history of rooibos

Thehistory of rooibos begins in the Cederberg, near Cape Town. Its origin dates back several hundred years. Little by little, the infusion of the reddish bush has crossed borders. Incorrectly named red tea, rooibos tea is becoming more and more popular in the West. This drink is gradually replacing traditional teas and coffee because of its health benefits. Let's dive into the fascinating history of rooibos.

Rooibos, an organic tea like no other

In the West, rooibos is often referred to as "red tea". However, although it is an infusion, this drink is not a tea. Moreover, the name "red tea" corresponds in China to what Westerners call "black tea".
Unlike teas, rooibos does not contain theine. This drink does not contain caffeine either. This reddish tea is nevertheless rich in antioxidants. Nature has also endowed it with many positive health properties.
In Western countries, rooibos is often flavored with spices. They increase the flavor. Some of them also have an effect on the benefits of the beverage.

From the Cederberg mountain bush to the red tea of your tea party

Rooibos grows only in the Cederberg, a mountain range north of Cape Town. The leaves of the shrub have been harvested there for over 300 years. Dried in the sun, the leaves ferment and give the infusion a nice reddish color. Fermentation also brings a sweeter and fruitier taste to the plant.
The rooibos tea, totally organic, remains a traditional drink in South Africa. It is only during the 30's that it is imported clandestinely to the rich Westerners. It is then a luxury tea, generally served at Christmas time. Indeed, the reddish color of the decoction goes with the Christmas decorations.
In 1969, the first medicinal properties of the infusion are discovered. Its benefits became popular. The reddish colored beverage arrived massively in European countries. Its production has exploded since the 90s.
Today, the craze for red rooibos (a green variety exists) is stronger than ever. However, the capricious nature does not allow the cultivation of the shrub elsewhere than in the aridity of the Cederberg. So rooibos has become a flourishing economy for South Africa.

Aspalathus linearis, a history of traditions

For the inhabitants of Cape Town, the preparation of rooibos is mainly a story of tradition. Harvesting the leaves and drying them like the ancestors is, for many Captonians, a question of respect for the elders of the family.
And, although the "production" aspect is developing rapidly, the Captonians keep this desire for tradition. In Africa, rooibos is never called tea. In addition, the population retains traditional uses of the rooibos product to treat colic, sleep disorders and allergies.
In the West, medical evidence of traditional uses is still lacking. The first studies are encouraging, but need further investigation. Indeed, the quality of rooibos is very random depending on its origin. However, due to the absence of theine and caffeine in rooibos infusions, consumption remains encouraged. If only for the flavor of the plant.

From South Africa's national drink to spice infusions

North of Cape Town, the mountains produce a profusion of rooibos. For a traditional preparation, Captonians add hot water to the crushed leaves. After a 10-minute decoction, they extract the beverage. In this region, it is usual to add milk and sometimes sugar.
In Europe, the recipes are quite different. Each member of the family has his own composition. Spices add taste and extra virtues to the drink.
Vanilla or cocoa flavors the rooibos of children. Adults enjoy products with ginger or lemon. Of course medicinal plants can also be added to the drink.
The quality of western blends varies. However, the most successful ones are :

  • Herbs such as vervain or linden which are very useful for overcoming sleep disorders.
  • Recipes with peppermint which are useful for digestion.
  • Products with chamomile that relieve allergies.

For a rooibos worthy of a Captonian, it is advisable to put a teaspoon of rooibos powder for a cup of hot water. The reddish color of the beverage will tell you when it is ready. Spices like lemon or ginger are added later.