What is Rooibos?
T Tegan Woo

What is Rooibos?

Sep 9, 2018 · Rooibos · tea101

At cafes and tea shops around the world, something new and unique has arrived on the menu.

Rooibos has recently surged in popularity and is one of the most popular tisanes (a.k.a., herbal teas) today. But what is it, and why is it suddenly everywhere?

Sometimes known as red tea, this is a bit of a misnomer -- rooibos is not related to the tea plant (camellia sinensis) at all. The scientific name for rooibos is aspalathus linearis, which means “red bush” in Latin. Rooibos grows natively in the Western Cape region of South Africa, where almost all commercial production remains today. In South Africa, rooibos has been brewed as a beverage for generations, but it’s only now become a beloved beverage in cups around the world.

What’s driving rooibos popularity? Today, we’re looking at where rooibos comes from, its (ample) health benefits, and its unique taste.


For hundreds of years, rooibos has been enjoyed by indigenous South Africans who climbed rocky mountain summits to harvest the wild leaves. After hand-picking, harvesters would bruise the leaves with hammers before letting them dry in the sun.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that rooibos began commercial production. By 1930, a local physician named Dr. P le Fras Nortier discovered the secret to germinating rooibos seeds. He soon began cultivating rooibos on the slopes of the Cederberg mountains. But just as the commercial rooibos industry started, it collapsed due to World War II.

Looking to revive the rooibos industry from death, the South African government moved to regulate the industry, standardize production, and establish quality standards. It certainly revived but didn’t thrive. Due to economic sanctions on South African goods during the apartheid era, it took awhile to find rooibos’ true commercial potential.

Apartheid eventually did end -- right as the rooibos industry became privatised. With privatisation has come a number of innovations, such as green (unfermented) rooibos, rooibos liqueurs, and an impressive variety of new blends created every year. With new innovations comes new interest, as fans around the world discover rooibos’ true versatility.

Health Benefits

Packed with polyphenol antioxidants, rooibos has been found to have 50% more antioxidants than green tea. It’s particularly high in aspalathin and nothofagin. These two polyphenols are shown to reduce vascular inflammation, a leading cause of heart disease.

Further medical research indicates that rooibos may be beneficial for preventing and treating diabetes. Another study shows rooibos is a significant source of aspalathin, which may unlock anti-diabetic potential.

Another potential benefit of rooibos is its effect on body fat. Researchers have found that drinking rooibos causes leptin secretion, a hormone that lets your body know that you’ve had enough to eat. Rooibos also prevents new fat cells from forming and increases metabolism for existing fat.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, rooibos is worth checking out. Unlike tea, rooibos contains no caffeine. Want to sneak in a tasty hot beverage before going to bed? Rooibos is great for bedtimes.

Taste Profile

Rooibos has an earthiness that recalls hibiscus, nuts, and lemongrass. It has an immediate taste that’s subtly sweet and bright, then follows up with a “glowing” aftertaste that lingers.

Because rooibos is low in tannins, it lacks the brisk body of tea along with the bitterness that occurs when tea is over-steeped. If you leave rooibos in your cup, then forget about it for 30 minutes, it will still be delicious. Do you tend to be absent-minded? Rooibos might be for you.

Rooibos is a fine drink by itself, but it really shines as the base of blended beverages. It is fantastic when blended with apple, mint, or caramel. While it blends nicely with almost any ingredient, it is potent enough to make you remember, “Ah yes, this is rooibos”.

Whether brewed hot or cold, with milk or without, rooibos is almost always delicious. It’s a unique taste experience unlike anything else. At Amoda, we are proud to offer a diverse collection of blended rooibos.

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