For clarification purposes the correct way to pronounce Rooibos is Roy Boss. We struggled with this one for a while too, so there you go.
Rooibos is not technically coffee or tea. It contains absolutely no caffeine but makes up for that with an abundant supply of minerals and antioxidants. The leaves of the red bush plant are used to make an herbal-like tea called rooibos tea, bush tea or sometimes redbush tea. It can be prepared in a similar manner as tea which lends to its reputation as a tea. Let's get down to the details.
The rooibos bush grows in mountainous regions of South Africa. It's a hardy plant that loves high altitudes and thin air. This is believed to contribute to many of the minerals and antioxidants found within it's needle like leaves.
British adventurers in the late 1700's were first introduced to Rooibos tea by the South African locals. And we know how much those Brits love their tea. The locals would ascend rough, mountainous terrain to harvest the thin, needle like leaves of the red bush plant and return with large bundles tied to the backs donkey's. The leaves were then chopped, pounded and bruised which kicked off the fermentation process.
Because black tea was expensive to obtain in South Africa, the British adopted red bush tea as an adequate substitute to their addiction which led to its cultivation and wide spread distribution years later.
Rooibos is loaded with the good stuff. The health benefits of red rooibos are known to cure nagging headaches, insomnia, asthma, eczema, hypertension and allergies. Drinking rooibos tea can further ease stomach cramps and boost the body's natural immune system.
Rooibos tea is rich in many beneficial minerals such as calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid. It also contains high levels of antioxidants like aspalathin and nothofagin, and the extremely potent and versatile phenolic compounds. It's said to be much richer in antioxidants than either tea or coffee.
Rooibos does not contain caffeine and makes a great substitute for coffee drinkers in the form of Red Espresso. The leaves are fermented and dried as usual but the final product is ground into a fine espresso like grind that can be pulled as a delicious, red hued espresso shot.
Red Espresso looks very much like coffee espresso when brewed. There's even a small amount of "crema" on the top of a proper shot. Red espresso seems to please both coffee and tea lovers alike.
Today there is some controversy surrounding the sustainability of Rooibos. Climate change is threatening the natural habitat of the red bush plant in South Africa leading to conservationists warning us of shortages and perhaps the complete die-off of the plant. Because crops in other regions have failed to thrive, this is certainly something to keep an eye on. Continue to do your part for the environment and support reusable, renewable and sustainable coffee and tea practices! As always, thanks for reading!
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