Also known as “red bush tea,” rooibos is a tisane made from the Aspalathus linearis shrub plant native to the Cape province of South Africa. It has small needle-like leaves and creates a delicious, antioxidant-rich red brew.
The name rooibos means “red bush” in Afrikaans, and unfortunately for English speakers, the spelling is not something we are used to seeing, leading to a number of incorrect pronunciations (we’ve heard everything from “ruby-ohs” to “roo-EE-bose”). The correct pronunciation of rooibos is “ROY-bos” with the second syllable of the word sounding like 'boast' without the 't'.
Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free and has a slightly sweet, nutty and fruity flavor and aroma, great for drinking by itself or blended with other inclusions such as dried fruits, flowers and spices. Rooibos is known for its health properties as well – in addition to containing vitamins and minerals, it has an even higher antioxidant content than green tea, is hydrating and immune-boosting. Many people drink rooibos to combat allergies, or before bed to calm and relax them. It also helps maintain a healthy circulatory system and may reduce high blood pressure. Rooibos is one of the safest herbal drinks you can find, and is great for people of all ages – even babies!
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SHOP BEST ROOIBOS TEAS
Discover the best rooibos teas as rated by Sips by's 600,000 tea-loving Members. Shop Sips by's best rooibos teas from multiple tea brands from around the world. You'll find all types of rooibos tea to try, from pure or flavored, to loose leaf or bagged, plus all naturally caffeine-free. Discover your new favorite rooibos tea today!
WHAT IS ROOIBOS TEA?
Rooibos has its roots in the Cedarburg region of South Africa – for centuries, the Khoisans, a tribe of indigenous bushmen, harvested the leaves of the Aspalathus Linearis plant, bruised the leaves with hammers, and allowed them to oxidize and dry in the sun. They used the resulting tea as an herbal remedy as well as a refreshing and enjoyable beverage.
The secret of rooibos almost faded away as the isolated Kohisan tribe population dwindled, but in 1772, Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg rediscovered it, sparking a widespread interest in the tea. Dutch settlers in South Africa started drinking rooibos as an alternative to the more expensive black tea, which had to be imported.
The worldwide spread of rooibos began in 1904, when a Russian immigrant, Benjamin Ginsberg, took an interest in the herb and began exporting and marketing it as a substitute for tea. Rooibos quickly became a global commodity.
In 1930, doctor and botanist Dr. Pieter Le Fras Nortier began researching the medicinal value and cultivation of rooibos. He eventually discovered the secret to germinating the seeds and taught all the local farmers how to grow rooibos. Today, Dr. Nortier is known as the father of the rooibos tea industry. Originally a little-known indigenous drink, rooibos became an iconic national beverage and economic driver for South Africa.
BEST ROOIBOS TEA
Try out these premium unflavored and flavored rooibos blends for your next cuppa!
ROOIBOS TEA TASTE
Rooibos has one of the most unique flavor profiles for a tisane or a tea. Rooibos infusions generally taste sweet and nutty with natural honey, vanilla, or caramel notes. Rooibos blends taste lightly herbal and pair well with apple, chocolate, and berry fruit flavors. Due to the lack of tannins, rooibos tastes perpetually smooth because it can never be bitter from over-steeping. Like black tea, rooibos can be enjoyed plain or with a touch of honey, sweetener, or milk. Because it also has a hint of natural sweetness, rooibos iced tea or cold brewed tea rooibos is a delicious option for warm weather days.
If you’re still wondering what rooibos tea tastes like, try out some rooibos tea recipes for yourself! This Apple Cinnamon Rooibos Cleanse or a Rosemary Rooibos Sidecar makes a delicious and healthy treat.
ROOIBOS & HEALTH
Rooibos is a beneficial tisane known for its many health benefits. In the past few decades, rooibos has become one of the most scientifically researched herbs. Here are some of the powerful and proven health benefits commonly associated with rooibos.
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps slow the aging process
- Protects against heart disease
- May help regulate blood sugar levels
- Reduces symptoms of allergies
- Aids digestion
- Soothes colic in babies
- Lowers blood pressure
- Balances hormones
- Aids relaxation and promotes restful sleep
- Powerful anti-inflammatory properties
- Promotes healthy bones, teeth, and hair. Try this nourishing DIY rooibos tea hair dye.
TYPES OF ROOIBOS TEA
Most commonly, you’ll find rooibos in the form of red needle-like leaves, called red rooibos. However, you can also find green rooibos which is simply the un-oxidized form of rooibos - like green tea! Similar to the amplified health benefits of green tea, green rooibos is known for having an even higher antioxidant content than red rooibos. Compared to red rooibos, it tastes grassier and maltier, plus it may be slightly more expensive.
Honeybush comes from the Cyclopia plant and is a close cousin to rooibos. Like rooibos, honeybush is naturally caffeine-free and high in antioxidants. Plus, honeybush has a sweeter, honey-like flavor and the brew is slightly milder and more delicate. Try this Honeybush Pumpkin Chai by The Grateful Tea Co.
Left: Red Rooibos | Middle: Green Rooibos | Right: Honeybush. Photo credit: Zhi Tea
HOW TO BUY & STORE ROOIBOS
When buying rooibos, there are a few characteristics you can look for to tell if it’s high quality or not. Higher grades of rooibos have mainly longer needle-like leaves with few or no stems. Beware of many broken, crumbled leaves – they should be mostly intact. The aroma of the dry leaves should also be rich and sweet. Generally, loose leaf or tea sachets are going to be of higher quality with a richer taste than tea bags.
To maintain freshness, you should store your rooibos leaves in a dry, cool, odor-free environment, ideally in an airtight container made for loose leaf tea storage. This will allow the leaves to retain their fresh flavor and high antioxidant content.
Experience rooibos tea for yourself with your own Sips by Box! Take the personalized tea quiz and look out for rooibos blends like this Lemon Rooibos from Cederbos by My Red Tea in your next box. You can also find teas like this Organic Rooibos Vanilla by Oteas in the Sips by Tea Shop.
HOW TO MAKE ROOIBOS TEA
Rooibos tea is the easiest tea to brew. You can either steep it like black tea or herbal tea using boiling water for several minutes as longer steep times bring out more flavor, antioxidants and nutrients, or you can cold brew it overnight. Here are a few general rooibos tea brewing tips to help you brew the perfect cup!
HOW TO BREW ROOIBOS TEA
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
- Water kettle or pot to heat water
- Rooibos tea leaves, sachets, or bags. We recommend Harvest Moon by MaraBette & Co.
- Teapot with filter, teacup, or personal mug and infuser
STEP ONE: HEAT THE WATER
- 212℉ // Soft boil
Pro Tip: Use filtered water for the best tasting cup!
STEP TWO: MEASURE THE TEA
- Generally 1 rounded tsp/1 tea bag per 8 oz. (1 cup) of water
Pro Tip: Add tea leaves to an infuser that lets them open fully, or you can put them straight into the teapot and use a strainer when you're pouring a cup!
STEP THREE: STEEP THE TEA
- 5+ minutes
Pro Tip: For rooibos, you can steep it longer than normal tea without it becoming bitter. 7-10 minutes is recommended for optimal nutrient extraction. Cover your tea while it steeps to keep all the heat and aroma in the steeping vessel.
STEP FOUR: ENJOY :)
Additions: Many people enjoy the taste of pure rooibos, but it also goes very well with a milk of your choice and/or some sweetener. We LOVE making a nice warming rooibos latte.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Check out this short video on how to prepare rooibos tea:
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About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.