What is Rooibos (Red Tea) And What Are Its Health Benefits?
The 300-year-old rooibos (pronounced "roy-boss") tea is pretty young compared to the over 1,000-year-old Camellia sinensis-based teas like black and green tea.
But it’s only in recent decades that this slightly sweet, caffeine-free tisane has exploded in popularity due to its unique flavor—and its potential health benefits.
What's With That Name?
The word “rooibos” comes from the Afrikaans word for “red bush.” That's because rooibos tea is made from the needle-like leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plant, which is native to South Africa.
When rooibos tea is oxidized, it turns a deep red color, which is why it’s sometimes called “red tea.”
But despite its nickname, being made out of the leaves of the Aspalathus linearis plants actually makes rooibos tea not technically a true "tea." It's more like an herbal infusion of sorts.
But what rooibos lacks in true tea credentials, it makes up for with its potential health benefits:
What Are Some of the Potential Health Benefits of Rooibos/Red Tea?
- Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free and low in tannins, making it a great choice for people who are sensitive to caffeine or looking for an alternative to black or green teas.
- Rooibos is naturally free of sugar, but it's also naturally sweet—meaning people who enjoy partaking in sweet teas/beverages can enjoy it without needing to add extra sugar.
- Rooibos is also rich in antioxidants, which are believed to have myriad health benefits including anti-inflammatory properties. And antioxidants have been "shown to prevent the types of free radical damage associated with cancer development"—according to the National Cancer Institute. (Source: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/antioxidants-fact-sheet)
- Rooibos may also help regulate cholesterol and blood sugar. Not bad for not being a "true" tea, eh?
- As a sweet, calorie-free "tea," it makes sense that rooibos can be helpful for weight management, but according to a 2014 study, it may also be beneficial for weight management by increasing levels of leptin. (Leptin is a hormone that regulates food intake—specifically, it sends signals to the body that it has eaten enough food.)
What Does Rooibos Taste Like?
So what does rooibos tea taste like? It’s earthy and slightly sweet, and can have hints of flavors like vanilla, honey, and citrus.
Rooibos can be enjoyed like any other tea—hot or iced—and makes a great base for tea lattes and other creative concoctions.
In fact, while they haven't quite made it across the pond yet, "red cappuccinos" made with powdered rooibos—picture a matcha latte, but reddish-brown—can be found in South Africa's trendy cafe scene.
With the increasing demand for red tea, South Africa now produces approximately 14,000 tons of rooibos a year. When you consider how little tea leaves weigh... that's a whole lot of tea! (Oops—I mean, a whole lot of "tisane!")
Whether you’re looking to cut down on caffeine, enjoy a sweet-tasting sugar-free tea, reap the potential health benefits of a unique herbal infusion—or just find a new tea to relax with before bed—rooibos is definitely worth a try!