This tasty red tea from South Africa is rich in health benefits.
A new tea is vying for time in your teacup—and your health regimen. Rooibos (pronounced ROY-bus) is a recent addition to the tea trade, and this dramatically red-colored herb is making its way onto the shelves of health-food stores nationwide. It can also make a healthful contribution to your diet.
The therapeutic value of rooibos tea has been recognized for centuries in South Africa, where both indigenous peoples and colonial settlers drank it to treat nervousness, indigestion, allergies, and minor skin problems. Current studies validate some of these uses. Of greatest interest is the herb’s high antioxidant content and related potential to prevent mutations that may lead to cancer. (See “Rooibos research” on page 63 for more details.) Rooibos is caffeine-free and low in tannins—a boon to tea lovers who can’t tolerate either compound.
Rooibos is native to South Africa’s Cederberg mountain range, a region that remains the sole commercial source of the plant. Rooibos is processed much like black tea. The leaves and stems are harvested, chopped, and allowed to naturally oxidize before they are dried. Rooibos, however, is the product of the shrub Aspalathus linearis, rather than Camellia sinensis from which green, oolong, and black teas are derived.
Although rooibos is as well endowed with antioxidants as green tea, its flavor is closer to that of black tea, with slightly citric, rosy overtones, all of which make it a pleasing choice for a variety of drinks beyond the standard brewed cup.
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