'Red tea' from South Africa, with an earthy and slightly sweet flavour
All the world’s rooibos – a member of the pea family – grows in one little region of South Africa, not far from Cape Town. It is a very fussy plant, just like tea. But whereas tea insists on highland soil and sunny showers, rooibos (‘redbush’ in Afrikaans) demands arid, sandy – almost barren – ground, and refuses to grow anywhere else.
The rooibos plant not only grows in very different conditions to tea, its tiny, needle leaves bear no resemblance the dense, rich foliage of tea leaves. And yet rooibos yields a drink not so very different in colour and taste to tea. Remarkably, rooibos is also completely caffeine-free, so unlike tea you can drink it with impunity at all times of day. Rooibos may also have anti-inflammatory qualities, according to some lab studies.
Rooibos is an even richer source of anti-oxidants than tea, and is so renowned that in 2010 a wetland reserve in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire raised a spawn of poisonous frogs in pint glasses filled with a rooibos infusion, as its anti-fungal properties were considered effective in protecting them from a nasty epidemic.
Rooibos, like tea, is especially versatile as a base for other flavours. At Lee Rosy’s, we sell rooibos blended with gingerbread and biscuit, with strawberries and cream, and with vanilla, to name a few. Overall, rooibos is a healthy, caffeine-free drink with no obvious risks (except for poisonous frogs, if you live in Slimbridge).