rooibos tea

A Little Background on Rooibos Tea

Native to South Africa, rooibos may not be quite as well-known as traditional tea leaves – but it’s gaining a lot of popularity in the health community for some very surprising reasons.

For a little over 300 years, folks throughout South Africa have been relying on this “tea” as an all-natural and herbal remedy. That isn’t quite as long as the multi thousand-year history of traditional black and green tea leaves plants, but that’s because this herb isn’t necessarily a traditional tea but instead something else entirely!

The rooibos leaves have to be harvested, dried for a number of weeks, and then later brewed into a tea-like beverage. Sometimes this beverage is advertised as “Africa red tea” or “red bush tea”, but at the end of the day what you see is pretty much what you get with this option.

To learn a little bit more about everything that rooibos has to offer, and whether or not you should be using it as an all-natural herbal supplement or as a beverage that helps to pick you up or cure your ailments we’ve put together this quick guide.

Let’s dig right in!

It wasn’t until Dutch settlers started to expand throughout South Africa in the 1700s that rooibos really became popular as a beverage.

At that point in time, black tea was incredibly expensive to import and up settlers were desperate to find something that would closely mimic the flavors of a beverage that they loved so much. They searched the natural landscape far and wide until they settled on the rooibos herb, drying and then brewing it into a sort of tea-like beverage that caught on like wildfire throughout the Dutch population.

Locals, of course, had been drinking rooibos tea for years and years before the Dutch caught on – particularly around the Cederberg region of South Africa. This part of South Africa sits just a little bit north of Cape Town and is quite mountainous, providing the perfect landscape for rooibos plans to establish themselves and really thrive.

Incredibly, this part of South Africa is where nearly 80% of ALL rooibos herbs are grown and harvested worldwide. In fact, South Africa is the only nation on the planet producing rooibos – with more than 450 farmers throughout the region producing just north of 15,000 tons of this herb every single year.

The commercial demand for rooibos really didn’t take off until the 1930s, while after the Dutch had started experimenting with everything that this dried herb had to offer. During the 1930s, however, is when the industrialization of South Africa really start to take off and that’s when rooibos began to be exported more significantly all over the world.

It took about 60 years after that for folks globally to really start to embrace everything that rooibos up to the table, and in the 1990s the industry started developing “green” rooibos options as well. These green rooibos beverages were advertised as an option with less oxidation while at the same time promising a whole host of other health-boosting benefits as well.

Throughout the early 2000s the rooibos industry in southeast Africa started to provide powdered solutions for easier export and global demand increased even more so. Today these powders are highly sought after by the alternative medicine world across the globe and beloved by people looking to take advantage of high-quality rooibos without having to spend a small fortune on bulk tea leaves that are much more expensive to ship.

How Rooibos Is Harvested

The rooibos harvesting process is pretty simple and straightforward, and actually closely mimics the traditional harvesting process for both green teas and black teas.

Farmers head out into their crop fields and cut down the mature rooibos plants by hand, collecting the stems as well as the leaves and then binding them up into little bundles. The different bundles are then sorted and selected by size, color, and “rightness” before they are gently sliced or bruised up a little bit to improve overall oxidation levels (on the traditional rooibos leaves, not the green ones).

As oxidation takes over the leaves become redder and redder, the flavor becomes more pronounced, and the overall color and sweetness of the rooibos tea made from these leaves really starts to shine.

For the green rooibos leaves that aren’t left out to oxidize a different process is followed. These leaves are gently steamed and then dried almost instantly, preventing oxidation almost entirely and maintaining a much more “grassy” kind of flavor profile that is quite a bit different than the traditional approach.

Benefits of Rooibos Tea

There are a couple of different ways that rooibos tea can be prepared, either alone (as a traditional tea beverage) or as an added supplement that’s mixed with coffees, iced tea drinks, and even cocktails.

At the end of the day, however, regardless of how you choose to consume rooibos you’re going to be able to enjoy a handful of different benefits that make this beverage so worthwhile.

  • All-natural stimulation without caffeine

One of the biggest benefits that you’ll enjoy when you start to consume rooibos tea is that you are going to be able to get a little bump of extra stimulation without having to worry about caffeine crashes and your energy levels getting wiped out completely.

Rooibos itself is 100% caffeine-free and it also includes significantly lower tannin levels compared to traditional tea beverages, too. Tannins can sometimes interfere with the bioavailability of core nutrients that are so important for your energy levels and your overall health and wellness. You won’t have to worry about them when consuming rooibos tea.

  • Loaded with antioxidants

Another huge advantage of drinking rooibos is that you are going to flood your body with antioxidants, helping you to protect your body from a lot of the damage that can be caused by free radicals.

Antioxidants are like armor for healthy cells, decreasing your risk of illness – including risk factors like heart disease and cancer that can prove to be life-threatening or deadly. Some of the antioxidant properties you will be able to enjoy with the help of rooibos are faster dissipating than others, however, which is why you want to consider making rooibos tea a big part of your daily intake.

Of course, antioxidants also have been directly linked to improved heart health across the board.

You’ll not only see your blood pressure levels decrease (and normalize, maintaining consistently healthy levels) after flooding your body with antioxidants, but you’re also going to see a decrease in bad cholesterol levels as well as.

Now, rooibos alone isn’t going to be a replacement for traditional blood pressure or cholesterol medications but it can help transform your health and wellness with proper diet, exercise, and a focus on addressing your risk factors.

  • May reduce overall cancer risks

Cancer is such a dangerous, deadly, and devastating disease that needs to be addressed add-on as early as possible – and rooibos tea may be able to help in that department.

Research has shown that there are a significant amount of powerful antioxidants (specifically quercetin and luteolin) that have shown time and time again to be powerfully effective at killing off cancer cells and inhibiting overall tumor growth rates.

To be fair, the overall amount of these antioxidants that you’ll be able to consume in a single glass of rooibos tea isn’t sky high. But if you are consuming rooibos on a regular and daily basis you’re going to help protect your body from cancerous cells and attacks – especially when your diet, exercise, and medical habits are dialed into a fight back against this insidious disease, too.

  • Potential Type II diabetes help

According to medical researchers, rooibos tea is the only natural source of the antioxidant aspalathin on the planet – making it a powerful ally for those that want to push back against type II diabetes and everything that this debilitating condition brings to the table.

Research in this department is a little bit new, however, and so far testing has only been conducted on laboratory mice that have been diagnosed with Type II diabetes. In those examinations, the mice that were provided with rooibos saw significantly reduced insulin resistance levels as well as better balanced blood sugar levels. Human trials are necessary (and planned) to really understand the impact that rooibos might have on diabetes but early indications are very exciting.

(Video via Theeblog.be)

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s easy to see why rooibos is becoming as popular as it is today.

There are a lot of health-boosting benefits to this 100% all-natural and herbal tea and it doesn’t hurt that rooibos (red or green) is pretty delicious, too. You definitely won’t find yourself having difficulty drinking rooibos tea even if you have never had it in the past, even though its flavor profile is a little bit more different than both green and black tea.

Hopefully, you have found the inside information contained in this quick guide useful in helping you decide whether or not rooibos is able to deliver on all the promises that it makes from a health and wellness perspective.

There’s a lot to like about everything that rooibos brings to the table, that’s for sure!