When the days are short and the nights are cold, why not curl up in front of the fire with a steaming cup of rooibos?
A cup of what?
If you are not familiar with rooibos, maybe the words “red tea” are less intimidating, though technically rooibos is not a tea. It’s a member of the legume family that grows in South Africa. Rooibos, pronounced “roy-boss” translates to “red bush.”
The leaves and twigs of rooibos are harvested in and cut into small pieces. The pieces are bruised between rollers, allowed to “sweat” in piles, and then sun-dried. This oxidization process turns the leaves a red-orange color and the sun-dried product is used to make a reddish tea.
If the oxidation is skipped, the result is a milder-tasting green rooibos.
The mild fruity flavor of red rooibos makes it drinkable alone, but has also made it a popular ingredient in herbal tea blends. Tea sellers offer rooibos chai with spices added to it, as well as a variety of fruit blends that combine rooibos with flavors like orange, blueberry, lemon and peach.
Rooibos is brewed just like black tea, by pouring boiling water over it and steeping for 3 to 5 minutes. It can be served either as a hot beverage or as an iced tea.
But aside from an appealing flavor why should we be drinking rooibos?
Health claims abound about rooibos, the main one being that it is rich in antioxidants like other teas, but low in tannins, which in some other teas can cause a bitter astringent taste and stomach discomfort.
Rooibos has traditionally been used in South Africa to treat babies with colic and adults with upset stomachs.
Because it is rich in antioxidants, it is claimed that rooibos can prevent cardiovascular disease. Claims have also been made about its ability to protect against cancers. Rooibos has been suggested as a treatment for respiratory disorders and some have claimed that rooibos can also help with allergies, eczema, and other ailments. It has even been said to slow aging.
While most of the health claims made for rooibos have not been verified by scientific research, there is no evidence that it has any harmful effects. And the fact that, unlike other teas, it is completely caffeine free makes rooibos a lovely thing to sip by the fire in the evening.