Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), often called Redbush Tea, is technically not a tea since it is not derived from the tea plant , Camelia sinensis. This small shrub with soft needle-shaped leaves is found only in the Cedarberg mountains in the western part of South Africa near the Cape of Good Hope.
The leaves areÂ harvested in the summer, which corresponds to January through March in South Africa.Â The processing takes mostly place outdoors where the leavesÂ are spread out , watered down, raked into heaps and then left to “sweat”. During this process, the leaves change to the typical reddish brown color and obtain the sweet flavor, Rooibos is known for.Â After the sweating process is completed, the leaves are spread out again and left to dry in the sun. Before packaging, then now finished leaves are cleaned and graded into different quality standards.
Much like green tea, Rooibos offers many health promoting qualities. It has similar beneficial antioxidant properties as tea, but without the tannins or the caffeine. It is also contains minerals, such as iron, potassium and zinc. In Africa, Rooibos has been used and recommended to treat insomnia, upset stomachs and colic in infants. Rooibos also helps lactating mothers to increase milk production. Topically, it can be used as a moisturizer and has shown to be effective in soothing eczema and similar skin disorders.Â
How does Rooibos taste? Slightly sweet with woody and earthy undertones. While it is not necessary to sweeten it, addingÂ a little honey or raw sugar can complement the natural flavor. Rooibos is one of the few herbals thatÂ pairs well with milk.
To make an infusion, use 1 heaping teaspoon of Rooibos in 6 oz of boiling water. Steep for 5-8 minutes. (but even if you forget the time, like I often do, Rooibos is very forgiving and will never turn bitter if over-steeped!
By the way, kids love the mellow taste of Rooibos, especially in combination with a berry or tropical fruit flavor. Iced it is a much better choice than soda or juice for kids of all ages!
Give it a try….