The history of herbs and spices is far more ancient than that of tea. Herbal teas should not be called “teas” at all, as they are not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. They are, strictly speaking, herbal infusions, and naturally 100% caffeine-free. Many host a variety of health benefits, and some will offer a sensational gourmet experience in aromatherapy and taste. But, so many people refer to them as “herbal teas” in the states that we have jumped on that bandwagon and now do the same…
Which brings me to my all-time favorite herbal tea – RED tea, aka South African Rooibos, Bush tea (no relation to our 40th or 42nd President), and Redbush tea. Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss), is grown only in the Cedarburg mountain area outside Capetown in South Africa. Its needle-like leaves are well suited to its arid home. It is harvested manually during the summer, at which point it is still green. Oxidation is essential in order to enhance the flavor of the tea and this turns the tea leaves bright red.
Rooibos is one of today’s hottest trends in the tea industry. This faintly sweet red tea is unique because it contains health benefits while being naturally caffeine free and low in tannin, thus allowing iron absorption. Rooibos contains almost no tannins, but has many replenishing minerals including iron, potassium, copper, alpha-hydroxy and zinc. It is rich in antioxidants, the substances that combat free radicals in the body. It works as an anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergen. Rooibos tea has also been shown to soothe the body’s reaction to allergies and rashes. At an herbal store, you’ll probably find Rooibos under the name “Herbal Allergy tea” due to this natural allergy-fighting quality. Its anti-spasmodic agents can relieve stomach pains and cramps.
Rooibos tea not only acts as your personal helping hand in fighting allergies and ailments, it is also perfectly suited for growing babies, young children, active teenagers, parents and grandparents alike… My recommendation for children is to brew it hot, ice it, and blend with a bit of cranberry juice. You don’t need much cranberry juice. Being a good source of vitamins and minerals, it can be used as a natural supplement. It also makes a great thirst quencher iced.
And lastly, Rooibos is a most versatile and remarkable tea for pairing with meals. In particular for strong cuisines, such as Italian and Mexican, that don’t come from a traditional tea region, Rooibos pairs smoothly and deliciously, hot or iced. Personally, I enjoy this healthful infusion with a splash of foamed milk or cream – and it’s the first drink I go for anytime I need a calming brew. Images of The Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency (by Zimbabwean-born author Alexander McCall Smith) protagonist Precious Ramotswe, the
only female P.I. in Botswana, sharing a cup of bush tea with a friend or client while working a case, shine through and linger with me long after I’ve finished my cup of tea.