Rooibos Tea

Rooibos, and the closely related honeybush, are popular teas made from the shrubs Aspalathus linearis and Cyclopia spp., respectively. Therefore, technically speaking, rooibos and honeybush are not tea, as they do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, they fall into the product category of tea and are widely consumed herbal tea. In North America, rooibos and honeybush are often referred to by one name - rooibos.

The two types of rooibos tea, red and green, come from the Aspalathus linearis plant. It is only how they are processed that differentiates them: red rooibos is oxidized, while green rooibos is not.

Honeybush is closely related to rooibos; the main difference is nuances in taste, although many tea drinkers find them similar. Rooibos has a naturally sweet and slightly nutty flavour, while honeybush has wood and honey flavour notes. Honeybush has a fuller, sweeter taste than rooibos.

Both rooibos and honeybush are indigenous to South Africa and are rich in polyphenols. The consumption of rooibos and honeybush is associated with numerous health benefits (Orlando, 2019). 

Overview.

The first section of this article briefly highlights the flavour, preparation, and health benefits of yerba mate tea, and the second section consists of my recommendations for yerba mate products. The third section is a comprehensive discussion of yerba mate tea, including its origin, history and specific health benefits. The fourth and final section summarizes this article’s key points.

Flavour, Preparation, and Health Benefits of Rooibos.

Flavour Profile of Rooibos.

Red rooibos has a very smooth, creamy taste with a natural sweetness and a slightly nutty flavouring. When you steep rooibos for an extended period, the flavour becomes full-bodied and rich. Green rooibos has a softer milder taste, with the faintest hint of grass flavours. The main difference is taste because the green rooibos is unoxidized. While rooibos tastes excellent on its own, it's smooth, mildly sweet taste makes it a phenomenal base for blends.

How To Correctly Brew Rooibos.

Rooibos tea should be made with boiled water that is 95 °C (200 °F ) and steeped for four to five minutes. Rooibos tea is frequently consumed straight. However, it is not uncommon to pair rooibos with a dash of cream or a wedge of lemon. It can be served hot, cold or used in a latte.

Health Benefits of Rooibos.

Rooibos is caffeine-free, low in tannins and high in antioxidants - all features considered beneficial for health by many tea drinkers. Drinking rooibos may also have other health benefits such as improving heart health, reducing the risk of cancer and helping with type 2 diabetes management.

Tea Recommendations and Personal Thoughts.

Mackenzie Bailey

Founder of The Tea Tribe

My top two favourite rooibos teas are Carrot Cake from Bird & Blend and Alpine Punch from DavidsTea.

Carrot Cake is divine, and words fall short of doing it justice. Imagine cinnamon, caramelized hazelnut, vanilla, carrot flakes, nutmeg, mallow flowers and magic all coming together in the best way possible. It's creamy and sweet without being overpowering.

Alpine Punch is a tried-and-true staple and delicious. The blend contains coconut, almonds, apples, cinnamon, and rose. Moreover, I'm not the only one who is obsessed - Alpine Punch is the most highly rated rooibos tea on Steepster.

A sentimental favourite of mine is my personal 'Ben Tea,' acquired during my brief period in South Africa. This tea has a story, and with enough comments, I may share it. In the future, I would like to try Spiced Winter Red Tea from teapigs, and Caramel & Rum from Lupicia.

A Comprehensive Discussion of Rooibos.

Where Rooibos is Grown.  

Rooibos grows in the small mountainous area of Cederberg in South Africa's Western Cape province (Rooibos, Wikipedia, 2019). The altitude, rocky terrain and dry climate result in a scarcity of arable land, so the area depends on rooibos tea, guest farms, and a few other crops for its survival (Cederberg, Wikipedia, 2019).

Some scientists voice concern that with climate change causing rising temperatures and increasingly scarce rainfall, rooibos survival may be under threat. There is a concern that within a century, the red bush plant may be extinct (Rooibos, Wikipedia, 2019).

