Cool Summer Refreshments: Rooibos Red Tea

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During the summer I’m always looking for something cool to drink; water is all well and good, but sometimes I want something with some more flavor to it, and juice (even the kind without added sugars) is often too sweet for me. I’ve written before about my love of tea and my exploration of new tea blends. On hot days, I like to experiment with herbal blends, usually iced, and rooibus (pronunciation seems to range between ROY-boss and ROY-bus) is one of my favorites for an afternoon’s cool refreshment.

Iced rooibos tea is a tasty summertime beverage, rich in antioxidants.
Photo by Lyle Nel/Courtesy

This tea comes from the shrub Aspalathus linearis in the Cedarberg mountains of South Africa. It’s processed similarly to black tea (it’s allowed to oxidize before it dries), but it doesn’t contain any caffeine, is low in tannins and is a source of vitamin C. The indigenous people of the region (and colonial settlers) have used this tea as a medicinal for anxiety, minor skin irritation or inflammation, infant colic, allergies and indigestion.

According to an article on Slant, rooibus has been gaining popularity the last few years (if the sales numbers are anything to go by). The article goes on to talk about the inevitability of this herbal tisane being marketed as a health food even though there are no peer-reviewed studies documenting its health benefits for humans. But those potential health benefits aren’t why I started drinking it. I like rooibos because of its smooth texture and its slightly citrus taste, well-complemented by fruit flavors. It’s refreshing without being overpowering, and strikes me as a cleaner palate than most herbal teas I’ve tried. It tastes full, but is light on the tongue, which marks it a perfect addition to my summer meals. I’d recommend it iced to anyone looking for something bright and revitalizing on a hot day, especially if the weather’s humid.

If you are interested in the health benefits (the ones not supported by peer-reviewed journals), they’re mostly linked to the herb’s antioxidant content. Most of the studies were done in Japan and showed evidence that roobois might be just as effective (or perhaps more) as green tea in preventing cancerous growth and memory loss with age.  

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