Ultimate Guide to Rooibos Tea and its Benefits
If you have never heard of it ( or never thought much about it), rooibos tea is a truly remarkable product.
Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free tea processed using the Rooibos plant (Aspalathus Linearis), known for its unique growing conditions, smooth refined taste, and a wide array of health benefits.
Rooibos plants are exclusively grown in the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces of South Africa, making them a proudly South African crop and product.
Parts of the rooibos plants have been cultivated and harvested for over 300 years for the treatment of medical ailments and provide specific health benefits and even today, it’s a popular herbal tea, and key ingredient, that provides a range of remarkable health benefits, a rich visual appeal and a distinct, warm aroma.
Let’s find out more about rooibos tea and its benefits below!
Table of Contents
All about the Rooibos Plant.
The rooibos plant is characterised by its short bushy stature and the very specific environmental conditions it needs to grow. These include deep, coarse, acidic, and sandy soil; a mediteranean climate with winter rainfall between 200 mm and 450 mm per year; and a climate experiencing hot summers where temperatures can climb up to 45 degrees celsius in summer and sink to zero degrees celsius during the winter.
The rooibos plant has needle-like leaves, and grows to a height of approximately 1.5 metres, with tap roots that can extend to around 2 metres below the surface. The rooibos plant has an average lifespan of 6 years, and the ability to provide an average of 4 crops to growers in the Cederberg.
Hundreds of years ago, this plant was cultivated by the Khoisan people, garnering rooibos its earliest awareness. The plant was rediscovered by Carl Thunberg in 1772, reviving the production and consumption of rooibos. Rooibos was also popular with early Dutch settlers in the Cape as it presented a cheaper alternative to traditional tea.
What is Rooibos tea?
It’s a traditional herbal tea that can be defined by its deep reddish brown colour and subtle, calming warm, woody aroma. Rooibos can also be enjoyed as ‘green rooibos’, a newer form of rooibos that is harder to find on shelves in-store despite being derived from the same rooibos plant as red rooibos.
The key difference is post-harvest, and to do with the drying and fermentation process, covered later on in this post.
Rooibos is usually enjoyed without milk and sugar, and sometimes with a slice of honey and lemon, and has a rich, intriguing visual appeal. You can also learn more about growing and harvesting rooibos by reading about the history of rooibos tea.
Types of rooibos tea
Rooibos tea is well-known for it’s eye-catching traditional red-brown colour combination, but it’s also possible to find ‘green rooibos’ tea, which may be more beneficial for those seeking even more benefits from herbal teas.
Ultimately, both red rooibos tea and green rooibos tea are considered healthy herbal teas, providing similar health benefits, but with a varying chemical composition and polyphenols.
What is ‘Red Rooibos’ tea?
Once harvested, Red Rooibos gets its famous deep red colour during the drying process.
It is cut, bruised, wet with water and is laid across a tea court for about 12 hours. During this stage of the drying process, enzymatic oxidation takes place, changing the colour of rooibos to a deep red.
Let’s provide you with an example of how red rooibos would be harvested, cut and dried, and why this process is important in creating rich, red rooibos.
If a harvest is conducted on a Monday, the rooibos plant is chopped, machine-cut and collected into bundles – bright green at this stage. In the afternoon, the rooibos cuttings are wet and placed in a heap on a tea court to undergo fermentation.
During fermentation, the plant is rotated on the tea court to allow air to get inside the stack and for oxidation to occur properly.
This process takes roughly 12 hours after which, you’ll encounter a tea court that smells sweet, warm, woody and inviting, with rooibos that is no longer green but a striking, traditional red colour!
What is ‘green rooibos’ tea?
‘Green rooibos’, on the other hand, undergoes a negligible fermentation process, or none at all.
Instead, it’s briefly steam blanched, and then undergoes a dry phase, which can be conducted using machine driers, or using a tea court and the sweltering summer temperatures available in South Africa. Using machine dryers can produce a brighter, golf-course green rooibos, than a tea court may produce in this instance but this brighter colour may not signify a higher quality product.
Eliminating the fermentation process in the production of traditional rooibos is the key to creating green rooibos.
To compare the two types of rooibos tea, green rooibos tea is said to boast more antioxidants, while red rooibos tea may fight the growth of cancer cells at a slightly higher rate. However, the taste of green rooibos tea is slightly more tart and bland, lacking the naturally sweeter notes of red rooibos tea in terms of taste and aroma.
Green rooibos is not to be confused with some kind of a green tea and rooibos infusion – as green tea is created from another tea plant entirely and can be produced in around 70 countries – whereas green rooibos is exclusively produced in South Africa.
Benefits of rooibos tea
Rooibos tea is renowned for a variety of reasons. It has high levels of antioxidants, vitamin c, zero caffeine, no additives, and is free from preservatives or colourants.
Read on to find out more about the specific benefits of rooibos and why it is now being used as a raw ingredient in a variety of product spaces, such as skincare.
