While I definitely prefer true teas made from the Camellia Sinensis plant, I also enjoy other infusions made from various herbs, spices and fruits. Since tea has caffeine, I have to limit how much I drink during the day and typically don’t drink it at all in the evenings. So when I can’t drink tea, I switch to “tisanes,” the tea industry designation for what are sometimes called “herbal teas.” While I enjoy many different single herb and blended tisanes (also called “infusions”), my favorite remains rooibos.
I’ve written about rooibos in the past: Grown in South Africa, rooibos is famed for its anti-oxidant content and tummy-taming qualities. Many people also appreciate its natural sweetness, which makes it an excellent base for various flavored tisane blends. While it doesn’t really taste that much like true tea (it lacks the astringency of the real thing), it can nonetheless brew up to a rich, hearty liquor that can be quite comforting as an evening beverage. It’s my standard remedy for a stomachache and a handy sore-throat soother when I can’t handle any more caffeine.
Unfortunately, some tea companies don’t pay as much attention to their rooibos offerings as they do their teas, and the results can be unpleasant. Poor-quality rooibos has an unpleasant quality that I can only describe as “skunky”. It also lacks the sweetness that characterizes a good rooibos.
On the other hand, quality rooibos can be really superb, particularly when properly blended with complimentary flavors, such as almond, lemon, or even chocolate. The flavor of a good rooibos can resemble that of a liqueur, only you can drink as much rooibos as you like without getting tipsy. Be sure to let a rooibos blend steep for at least 5 to 8 minutes, unless the blend contains hibiscus, which can sometimes overwhelm other flavors if allowed to steep too long.
Some tea companies combine rooibos and true tea in their blends. For example, a rooibos/tea blend can work very well in chai, as well as in lower caffeine “afternoon” blends. Home tea blenders may also want to try getting some plain rooibos and blending it with favorite teas to both cut caffeine and develop new flavors.
What do you think of rooibos?
Good, bad, or indifferent, your thoughts on rooibos are welcome here!
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.