The origins of our Organic Rooibos South African herbal tea
Grown in South Africa, our Organic Rooibos loose-leaf tea is a full-bodied infusion with tangy, sweet notes that make it an ideal alternative breakfast tea. Despite its dark orange colour and caramel aroma, this healthy tea is low in tannins and is naturally caffeine free, so it can also be enjoyed by the entire family, and drunk late in the evening as a soothing bedtime brew.
With its rich flavour, velvety mouthfeel and creamy finish, our Organic Rooibos tea is delicious on its own, although some people do like to add a splash of milk, a slice of lemon or a little honey to taste. Characterised by deep reddish-brown, needle-like leaves, this rooibos – 'red bush' in Afrikaans – is produced to the highest organic standards in the Western Cape, with the leaves lightly oxidised to enhance the tea's natural earthy, nutty qualities.
What is rooibos tea?
Technically not a tea but a herbal tisane, rooibos is unique to South Africa, harvested from the leaves of the endemic Aspalathus linearis bush – totally unrelated to the Camellia sinensis plants used for traditional teas.
While there's some evidence of the indigenous Khoi and San peoples of South Africa utilising rooibos bushes for thousands of years, it was first recorded as being fermented, brewed and drunk as a tea by 18th-century European settlers. Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg identified it in 1772, and in 1904 Russian immigrant Benjamin Ginsberg started trading what was then referred to as 'mountain tea' – after its natural home in the rugged Cederberg region of the country's south-west.
By the 1930s, commercial production had begun, and in the 1960s the tea's health-boosting properties began to be widely recognised, largely due to their promotion by Annique Theron, who used rooibos to help treat her sick child. Today, rooibos is known around the world, and no self-respecting South African would be without a caddy in their kitchen.
Despite being exported on a global scale, the method used to produce rooibos has changed little since the early days. The branches bearing the needle-like leaves are cut by hand, then bruised, sprayed with water and left in piles to ferment. As the leaves oxidise, turning them from green to the famous red colour, they are spread out under the hot sun to dry before being collected up for grading and processing.
The health benefits of rooibos
Rooibos is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and several antioxidants, including aspalathin – which research shows may help balance blood sugar and therefore reduce the impact of diseases such as diabetes. Other antioxidants found in rooibos, such as quercetin and luteolin, have been associated with helping to prevent tumour growth, while its flavonoid content may help reduce the 'bad' LDL cholesterol associated with heart disease. In addition, rooibos has been linked with anti-inflammatory properties and improved digestion, bone and skin health. Plus, as a certified organic tea, our rooibos is free from harmful pesticides and other chemicals, so you can enjoy a cup knowing that all you're drinking is goodness.
Alternatives to rooibos
For a sweeter take on this South African staple, try our Organic Vanilla Rooibos, made with natural vanilla pieces and equally full of goodness. Alternatively, our Eden Bliss herbal tea blends rooibos with honeybush leaves – another South African favourite – along with flowers and fruit for a delicate, refreshing infusion. African honeybush meets Indian spice in our warming Chai of Madagascar, and while we're on a more wintry theme, check out our Turmeric Spice herbal tea blend – a light, a nutritionally rich infusion perfect for giving your body a boost through the colder months. Alternatively, for those who wish to experiment with this already delicious tea, try producing this loose leaf as an iced tea.
Discover the full range of The Tea Makers of London herbal teas in our Tea Shop.