Rooibos, or red tea, is a mineral-rich, caffeine-free beverage derived from a hardy, shrub-like plant native to South Africa. The indigenous tribes of the Cedarberg mountains of the Western Cape of South Africa have known of the health-supporting and refreshing qualities of this red tea for centuries. It has been traditionally used to help with insomnia, headaches and stomach disorders such as nausea, vomiting and ulcers.
Rooibos Health Properties
Several studies conducted in South Africa and Japan have provided support for the health-promoting properties of rooibos. The herb contains a high level of anti-oxidants, which have been demonstrated to counter the damaging effects of free radicals. Additionally, Rooibos has anti-allergy effects, making it useful for the treatment of skin irritations such as itchy skin, eczema, rashes and sunburn. Note: Please consult with your physician before taking any herbs for the treatment of a medical condition.
Rooibos Cultivation and Harvesting
The basic method of rooibos production has remained largely unchanged from the process used by African mountain dwellers centuries ago. Rooibos requires a sandy, acidic soil and sparse but consistent rainfall. Farmers plant seeds in February and March and then transfer the seedlings to plantations. It takes 18 months before the shrubs are ready to be harvested. The plants are harvested once each year, from December through April. After the plants are gathered, they are chopped with a sickle and the stems are bruised. The tea is then spread out and allowed to oxidize to achieve its characteristic red color, before being dried and packaged. Additionally, many farmers also produce green rooibos, which is a non-oxidized version of rooibos that has a lighter, fruitier flavor.
Brewing and Using Rooibos
Rooibos is one of the few herbs that mimic the flavor profile of black tea. It is very easy to prepare and doesn't grow bitter with extended steeping. Brew the tea using boiling water and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. It also makes delicious iced tea. Rooibos is quite versatile and can be used as a recipe ingredient.