I have heard a lot about rooibos, but until today I have not tasted it. It is a popular drink from South Africa. Made from an indigenous shrub growing only in the mountainous area close to the Western Cape, rooibos has been used by locals for a long time. Its trade only started in 1904. I was not sure why it was a favourite drink, and today I established that possibly not due to its taste which is not bad, but nothing special really.
Rooibos offers some distinctive health benefits. According to this resource, rooibos tea contains compounds that may prevent tumour growth and slow ageing based on lab studies conducted in animals. Rooibos can modulate immune function, exhibit anti-inflammatory effects, and prevent oxidative stress. However, there are also possible side effects of consuming large quantities of rooibos. For instance, studies with rats suggest that prolonged exposure to rooibos may affect the reproductive system, impair fertility, or affect liver and kidney function. Also, in humans, a few cases of liver toxicity with long-term use have been reported.
Rooibos means ‘red bush’ in Afrikaans. The plant itself provides green needle-like leaves which are sun-dried after being cut. This turns the colour to deep red. Green rooibos is also available although rare hence more expensive. It is processed by exposing the freshly picked leaves to a heating process which stops the oxidation, and the leaves can retain their original colour. Very similar to green tea processing. It is said to taste grassier than red rooibos and involve more antioxidants.
Opuwari CS, Monsees TK. In vivo effects of Aspalathus linearis (rooibos) on male rat reproductive functions. Andrologia. 2014 Oct;46(8):867-77.
Origin: South Africa
Harvest time: 2020
Leave colour: Shades of dark orange and red
Liquor colour: Bright red
Tea aroma: Earthy and woody
Tea taste: Mellow with woody and fruity undernotes and a kick of tartness
Steeping/brewing: Put 1.5 tea spoons of rooibos in boiled water (200 ml) and brew for up to two minutes in gongfu style or up to five minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves a couple of times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Unsure but possibly up to 24 months