It’s worth noting that we don’t wish to make bold claims about the science behind the benefits of rooibos tea below, and thus, we have relied on reputable online sources to help us describe the valuable aspects of this remarkable plant.
Let’s find out more about the benefits of rooibos tea.
Rooibos tea and sleep
Rooibos tea is a great option for those suffering with insomnia. It is free from caffeine and promotes relaxation and better sleep.
The science behind it is fairly simple but brilliant – rooibos contains two essential elements that assist with sleep, namely calcium and magnesium.
Calcium levels peak during one’s sleep, as melatonin, our sleep hormone, is produced by the brain using calcium. Consuming rooibos before bedtime can help increase the body’s natural levels of calcium, and help you produce more melatonin for a deeper sleep.
Magnesium deficiencies have also been shown to inhibit sleep, as magnesium acts as a subtle tranquilizer for the nervous system.
One of the main reasons why one might not be able to sleep during a busy work week is stress – and rooibos is also exceptionally good at lowering the body’s stress levels.
Rooibos tea and stress
Stress in the body is brought about by the hormone cortisol. Cortisol increases your blood pressure, your resting heart rate, and causes fatigue and anxiety.
Rooibos tea contains two key antioxidants that assist with lowering stress – aspalathin and nothofagin. Both of these antioxidants found in rooibos help to lower cortisol levels in the body and reduce your stress levels!
Drinking a cup of rooibos tea at bedtime can help reduce your cortisol levels before bedtime helping you to sleep better.
Rooibos tea and the skin
Before skincare formulations with rooibos infusions, rooibos tea was consumed on it’s own to provide the skin with an array of antioxidants that can assist in preventing skin symptoms and conditions.
Rooibos contains zinc, superoxide dismutase, as well as previously mentioned aspalathin and nothofagin. These are potent antioxidants with anti-bacterial, antiviral and antibacterial qualities – which assist in combating different aspects of acne, and preventing breakouts.
The antioxidants found in rooibos also provide anti-inflammatory properties, useful in treating underlying skin inflammation and visible inflammation caused by acne and other skin concerns.
Due to rooibos’ high antioxidant content, it is also effective at reducing wrinkles caused by free radicals.
Free radicals are present in our everyday life, in the form of smoke, UV rays and as a result of other aspects of our environment. They leech electrons from our skin which break down the skin’s barrier – resulting in wrinkles. Antioxidants work to combat wrinkles by providing free radicals with their missing electron and neutralising them.
If you are looking for truly natural skincare, look for products that contain rooibos!
Rooibos tea and heart health
Excess inflammation in the body caused by lifestyle and diet promotes poor heart health, resulting in a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
As covered briefly above, rooibos is incredibly useful for combating inflammation in the body, which can help improve overall cardiovascular health.
It’s worth mentioning that rooibos also suppresses Angiotensin-Converting Enzymes (A.C.E’s). ACE’s, and specifically angiotensin II, is produced in the body and narrows the body’s arteries and veins – putting more pressure on your heart.
Rooibos, an ACE inhibitor, relaxes your veins and arteries to lower your blood pressure and promote better heart health and function.
Rooibos tea and diabetes
Rooibos has been shown to be beneficial for diabetics by helping to regulate blood sugar levels and improve the absorption of glucose. The plant’s main polyphenol – aspalathin- is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help fight insulin resistance at a cellular level, helping to regulate blood sugar levels.
It’s also worth noting that diabetes sufferers may prefer consuming green rooibos, which has been found to have higher levels of aspalathin, which decreases in potency during the oxidation and fermentation process that gives traditional rooibos it’s rich red colour.
Rooibos tea and allergies
Who would’ve thought rooibos could be good for a runny nose?
Well.. it’s true. And this one’s useful for hayfever sufferers and others that experience allergies during the year.
Rooibos is believed to have antihistamine properties, derived from a bioflavonoid called quercetin.
Quercetin works to prevent immune cells from releasing histamines which are the chemicals responsible for allergic reactions such as hives, skin swelling, rhinitis, runny noses and watery eyes.
We’re not saying the only thing you’ll need to handle strong hayfever in springtime is plenty of rooibos tea, but it’s definitely worth increasing your daily consumption of rooibos tea to gain some relief from your allergy blues.
Rooibos tea and cancer
Rooibos has had some press surrounding the potential for it to prevent tumour growth and kill cancer cells. At the moment, it can only be said that rooibos may reduce the risk of cancer, working off of the logic that rooibos contains quercetin and luteolin which have been shown to prevent tumours and get rid of cancer cells in test-tube studies.
That being said, it should be noted that those suffering from hormone sensitive cancers should exercise caution before consuming copious amounts of this delicious herbal brew – as it can also increase the production of the estrogen hormone.
Rooibos tea and weight loss
Rooibos is calorie free, with a naturally sweet taste – making it a perfect companion for your weight loss diet.
Rooibos tea has been associated chemically with weight loss, as a result of the polyphenols it contains which have been linked to combating obesity.
