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Rooibos Tea

Rooibos – the Caffeine-Free Alternative

Wuppertal, Clanwilliam and Citrusdal are small towns in South Africa that one might not have ever heard of before. Yet, here between these unknown places, amidst the Cederberg mountains, and only here it is at home: the red bush – as rooibos means in English.
Its needle-shaped leaves could very well compete with tea if they contained caffeine. But they don’t. And therefore rooibos is the caffeine-free alternative. In respect of colour and flavour however it is quite close to black or green tea. Black and green? That’s right. Just like normal tea rooibos can be brewed with fermented dark or non-fermented green leaves.
In order to obtain these, the harvest has to be bundled loosely and dried – what the South African sun does within the blink of an eye. The fermentation on the other hand requires that the farmers press and water the material before they spread it over a wide area to dry it. Hereby it develops a strong flavour but also looses valuable ingredients. Harvest season is from December to April.

Late Bloomer Goes Trendy

In Middle an Western Europe rooibos tea had not became popular until the nineties. And then it was the fermented red brown variation rather than the green one. Quite late, considering that already in 1772 the Swedish natural scientist Carl Peter Thunberg reported on that plant serving the native Khoisan as medicinal herb. The reason for this delay: It was only at the beginning of the 20th century, that a Russian tea merchant struck on the idea to bring rooibos to market – first mainly in South Africa. Moreover, for many years aspalathus linearis (as botanists call the red bush) could only be harvested from wild grown plants, which lead to supply shortages. The situation improved in the 1930s when South African farmers contrived ways and means to grow rooibos on fields.

What’s inside Rooibos?

It is not quite clear who or what that bush owes its name to. To the reddish colour of the leaves when they are fermented? To the red brown of the young branches that totally gets lost under the leaves and blossoms? We don’t know. But who cares? Much more important is what’s inside rooibos, and that’s a lot. It is not for nothing that it plays a big roll in everyday life of the South African people. They don’t only drink rooibos, but also use it for cooking, baking, colouring and as a cure.
Rooibos tea is regarded as a healthy beverage. Without any caffeine and with only a few tannins it is wholesome for pregnant women, hypertensive persons and infants ( Furthermore it contains vitamin C and trace elements, especially potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium ( It is also stated that rooibos tea has a relaxing effect on the intestine and calms nervous children. This be attributed to certain plant compounds, so called flavonoids. Who knows, maybe it is worth trying rooibos before Ritalin. Whoever seriously wants to contribute to this subject, feel free to do so: (