Health Benefits of Rooibos.

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) has grown popular in recent decades, mainly for its great taste as well as its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects (Smith, 2018). Drinking rooibos tea may also lead to benefits like better sperm (Ros-Santaella, 2017), bone and heart health (Moosa, 2018), reduced risk of cancer and improved type 2 diabetes management.

Caffeine Free. 

For those looking for a caffeine-free tea suitable to drink before bed or while pregnant, rooibos is an excellent option. 

Low Concentration of Tannins.

Rooibos is also low in tannins, a natural compound found in black tea, green tea and red wine. Tannins can interfere with the body's ability to store iron, mainly plant-based iron. Therefore, drinking rooibos tea may be a positive health practice for those with low iron levels. 

High In Antioxidants. 

Both red and green rooibos contains antioxidants (Canda, 2014), with green rooibos providing more than its red counterpart. In one small study, the antioxidant levels in the subject's bloodstream increased by 2.9% when participants consumed red rooibos, and 6.6% when they drank green rooibos (Villaño, 2010).

Quercetin and aspalathin, two essential antioxidants, are also contained in rooibos tea. Quercetin is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties (Kreuz, 2008), and has been linked to decreasing inflammation, killing cancer cells, controlling blood sugar, and helping to prevent heart disease.

Aspalathin is the most abundant flavonoid in rooibos but is the least understood. However, one study showed aspalathin had antioxidative and antimutagenic effects (Kreuz, 2008). A mutagen is an agent that can change the DNA, increasing the frequency of mutations: rooibos tea's antimutagenic effects counters the mutagens.

Diseases like cancer are caused by a gene mutation that causes rapid cancer cell growth in infected areas. While not yet conclusively proven by science, drinking rooibos may have long-term health benefits by helping to prevent mutation-based diseases.

Improves Heart Health. 

Drinking rooibos tea may improve blood pressure by inhibiting angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) (Hertog, 1993), which causes blood pressure to rise by constricting blood vessels. Studies have shown that rooibos tea can inhibit ACE for 30-60 minutes after consumption (Persson, 2009).

There is also some evidence that shows rooibos tea can improve cholesterol levels. One relatively recent study found that drinking rooibos can cause an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and a decrease in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) (Marnewick, 2011).

Reduces Risk of Cancer.

Studies conducted in test tubes found that quercetin and luteolin, both present in rooibos tea, can prevent tumour growth and kill cancer cells (Miturski, 2000)(Mouria, 2002). Although the concentration of both these compounds is relatively low in rooibos, it may afford drinkers an added layer of protection against cancer.

Helps Regulate Type 2 Diabetes. 

Perhaps the most powerful (and extensively studied) benefit of rooibos tea is its ability to help manage type 2 diabetes (Ajuwon, 2018)(Sasaki, 2018). Green rooibos may be particularly useful in counteracting hyperglycemia, oxidative stress and dyslipidemia - three factors which are common preconditions of type 2 diabetes (Orlando, 2019). Red rooibos has also been shown to be beneficial in healing early diabetic wounds (Pringle, 2019).

Rooibos is the only natural known source of the antioxidant aspalathin. A few studies suggest that aspalathin may have anti-diabetic effects (Son, 2012), and one study showed that aspalathin balanced blood sugar levels and lowered insulin resistance. Both may benefit individuals who have or are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (Kawano, 2009). 

Summary.

Rooibos comes from the Aspalathus linearis species, a plant native to a small region of South Africa. While rooibos is not technically tea, we accept it as part of the tea product category. Rooibos is a popular herbal tea and comes in two varieties, red and green.

When you prepare rooibos, use water that is 95 °C (200 °F ) and steep it for four to five minutes. The flavour is smooth, creamy and a little sweet. It gets more full-bodied the longer you steep it.

Drinking rooibos may improve heart health, reduce the risk of cancer and help with type 2 diabetes management.

Share your favourite rooibos blends in the comments below.