A overhead photo of packs of rooibos tea.

what is rooibos tea?

You’d be forgiven for not having heard of this South African tea and to be thinking “rooibos tea what is it?” when faced with this name for the first time, but thanks to the green needle-like leaves of the rooibos plant being naturally caffeine-free, along with its beautiful coppery colour and natural nutty and full-bodied flavour, this tea is fast becoming sought after as a great caffeine-free alternative to black teas. But what is it exactly, and why should you be making it your cuppa of choice?

what is rooibos tea made from?

Rooibos tea is made from the rooibos bush - the word “rooibos” literally means “red bush” in Afrikaans. It seems like everyone has their own way of saying rooibos – we like to say ‘roy-boss’ but many people prefer to stick to its literal meaning and direct translation of ‘red bush’. You know where you’re at with red bush, but it’s just not as fun to say however we do enjoy hearing how each person interprets the rooibos pronunciation!

what type of tea is rooibos?

Botanically speaking, rooibos is not a true tea at all as it doesn’t come from the tea plant. It’s a herb that grows as a small shrubby bush in just one place - the Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town.

Fun fact for you, the famous red colour of this tea comes only from the fermentation process – the rooibos bush is actually green, just like the tea bush so without the right fermentation the rooibos tea leaves would remain green. In fact, you can even buy green rooibos tea to drink but it’s much more uncommon than its red counterpart. It remains green rather than turning red due to a shortened fermentation process.

More than 300 years ago, the original bushmen of the Cederberg area – the Khoi and San peoples – discovered rooibos. They would bash the leaves and pile them in heaps allowing them to ferment, then spread them out in the sun to dry. And that’s pretty much what the commercial rooibos production is like today. The rooibos is cut during the summer months of January to March and once it’s been cut into finer leaves the drying out and fermentation process of the rooibos begins under the African sun for 24 hours and this is what changes the colour of the leaves to a deep mahogany. Then the loose rooibos tea is taken outside to dry under the hot sun for 7-8 hours.

The ultra-clean air swirling around the craggy mountains provides the perfect environment for the rooibos plant. Efforts have been made to grow rooibos outside the Cederberg region but so far, none have been successful, so you know it’s the real deal when it comes from rooibos tea suppliers in this area!

what does rooibos tea taste like?

This soothing drink is mild, sweet and nutty in taste, is naturally caffeine-free and low in tannins. What's more, it’s packed with micronutrients, including copper, iron and potassium, and has become the ‘it’ tea for those looking for a healthy, yet tasty brew. You’ll find many varieties of rooibos from rooibos loose leaf tea to rooibos blended with other ingredients such as honeybush tea (another brilliant South African plant), crème caramel for a sweet treat or with cinnamon, cloves and orange peel for a winter rooibos tea.

what is red rooibos tea good for?

As rooibos grows in popularity, you might be left wondering “is rooibos tea good for you?” and rooibos is reputed to have a long list of potential health benefits including anti-inflammatory effects as well as aiding digestion. And while a quick google of “rooibos tea benefits” will flood your screen with results, all we know for sure is it’s a delicious naturally caffeine free brew that can be enjoyed both with and without milk making it one of our most versatile teas!

what is rooibos tea used for?

You’ll most commonly find rooibos being used as a beverage not only in its birthplace South Africa but around the world from hot teas to lattes to iced tea. However, it’s use doesn’t stop there, if you’re feeling adventurous you can find it in cosmetics and beauty products, use it in cooking and even use it as a natural dye if you’re getting creative at home!

image of teapigs rooibos tea in a glass tea cup

how to drink rooibos tea

To make rooibos tea, simply brew it like you would a “normal tea” - use boiling water and let it brew for at least 3 minutes (although we often keep the bag in as it won’t become bitter). It's even strong enough to be drunk with a splash of milk and if your office is anything like ours there’ll be varying levels of specific instructions when someone utters those infamous words “would anyone like a tea?” Bag in / bag out, splash of oat/almond/rice/normal milk please, dollop of honey, squeeze of lemon and last but least their favourite mug.

Thanks to being naturally caffeine- free, it can be drunk any time of day, and is perfect before bed. If you’re after something really decadent, try it with a squeeze of honey or why not have a look at our rooibos crème caramel which has real caramel pieces in and could easily compete with (or pair with) most desserts!

We love making our teas into lattes and rooibos is no exception - simply create a strong concentrate with the rooibos tea bags by brewing them for longer, then top up with a hot frothy milk of your choice. You can add a squeeze of agave syrup if you’re needing some extra sweetness.

If you’ve ever been to South Africa you’ll understand why rooibos is big news in the iced tea world – iced rooibos tea is the perfect companion to long hot days. Smooth, sweet and ice cold you can make your own at home even if the average British summer day can’t quite compare to those African rays. Simply make up a strong concentrate using red bush tea bags or red bush loose leaf tea, top up with iced water and keep in the fridge.

You can even go one further and try baking with it! Our spiced winter red tea with rooibos and cinnamon, orange pieces, orange peel, ginger and cloves is a great secret ingredient for all sorts of festive baked goods. Our resident cake expert, Sophie, used the tea to make this gingerbread cake with much success! The tea helps keep the cake moist and gives it a delicious spiced flavour as well.

So, there you have it, everything you need to know about rooibos tea or red bush tea! Give it a go the next time you spot it in a café, buy rooibos tea to have at home or if you’re feeling brave then try out some of our ideas above and let us know how you get on – as always use #teapigs to share your snaps with us.

teapigs rooibos tea range in a line