I often have told friends and family alike, that if I had my life to live again, I probably would have become a food critic. Certainly not for my love of cooking – but most definitely for my love of eating. I love the many flavors and textures of food. In essence, I believe this is what spawned my love of tea. The opportunity to try something new – to enjoy the flavors, aromas, and textures afforded by the different varieties of tea. This is now, but not always.
For years, out of custom or some would say habit, I drank black tea. Lipton to be precise. My grandmother made Lipton Tea, my mother made Lipton tea, and as the story goes, I made Lipton tea. On occasion, when enjoying dinner at a local Chinese Restaurant, I would enjoy a tasty cup of green tea. Otherwise, my tea drinking routine was just that… routine. It is amazing what surprises you will find when you do a “simple” thing like stepping outside of your comfort zone.
I had no knowledge of Rooibos until a co-worker purchased and surprised me with a tin of African Autumn. My research led me to understand that Rooibos, Red Tea, Redbush Tea or any of the other names for which it is known is actually derived from the Aspalathus Linearis plant not the tea bush, Camellia Sinensis. For those of you like me who did not know, Aspalathus Linearis is a broom-like member of the legume family of plants.
Based upon my Internet search, Rooibos is grown only in a small area in the Cederberg region of the Western Cape province in south west South Africa. Generally, the leaves are oxidized. This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown color of rooibos and enhances the flavour. However, unoxidized also known as “green” rooibos, is produced. The more demanding production process for green rooibos (similar to the method by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos.
As with tea derived from the tea bush, Camellia Sinensis, Rooibos can be blended with other flavors to produce unique tasting teas. Orange, mango, vanilla, cranberry, and almond to name a few. Unlike many other teas, increased brewing time enhances the flavor. I can think of one particular brewing fiasco – my first Pu-erh experience.
According to my research, Rooibos is commonly served with milk and sugar in Africa, but elsewhere it is usually served without. The flavor of rooibos tea is often described as being sweet (without sugar added) and slightly nutty. Ironically, I have struggled with finding just the right words to describe Rooibos in my tea reviews. Sweet was easy, nutty was that missing “something” I struggled to pinpoint. Preparation of rooibos tea is essentially the same as black, white, and green tea. This is really good to know, as I recall once again my Pu-erh brewing fiasco.
If you would like to read more about Rooibos, I recently found a great article that also provides a little Rooibos history as well. Just follow the link to “Rooibos Tea” written by Chris Cason for Tea Muse. Until we meet again… Happy Tea Drinking!
Reference: Rooibos. (2008, May 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:55, May 21, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rooibos&oldid=212352996