Rooibos Tea pronounced by the Afrikaans as (ROY-bos) to mean red bush, is not your ordinary cup of tea fill. It's usually marketed as a tea, but it is an herb and belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae) of plants found in South Africa. The herbal tea attributes its excellent reputation to where it traces its origin, produced and also the health benefits it contains.
What it is, where it does it grow, & how is it made?A tiny bit of history of the Rooibos tea would tell you that the tea grew widely on the slopes of Cederberg Mountains outside Cape Town for centuries. It was a typical brew and loved by the region’s indigenous people. Rooibos Tea was first discovered in 1772 by Carl Thunberg. He noticed that the people living in that area use to climb up the mountain, harvest the needle-like leaves from its wild rooibos plants and use the leaves to brew red bush tea.
The Dutch settlers of the Cape at that time then turned to rooibos tea as an alternative to black tea that was both expensive and rare in the region. However, Benjamin Ginsberg realized the economic potential of the tea and steered the growing, production, packing and selling.
It also included persuading the locals to grow the crop in their gardens as well. Gradually, the demand for the tea increased, and today it’s a firmly established product in the international market with a sale of about 3 million kilograms per year.
The Rooibos tea is a hard-dry crop that does not require any irrigation for its production because it can withstand harsh environmental conditions.
The best quality of Rooibos Tea can be found in high altitude areas where the rain is low and as such the yield is small as well. The crop is grown from the seeds collected by hand from mature Rooibos plants. The seeds are then organically plated in a nursery for about four months.
During winter when the temperatures are low, the seedling is transplanted into fields by hand or using planting machines. Typically the fields are prepared for planting in the autumn. The crop is harvested once a year by hand. The leafy plant branches are cut using sickles and then put into bundles, commonly referred to as “Gerwe” by the Afrikaans, and then they are transported to the tea processing plants.
Once in the factory, the bundles are fed into cutting machines where they are cut into uniform lengths usually between 1mm to 5mm. At this point they are still wet, then put in long low heaps to “sweat.” Sweat is hereby meaning; the tea is left to ferment through enzymatic oxidation. This process turns the crop from green to a red amber color. Once fermented, the yield is then placed in low heaps and dried in the sun. The entire process of cutting, fermenting and drying is completed in 24hours and packaged as preferred by the tea court.
There is also the green Rooibos tea which unlike the red Rooibos tea which is not fermented but instead dried immediately after cutting. The produced tea undergo evaluation to determine taste, flavor, and color for grading. The grading system will be inform of superior, choice and standard levels. After grading, the tea is sifted and cleaned to remove dust and any foreign particles present. Finally, the product gets stored ready for sale.
Preparing a perfect cup of Rooibos TeaThe secret to the best Rooibos tea may have to do with the boiled water.
1. Preferable water to use is either spring or filtered water because it brings out the pure taste and intense flavor of the tea leaves as opposed to distilled water. Boil your water to about 100 degrees. Rooibos tea tastes best at the very high-temperature water.
2. Before pouring in your water, place your tea bag or loose leaves in the teapot. The number of tea bags or amount of loose leaves will depend on how strong you like your tea. Then pour in the boiling water. For the tea leaves, ensure to use a good strainer.
3. You can then take your Rooibos tea black, or you can add sweeteners and creamers such as honey, hot/cold milk, lemon or sugar.
When Steeping, let the tea steep for about five to ten minutes to allow the release of nutrients and anti-oxidants from the Rooibos leaves. The best thing about Rooibos tea is that it does not get bitter. You can also use Rooibos tea in baking, punches, cocktails, soft drinks and health purposes.
How does Rooibos tea benefit your health?
The Rooibos tea is not just a warm luxury for a cold night but also a natural medicinal herb that is capable of treating several maladies.
Heart and Diabetes healthRooibos tea contains both Quercetin and Aspalathin, enriched with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help neutralize the impairment effects of free radicals on body cells thus helping to reduce the risks of cancer and heart problems.
The leaves contain Chrysoeriol which helps to lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation and also manage cholesterol levels in the body.
The Aspalathin and Nothofagin compounds present in the crop have a significant impact on inflammation which helps to improve the vascular system. The Aspalathin protect the heart against oxidation and ischemia. Thus helps in the treatment of diabetes and related heart diseases.
Anti-cancer propertiesThe Quercetin compound helps inhibit the cell mutilation process which in turn suppresses the growth of malignant tumors. Moreover, it boosts the production of antibodies that are essential in the prevention and healing processes of cancer and also preventing allergic reactions.
DigestionThe tea has the ability to alleviating digestive problems such as abdominal pain and diarrhea due to its anti-spasmodic properties.
Weight LossRooibos tea boosts the secretion of Leptin which helps promote a feeling of satiety and consequently controlling binge cravings. Furthermore, it inhibits the production of new fat cells and also increases body metabolism (burning of existing fats).
Bone HealthIt raises osteoblast activity that further increased bone strength, density, and health. Its Orientin and Luteolin compounds help increase mineral content in the bones.
Helps maintain skin and hairThe leaves possess Alpha-Hydroxy acid which assists in slowing down the formation of wrinkles and even strengthen hair follicles by protecting it from damages.
What is unique about Rooibos Tea?Compared to most teas primarily green and black tea:
• It does not contain any caffeine
• It has low levels of tannin
• It does not contain oxalic acid which is known to increase the risks of getting kidney stones, and this makes it a good fit for persons with kidney issues
• It has many great health benefits!