“Red tea” – a tea made from the rooibos bush in South Africa – is different from any tea you’ve ever tasted. The term “rooibos” (pronounced “roy-bos”) is Afrikaans for “red bush” and has an etymology that is Dutch in origin. Red tea is not made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, nor does it taste like green or black tea. Although some people like it for its mild flavor, others commend rooibos for its almost citrusy taste. As the name “red tea” suggests, rooibos has an earthy, reddish-brown color that becomes vivid and fiery when added to hot water.
Why does rooibos taste so different? In addition to not being from the tea plant, red tea is low in tannin levels, making it less astringent than some black teas. In fact, when the Dutch colonized South Africa, settlers drank rooibos as an alternative to costly black tea. In addition to its powerful taste, rooibos’ low cost couldn’t have been the only reason why it has become so popular and widely known throughout the globe. In fact, rooibos is celebrated in many contexts and has been even made into “rooibos espresso” at a few locations. Still, true rooibos is produced only in the Western Cape Province in the southwest region of South Africa.
Rooibos has medical uses as well. For instance, rooibos has been known to alleviate digestive problems, allergies, asthma, and skin problems. Moreover, rooibos has been used to lessen the symptoms of colic in infants in South Africa. Like many other types of tea from the Camellia sinensis plant, red tea can help people with stomach problems and viruses. Similar to green and white tea, rooibos has a large number of antioxidants and flavanols.
So, if you are in the market for a little variety, why not try some rooibos!