For many, this caffeine-free tea is an acquired taste. Rooibos (pronounced roy boss), Afrikaans for ‘red bush’, is sometimes referred to as ‘Red Tea’.
When the Dutch arrived on the southern tip of Africa in the mid-1600s, they set up a half-way station between Europe and the East. The local Khoisan community introduced the new settlers, which later included the French and the English, to some of the local food and drink. In the Cederberg Mountains, needle-shaped leaves were taken from a red plant, put into hessian bags, brought down the mountain - where the leaves were chopped and bruised and left out in the sun to dry. This gave the tea a distinct flavor that made it a perfect substitute for the expensive Ceylon tea, which was all the rage in Europe at the time. It became known as Rooibos tea as it was from the red bush.
This red tea's popularity rose primarily during the Second World War when Asian tea varieties were in limited supply around the world. It also gained international momentum in the world of health. This tasty tea contains a range of minerals and antioxidants for general health and has a unique trait of being an antispasmodic, which is especially effective in the digestive tract. It has also been known to aid in fighting tooth decay (as it is high in fluoride), relieving symptoms of hay fever and other allergies, nausea, lowering cholesterol, asthma, stomach ulcers, constipation, heartburn and many use it to help with nervous tension. Externally, it has been known to aid sunburn and mild skin conditions such as itchiness, rashes and infections.
This remarkable tea, which is also low in tannins, has some very interesting uses:
1. For bad eczema, put a tea bag in with your bath water to help relieve the skin condition.
3. If a pet has eczema, rinse their coat with warm Rooibos tea to ease the itch.
4. Human and equine eye infections have been known to clear up after using a Rooibos teabag. Simply soak the teabag in hot water, let it cool slightly and then applying the tea bag directly to the eye as a compress.
5. As part of a hearty breakfast or even as a dessert, make some Rooibos tea and soak dried fruit in it overnight. Then stew the fruit to release all the flavors.
6. Many South Africans use it as a cure for a hangover, especially if there is also a stomach ache to go with it.
7. Due to the red in the leaves, Rooibos tea can also be used as a dye. Play around with the strength of the tea and the length of time needed to soak the garment to get a range of reddy colours.
8. Leftover tea and used tea leaves can be sprinkled, as a fertilizer, into household pot plants.
9. As a treatment for acne, mix Rooibos tea with apple cider vinegar and oatmeal and use as a face pack.
10. Rooibos tea can be used to relieve red, tired eyes (especially after swimming). Dip a face-cloth into lukewarm Rooibos tea and wipe the face and eyes.
11. For those with dark hair, a Rooibos tea rinse can give your hair new life.
12. As a skin freshener, use Rooibos tea to wash your face.
13. You can use Rooibos tea when making marmalade to add a bit of color.
14. If you are lactose intolerant, use Rooibos tea as a substitute for milk in your cooking – sauces, soups and stews.
15. Marinade all types of meat in Rooibos tea for a tasty alternative.
Rooibos tea for your baby:
1. Rooibos tea is often used as a rehydration drink when a baby has had diarrhoea and the usual rehydration fluid is not available.
2. If you have a baby that does not enjoy drinking water, used Rooibos tea for thirsty babies.
3. Rooibos tea can also be used for constipated babies and a ¼ tsp of honey can be added for severe cases.
4. Dilute fruit juices with Rooibos tea since pure fruit juices can have a detrimental effect on milk teeth.
5. Rooibos tea bags are great for nappy rashes. Place a wet, but warm tea bag on baby's bottom for a few minutes at a time.
6. Made with boiling water and then left to cool, Rooibos tea is a very good drink for a baby suffering from colic, as it seems to relieve the symptoms.
Many homes in South Africa have a wide collection of original Rooibos tea and the various flavored varieties, which include vanilla, almond, peach, caramel, berry, jasmine and cinnamon. Although it is mainly served without milk,(sometimes with lemon and honey), many also enjoy Rooibos tea with milk and sugar. For overall health and a boost after illness, the tea is enjoyed by millions in South Africa and increasingly across the globe.
So enjoy Rooibos tea either with or without milk, hot with milk and honey or as a cool refresher, but my favorite is the ‘exotic non-alcoholic cocktail’ :
In a tall glass, mix half a portion of pure fruit juice with half medium-strength black Rooibos tea or according to individual taste. Add some ice, a cherry and a little cocktail umbrella.
(Whisper: And don't reveal your ingredients - let you guests enjoy your exotic blend first).
But most importantly, enjoy the taste of Africa!
(Please seek medical/professional advice and support for any conditions and do not rely on any remedy – these are merely suggestions, which have been known to aid but not cure).