rooibosWhile nothing compares to a delicious pot of true tea, rooibos holds a special place in my heart. Rooibos (aka redbush or rooibush), is a plant indigenous to South Africa. During World War II, when tea was in short supply, people in the United Kingdom began to drink rooibos instead.

(More recently, rooibos has gained recognition as the favorite beverage of Precious Ramotswe, protagonist of The No 1Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.)

The “Red Tea” Confusion

Because of its color, Rooibos is sometimes called “red tea” in the United States, even though rooibos is not a true tea, but an herbal tisane. Even more confusing is that “red tea” (or “hong cha”) is how the Chinese refer to what we know as “black” tea.

(If you are confused about whether you are buying a rooibos or a true tea, ask a salesperson or read the package label carefully.)

Things I Like About Rooibos

• Like tea, rooibos absorbs other scents and flavors well, making it a great base for all sorts of flavored tisanes.
• Rooibos has a natural sweetness of it is own which reduces, or eliminates, the need for additional sweetening, particularly when rooibos is blended with naturally sweet herbs, fruits, and spices.
• Rooibos is low in tannin, making it a great option for those with sensitive digestive systems.
• Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free, so you can drink it all night if you wish!
• Rooibos does not get bitter with long steeping. In fact, the flavor seems to deepen and improve after a long steep. This is particularly true when the rooibos has been blended with fruits, spices, cacao nibs, and/or nuts.
• Rooibos is best prepared with boiling water, so you don’t have to worry about water temperature.
• Rooibos does not “unfurl” like true tea leaves, so it can be infused in a tea bag or tea ball if you wish.

If you have never tried rooibos, I encourage you to do so. And stop back here to let us know what you think!

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