Test tube studies have concluded that rooibos tea may be able to speed up the weight loss process by increasing levels of leptin, which can help regulate the body’s metabolism.
In addition, rooibos is said to be able to suppress stress hormone aspalathin, which can cause hunger spikes and changes in your metabolism’s activity, halt the formation of new fat cells and encourage a quicker fat metabolism.
Can rooibos tea help you detox?
Yes, it’s loved by those that take part in the occasional or seasonal detox.
The idea behind detoxing is, of course, to limit or cut out the amount of harmful ingredients and toxins consumed by the body. Rooibos is perfectly aligned with detox diets due to being caffeine-free, loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, iron and calcium, and free from chemicals and harmful substances.
Rooibos will also give you a better chance of absorbing iron, as opposed to consuming regular tea which can contain more harmful tannins that can limit your body’s absorption of iron.
Rooibos promotes healthy liver function
Rooibos has long been promoted as a healthy alternative for those that enjoy beer, whiskey, wine and other alcoholic beverages to wind down during the evening and before bed time.
In studies conducted at C.P.U.T (Cape Peninsula University of Technology), it was found that rooibos could improve liver function and protect the liver against oxidative damage.
It does this by protecting the liver against structural, enzymatic and biochemical damage. It may even help turn back the effects of mild damage in the liver with regular consumption.
If you find you’re opening the drinks cabinet a couple times a week before bed, and you’re looking for the healthiest alternative you’ll find to wind down at night, Rooibos is the best choice to help you relax and reduce stress.
Rooibos is low in harmful tannins
Rooibos boasts lower levels of tea tannins, which are naturally present in plenty of other types of teas, such as green and black teas.
It’s worth noting that most of the tannins in tea are beneficial, and include valuable antioxidants, but some of the negative effects of tannins can be felt by the body. One may experience a reduction in the ability to absorb iron in foods, mild digestive problems and hinder the regular function of your metabolism, when a high amount of tannins are present in the body.
Other uses of Rooibos
Rooibos has been incorporated into a variety of popular products as a key or supporting ingredient. It’s often used for the key benefits it can provide as a plant that is high in antioxidants, and/or for its natural sweet, woody aroma.
Let’s dive into some other uses for rooibos, besides delicious tea, below.
Rooibos tea and skincare
The antioxidants contained in rooibos aren’t just useful when consumed. When incorporated into skincare formulations and applied directly to the skin, these antioxidants are incredibly useful.
Antioxidants are most widely used to combat signs of aging in a variety of ways. antioxidants contained in rooibos are antibacterial, and anti-viral in nature – making them useful for treating skin symptoms associated with acne and breakouts.
As mentioned earlier on, antioxidants are useful for combating free radicals, which are responsible for many signs of aging – most notably an increase in wrinkles.
Of course, with its appealing aromatic combination consisting of woody and lingering floral notes, it’s also amazing when used as the key fragrant component in formulations.
The dried rooibos tea leaves are a great ingredient for exfoliating the skin. The roughness of the woody leaves make for a natural and biodegradable alternative to microbeads with the woody, fragrant aroma of rooibos.
Rooibos in drinks
Due to Rooibos’ delicious taste and rich aroma, it’s often served within other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
You can find it in cocktails, and is a popular botanical element to include in gin-based, vodka-based or brandy-based cocktails, alongside supporting ingredients and garnishes such as cloves, cinnamon, honey and a slice of lemon.
Rooibos can also be a key ingredient in wines, and may help preserve wine naturally, due to its powerful antioxidant properties. The Audacia winery, for example, makes their Rooibos wine by harvesting grapes and combining them with rooibos and honeybush toasted wood chips which replace sulphur as the preservative element within wine.
Baristas are also keen on rooibos, which means you’ll often find rooibos espressos and lattes on the menu at your local coffee shop, often served with honey to complete the natural taste and aroma rooibos offers.
If you are looking for a cold dink, look no further than iced-tea. Rooibos with it’s natural sweetness and lack of tannins is delicious served cold and there are a wide range of rooibos iced teas on the market to quench your thirst on a hot day.
Find a supplier of premium grade, organic rooibos.
Rooibos is an amazing plant with a wide range of health benefits whether consumed as rooibos tea, skincare products, or even wine! Make sure you choose organic rooibos for maximum benefits and best quality taste – find out more about what makes organic rooibos unique.
Do you want to use organic rooibos in your products? Or are you looking for a reputable supplier of premium rooibos for your tea brand?
Klipopmekaar is one of the largest organic rooibos farms in the world. Situated in the Cederberg in South Africa, we supply local and international markets with a range of ethically farmed and organically certified high quality rooibos products.
From our most popular short cut teabag rooibos, to longer cut rooibos utilised for premium rooibos byproducts – we have a range of packaging and ordering options to suit your specific requirements.
Contact Klipopmekaar today for all of your premium, organic Rooibos needs!