Today I’ve decided to take you back.
My earliest tea memories are of Rooibos. Not so much drinking it but having to make it for every guest who stepped into our home, while growing up. The aroma alone makes me smile.
For many of us, the word “TEA” evokes clear, often strong associations and fond memories. This is evident in the humorous feedback I receive from regular readers who share their “tea” stories. I thoroughly enjoy reading and certainly relate to the love-hate relationship expressed. Ever wondered why elders make a cup of Rooibos for every occasion, whether sad or happy? Before breaking bad news we start with pulling out a chair and making a pot of tea. When announcing a pregnancy or marriage proposal, it always starts with boiling the kettle for a pot of tea. Who doesn’t love a hot cup of Rooibos? I start most days with rooibos and then after that I move on to other types of tea to enjoy throughout the day.
What is Rooibos?
More than 300 years ago, local inhabitants of the mountainous Cederberg region of Western Cape, South Africa were the first to discover the needle-like Rooibos leaves. The word ‘Rooibos’ is the Afrikaans word for ‘red bush.’ The Red Bush (Aspalanthus linearis), which grows only in the Cedarberg Mountain, is a member of the legume (pea) family. Its needle-like leaves are harvested to make Rooibos. If you wondering what the bush looks like-think of the bottom of the broom…Rooibos leaves look like those soft brushes before being processed. The harvested bush leaves are bruised and then left to oxidise for several hours (this is when Rooibos develops its deep amber colour, sweet fragrance, and unique taste) before being spread in thin layers in the hot African sun and left to dry. Then, final sorting, grading, and packaging takes place.
It is common to see Rooibos consumed as tea but is it tea? Please allow me to be scientific just for the purpose of this blog. Rooibos is actually a herbal infusion and is not classified as tea. Rooibos is not TEA? Technically it’s not. The word TEA refers to the beverage that is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinesis plant. All forms of the “true” teas – black, green, white and oolong come from this plant. Rooibos, as mentioned above comes from bushy legume called Aspalathus Linearis. Why do we call it tea? We casually call it tea because we brew/prepare it in the same way we brew tea leaves.
Of all “teas” Rooibos has a lovely colour and natural aroma. We have been enjoying this national beverage for millennia. It can be enjoyed hot or iced, on its own or with milk, sugar, lemon and honey. We at The Tea Merchant have more than 15 delightful blends and flavours of Rooibos. You can enjoy this refreshing beverage all day long with no possible side effects.
What are the health benefits?
Rooibos is one of the best health drinks or beverages for those who care about their health and fitness. The health benefits of rooibos are abundant. Some of the beneficial factors that have been positively correlated with rooibos are listed below:
No Caffeine: Rooibos is completely caffeine-free, therefore it is suitable for babies, pregnant women and older people alike. Caffeine dependency is the most common addiction throughout the world, but people don’t realise the dangers that it can pose. Rooibos gives you the energy and health benefits without the dangerously addictive substance and because it is caffeine free, Rooibos has none of the usual caffeine side effects (such as irritability, insomnia, and anxiety).
Nutritional Value: Rooibos has no oxalic acid. Moreover, Rooibos contains minerals and is low in tannin. It is rich in minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid. Flavones are the strongest anti-oxidants in Rooibos and is essential for the complete absorption of vitamin C.
Hypertension: You know that calming feeling you receive after drinking a cup of Rooibos? Well, it’s not in your head. Rooibos is known to relieve stress, nervous tension and hypertensive conditions. Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure, and rooibos tea is known as a bronchodilator, which not only relieves respiratory conditions, but generally reduces blood pressure.
Good for Skin: Next time you go to your retailer or pharmacy observe how many soaps, hand creams and beauty products are infused or blended with Rooibos. The alpha hydroxy acid and zinc content of Rooibos are very good for the skin. You can also try applying some Rooibos directly to the skin to relieve acne, pimples, sunburns or related skin conditions. The antioxidants present in rooibos slow down the human ageing process and they also boost the strength of the immune system. Antioxidants seek out the free radicals that damage skin, hair, bones, and other organ systems by making them vulnerable to disease and degeneration. Rooibos is one of the most potent beverages in terms of antioxidant content.
Infant Health: After 6 months, babies generally start enjoying more beverages and solids. Rooibos can be useful for small children who suffer from colic or stomach pains. This is actually what first began rooibos as a well-known health aid. There are numerous studies wherein South African women claimed that Rooibos was very soothing for their colicky infant. The exact mechanism by which it soothes colic and stomach pain is unknown, but the general anti-inflammatory properties of the herb are most likely responsible.
What is Green Rooibos?
This is not Green tea mixed with Rooibos. Green Rooibos comes from the same plant as the popular “Red Rooibos” – it is actually nothing else than the un-oxidised (unfermented) form of Red Rooibos.
Green Rooibos was developed in 1995 by the Agricultural Research Council (Infruitec) in South Africa. Green Rooibos is handpicked in the summer, and then immediately allowed to dry without exposing it to the sun. Green Rooibos has the same health claims as Rooibos, yet, since it is un-oxidised, some of the benefits are increased as much as 30 to 40 times! Green Rooibos is basically Rooibos on steroids …
A few words of caution: Despite all of these health benefits of rooibos, there can be a downside for some people. It should be used as a preventative measure for these conditions, not a cure. Again, make sure you speak to your doctor before adding any new dietary elements or beverages to your normal routine or diet.
Other than that, I hope this blog has made you eager to enjoy more Rooibos.
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Love & Tea