking nation. When we arrived more than 20 years ago you could only find black tea like Barry’s or Lyons in the supermarkets, with your token green tea for the healthy folk out there. Rooibos tea was only available in health shops at exorbitant prices! But if you look at the isles in the supermarkets where tea is sold nowadays, it is all a bit overwhelming. There are so many different types of herbal tea to choose from. Teas with promises to help with the digestive system to guarantees of a full night sleep. And presently between all those teas you will also find rooibos tea.
Although I’m from the Netherlands originally, I grew up in South Africa. So, I grew up with rooibos tea. I have to admit that as a child I didn’t like it all that much. As I said before an acquired taste. Possibly because I drank it with milk and sugar. I started enjoying the taste when my clever mom started making ice tea using rooibos.
Benefits of rooibos tea:
- Rooibos tea is caffeine free and high in anti-oxidants.
- Because it is caffeine free it can help with insomnia, irritability and more.
- Rooibos can help with stomach and indigestion problems.
- Rooibos has a soothing effect on mild skin irritations like eczema and nappy rash.
- During summer months rooibos makes a delicious ice tea. Just add some lemons and sugar and serve ice-cold.
- Apparently it can give dark hair a lovely gleam when rinsing it with rooibos tea.
- For a stewed fruit dish soak the fruit overnight in rooibos tea. The taste is really enhanced and apparently no extra sugar is then needed.
To me rooibos has a very earthy taste. The best way to drink it is to boil the tea on the stove for a few minutes. This intensifies the taste even more. Some people add milk or lemon, honey or sugar, which is all very personal. For me just black is perfect.