In recent years, you’ve probably noticed beverages containing rooibos showing up in stores all over the place. Most of these products are ostensibly “healthy” tea drinks, so we naturally assume that rooibos is good for us – and thankfully, we’re right! We’ve carried a sizable selection of organic rooibos blends for years, but many people remain unclear about rooibos: What exactly is it? Where does it come from? Why should we care?
The word “rooibos” comes from the Afrikaans language and means “red bush,” which incidentally is a very apt description of the plant. Other names for rooibos are “bush tea,” “red bush tea,” “South African red tea,” or simply “red tea”. Rooibos isn’t actually a tea plant in the technical sense, meaning that it’s not derived from the Camellia sinensis like black tea, green tea, etc. It’s actually a legume: a bean plant called Aspalathus linearis. The leaves and stems are harvested during the summer and then left to “ferment” (technically “oxidize”), a process in which, among other things, the leaves shift from a yellow appearance to the characteristic red color (that said, unoxidized rooibos, or “green rooibos“, is also enjoyed).