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Rooibos, Herbal South African Tea

Rooibos, pronounced roy-boss, is made from a shrub grown on the western coast of South Africa. Naturally free of caffeine and high in antioxidants, this herbal tea is gaining popularity around the world.

What is rooibos?

Rooibos, also known as red tea or red bush tea, comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant uniquely grown in a specific region of South Africa. The needle-like leaves are harvested from the plant that only grows in the Cederberg Mountains. In this specific region, known as the Fynbos Biome, the soil is sandy and well-drained. Attempts have been made to grow the plant elsewhere, but thus far, it is uniquely adapted to this specific region.

Though commonly referred to as "tea", this plant is not related to the Camillia sinensis tea plant. The flavor of the brew may be described as woody, slightly nutty with a lightly sweet finish.

Varieties of rooibos

Much like tea from the Camillia sinensis plant, traditional red rooibos is also made by allowing the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant oxidize. Once the leaves are plucked from the plant, they are sprinkled with water and allowed to oxidize. As the oxidation takes place, the leaves change from green to a reddish-brown color. Once they've achieved the right oxidation level, they are allowed to dry in the sun.

More recently, there have been modifications made to the processing of the leaves to stop the oxidation. This yields a green version of the drinkable plant, referred to as green rooibos. Both the red and the green version of rooibos may be steeped alone or blended with other herbal components for a variety of teas. Essencha® offers a variety of rooibos-based blends.

Health benefits of rooibos

1 - Rooibos contains lower level of tannins than green or black tea. Tannins are known to interrupt absorption of certain minerals, such as iron.

2 - Rooibos contains no oxalic acid, which can be an issue for those with kidney problems.

3 - Rooibos is high in antioxidants, like aspalathin. Antioxidants are believed to help fight damage caused to cells by free radicals. Note that green rooibos contains higher levels of antioxidants than the traditional red rooibos.

4 - Drinking rooibos may increase heart health, reduce the risk of cancer, and benefit those with type II diabetes.

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