Tippy’s Tea of The Month: Rooibos

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Dearies, I’m a teacup that has been around the world and I’ve experienced all types of teas and tea culture. One type of tea that seems to stump many folks is actually not a tea at all, but from the Aspalathus Linearis plant, which is a South African evergreen shrub. The tea is often referred to as ‘red bush’ tea. It is only grown in South Africa, but is exported all around the world.

The needle like green leaves are plucked and then oxidized and dried which causes it to turn a lovely reddish brown color. It reminds me of the color of fall leaves.  The flavor of rooibos can be everything from woodsy and nutty, to slightly sweet, with notes of vanilla and honey. It’s most common to find the red rooibos leaves, but the green, non-oxidized rooibos can sometimes be found as well. The green variety is steamed and then dried. Since it isn’t oxidized, it retains a grassier flavor. Rooibos is commonly blended with other flavors as well.

This herbal tea doesn’t have any caffeine, so it’s great for any time of day. Kat likes to add a dash of honey or maple syrup to her rooibos for a satisfying nighttime sip. She keeps a box of Wegman’s rooibos on hand for chilly nights by the fire, or a convivial sip with friends. The earthy sweetness is perfect for any occasion. She’s made many of her friends into rooibos drinkers, and often gives them a few bags to take home with them. In fact, they expect a steamy cup in hand whenever they stop over to visit!

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Rooibos is a very forgiving tea- you can steep it for quite a long time and it won’t get bitter or astringent. Use boiling water, and about 1 tbsp per cup. Steep from 2-4 minutes, or as long as you like. You can prepare this tea in a traditional teapot, or even use a small tea strainer since the leaves are bits that don’t expand much (unlike tea leaves that need more room to breathe).

Dearies if there is a tea that I haven’t featured that you are curious about please drop me a line and let me know!

The Basics of Rooibos

Rooibos! I just love saying the name! It’s rather fun. “ROY-bos!”

This is a “tea” that has quickly become more popular over the last several years. While it is not actually a tea, it is brewed the same way and can be a lovely caffeine-free alternative to tea.  It comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant and is in the legume family, interestingly enough. These plants are most often found in South Africa and are commonly referred to as “red tea,” or “red bush tea.”

Rooibos

While the local people had harvested and used the needle-like leaves for generations, the Dutch settlers became aware of rooibos in the early 1900’s and began drinking it to replace their usual black tea, which was very expensive, as they relied on many of their supplies from ships traveling from Europe.

Rooibos may be found plain or in a variety of beautiful blends. And it may be dressed up in the same way as black tea – with milk, sugar, lemon or honey.

If you enjoy the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, you’ll find the character, Precious Ramatswe, enjoying rooibos, on a daily basis.

To prepare, steep your rooibos in freshly boiled water for 2 to 4 minutes. Dress it up any way you like, or leave it as is. And then, simply enjoy!

What do you like most about Rooibos?

Tea Does Not Grow In London

When we hear the words, “afternoon tea,” most of us think of the very English tradition. And it has come to my attention that there is a notion that tea, itself, comes from England. While our English friends do drink copious amounts of the brewed leaf, the origins of the tea itself are as unique and varied as the tea cups in which afternoon tea is served!

tea estate

Tea requires an abundance of rain and sunlight and heat, which translates to high humidity.  They say (and I’ve witnessed) that when on a tea plantation, if the people are uncomfortable, the tea is happy.  England, on the opposite end of the weather spectrum, is known for rain, certainly, but not sun and heat. Which leads us to the amazing roll call of countries who have these elements in abundance! The tea estates of India provide a glorious spectrum of teas, many of them black teas from the Assam and Darjeeling regions. In China, there are endless tea plantations producing black and green tea. They have names such as Dragon Well (or Long Jing) and Pi Lo Chun. Japan is known for green Senchas and matcha, the bright green powder that can be whisked to frothy perfection.  Taiwan is known for its oolongs. Tea is also grown in regions of Africa and South America!

Each region has its own unique impact on the tea plants. The weather, the altitude, the insects, even the flora that grows along side the tea plants – each has its own unique and unrepeatable impact on the flavor that is ultimately delivered to your cup.

The English have given us so many tea-drinking traditions, and they pioneered much of the expansion of tea cultivation globally as a result of their colonization. But when it comes to the growing of the tea itself, you will not find it in London!

It tickles me to no end to think of the long journey these tea leaves have made from their corners of the world, and here they are now, in my cup!