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Tea Forté travels to the soul of South Africa to procure the indigenous wonder herb called rooibos (ROY-boss). Mistakenly referred to as tea, rooibos means "red bush" in Afrikaans. Naturally caffeine-free, rooibos blends deliver a distinctive, rich red tisane that is delicious hot or iced. 

What is rooibos tea?

Rooibos tea is sweet in a way that falls somewhere between the simple, fruit-forward flavor of a berry tea and the complex warmth of a vanilla chai. Easy to drink and rarely calling for additional sweetener of any kind, it’s the kind of tea that even a non-tea drinker would likely enjoy. It also goes by several names, including honeybush tea (because of its honey-like flavor), red bush tea, and bush tea.

Where is rooibos tea from?

Until the late 18th century, rooibos tea was a drink enjoyed only by locals near the fynbos, or shrub, of South Africa. The tea leaves were grown in the mountainous area now known as Cederburg, then gathered, rolled into woven bags, and taken down the mountainside via donkey. The leaves were cut by axe, bruised with metal tools and dried in the sun before being steeped into a warm, comforting drink.

Although rooibos became a popular drink among Dutch imperialists who came to the area in the late 19th century, none of them could figure out how to cultivate the seeds and grow a commercial enterprise. In 1903, a local conservationist named Dr. Pieter Le Fras Nortier, started experimenting with the plant’s cultivation and found a way to support a cycle of germination, growth, and harvest.

Soon, the rooibos seed became the most expensive and sought-after vegetable seed in the world, and since then, Dr. Nortier has been referred to as the father of rooibos tea. His breakthrough research and its adoption by the community stimulated the local economy and made the drink a national, and eventually, global beverage. The impending effects of climate change have raised concern among horticulturists and climate scientists about the future of the rooibos plant, but for now, it’s a beloved beverage offering pleasure to those who drink it.

Health benefits of rooibos tea

Herbal tisanes, including rooibos, naturally contain no caffeine. This makes it a wonderful drink for those with caffeine sensitivities. Likewise, caffeine is a diuretic, which means herbal beverages free of the stimulant are a better source of hydration than coffee or caffeinated tea.

The health benefits of rooibos are plentiful, and chief among them are its antioxidant properties. Extensive studies on rooibos show perks ranging from the ability to repair oxidative stress on the liver to the potential to prevent the onset and progression of diabetes. A certain type of antioxidant called “polyphenols,” which are found in many herbal teas, are thought by researchers to benefit the human body in many ways, most notably slowing down signs of the oxidation process we generally call “aging.”

How to prepare rooibos

Like all herbal tisanes, rooibos tea should be prepared with water heated to 208 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour one cup (8 ounces) of water over one Tea Forte pyramid infuser (or one Tbsp of loose tea in a reusable infuser) and let steep for five minutes. For more depth of flavor, continue steeping to taste. Once your steep is complete, raise a cup to your health and enjoyment.

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