Pronounced roy-bos, is Afrikaans for “red bush”. Growing exclusively in South Africa, rooibos provides a delicious non-caffeinated alternative to traditional teas. Rooibos, Aspalathus linearis, not being a true “tea” because it does not come from the “tea” plant, however, it is sometimes (and inaccurately ) called red tea. Not to be confused with red honeybush, which will be covered in a later entry.
Rooibos has a very high level of antioxidants and is said to have various curative properties; I find it soothing before bed as it is a subtly sweet and delicate with a faintly minty aroma.
Most popularly found in its’ oxidized state (red) it is actually green when picked. Green rooibos is far less popular with a very mild flavor reminiscent of grass or hay. The freshly harvested needle-like leaves are cut and then lightly bruised to initiate oxidation then quickly fired just as most green teas. This process is usually referred to as fermentation however, this is completely inaccurate–there is no actual fermentation taking place, only oxidation. Nevertheless, the result is the light red-amber tisane you will quickly fall in love with as soon as you try it!
Rather tolerant of various temperatures, I suggest starting with filtered water at 190-200F and steeping 4-6 minutes. The flavor is rather delicate, so you need not worry about over-steeping, as it will only become slightly more concentrated without becoming bitter or astringent. Rooibos also blends extremely well (be creative): add a peel of orange or tangerine or dried cranberry to add a subtle tangy tartness; or add steamed milk and vanilla syrup for a tasty treat.