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!

Autumn Teas

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Dearies, do you have a favorite time of year? There is something I love in every season, but cool breezes, bright sunshine, and vibrant leaves gently floating to the ground just makes me feel happy, warm, and fuzzy. This time of year Kat takes endless walks in the woods, and sometimes she’ll tote me along with her. I love listening to the leaves swish as she walks while the birds merrily chirp all around us. I’ve been gathering our favorite fall teas to keep on hand in the kitchen. A sip of these in the morning or after a hike is the perfect way to enhance a beautiful fall experience. Here are a few of our favorite fall teas.

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Masala Chai- Newman’s Own Organic Chai. Wake you up and warm you up! Kat has tried many masala chai blends over the years, and she just loves the balance in this one. The organic ingredients of ginger, cinnamon, black pepper cloves, and cardamom are exactly what she looks for in a good chai. These are actually the same ingredients she uses in her homemade version. Often times there is too much cardamom or cinnamon in chai, but the flavors here aren’t too spicy or strong, they all play happily together. Kat likes to steep this tea nice and strong for about 5 minutes, and then adds a few dashes of milk and a tablespoon of honey. Kat loves that she can easily find this tea at her local Stop & Shop, and never worries about running out. She finds this tea comforting and invigorating, and craves it quite often!

Cranberry- of course cranberry flavor is associated with fall! There are many teas that have added cranberry to their blends. It adds a pleasing tartness that is easily balanced with a dash of sweetener. Sips of cranberry tea will bring you to an inviting holiday table with leaves gently falling outside the window. Cranberry teas are bright with a fun combination of sweet and tangy notes.

Cinnamon- cinnamon is always a staple in our house during the cooler months. It’s warming and perfect for all sorts of dishes and drinks. Kat bakes with it, adds it to her morning oatmeal, even swirls a bit in her black tea. You can find it in endless blend combinations, or just add it yourself like Kat does.

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Rooibos- rooibos has an earthy flavor that’s perfect for this time of year. It also has a red hue reminiscent of the falling leaves. Rooibos is perfect any time of day since it doesn’t have caffeine. You can add other flavors to it or drink it straight up! You could get creative and make a cranberry or cinnamon rooibos blend all on your own. There are many rooibos blends out there, so definitely give a few a try this season.

I do hope you’ll let me know what your favorite fall teas are! Do you enjoy any specific flavors or particular types of tea?

Mixing Teas & Flowers

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Dearies, I know I’ve written quite a bit about spring time teas, but I’ve recently thought of one more way to get spring flowers in your cup. To actually put them in your cup! I know, it seems too easy to be true, right?

You’ll want to dry your flowers first, or you can purchase them already dried. The amount of flowers you use depends on how much tea you want to make. For a few servings I’ll blend one cup of tea and a tablespoon of flowers and adjust if necessary, but you’ll need to start experimenting and see what works best for you. You may also want to add a floral extract to your blend, to increase the flavor. But that’s entirely up to you!

To make a garden blend with just flowers, you can use equal parts of each flower. Kat likes to blend chamomile and lavender together for a soothing evening blend. She often likes to play around with the following flowers. You can find these already dried online for easy use: rose, jasmine, lavender, hibiscus, chamomile, and chrysanthemum.

Kat likes to create her own version of Rose Congou. This is a fragrant rose tea from China. She takes 1 cup of her favorite Chinese black tea, and 2 tablespoons of dried rose petals. Sometimes she’ll add in a couple drops of rose extract. Mix everything together and store in an airtight container for 1 week. Open the container and give it a sniff. If it smells like a rose garden, it’s ready!

Adding flowers to your tea blends is delicious and also visually appealing. Fill tea filters with your tea blend and share with friends and family. You could also put it in a pretty glass jar for gift-giving, although I wouldn’t recommend storing your tea in glass long-term unless you’re sure to keep it out of the light (see my previous post on properly storing teas!)

You can add your flowers to any of your favorite tea bases, or I also like to use rooibos as a caffeine-free base. You can also skip the tea base altogether and just blend the flowers together!

Now my lovelies, please note I’m not a master tea blender, I just know what Kat and I enjoy. These are just my recommendations to get your mind thinking about how to get creative with tea and flowers.

Evening Teas

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I love the evening! Once Kat is off to bed, I adventure around the kitchen, chatting with my friends. Sometimes the soup pot will have a new joke to tell, or the kettle will start spouting folksongs. Kitchenware can get quite rowdy past midnight! But dearies, I don’t need to sleep like you all do. After dinner, Kat enjoys a warm, soothing cup of tea but she doesn’t want any caffeine to keep her awake at bedtime.

The days are starting to get a little bit shorter, and nights are a little bit chillier. It’s the perfect time to talk about teas to drink in the evening. Kat is always looking for new ways to create a tranquil nighttime routine and there are many teas that can enhance the setting.

Do you drink rooibos? Rooibos is always a good choice after dinner. It’s not actually a tea, but an herb made from the leaves of the rooibos bush found in South Africa. It’s often referred to as Red Tea or African Red Tea. It’s pronounced ‘roy-boss’, which is not easy to tell just by looking at the name! I’ve had to correct many of Kat’s friends. The flavor of rooibos is quite unique. It is naturally sweet with a honey-like flavor, a bit nutty and spicy. Kat often thinks it has a bit of a vanilla flavor as well. If you are looking for a decaffeinated alternative to tea, you should give it a try. It is a smooth, calming brew.

Kat enjoys this Fresh & Easy organic rooibos herbal tea on many quiet, chilly evenings. She actually discovered it after a yoga class. Her yoga studio often has invigorating herbal teas to enjoy after practice. She will often breeze past them but when she noticed rooibos, she stopped to have a sip. She hadn’t tried it before and had no idea what it was! She was surprised at the flavor. It was unlike any other herbal tea she’d ever tried. It has a strong flavor that is similar to black tea, but also quite different with the honey and spice notes. She also appreciates the individually wrapped teabags as she can take them to work, or on long plane flights when she needs a little extra help to relax.

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There are many herbal teas are perfect in the evening. Chamomile is a classic choice. The sweet, floral flavor is instantly relaxing. It is sweet enough alone, or takes to a bit of sweetener nicely. The flavor is gentle and calm and the aroma will fill your room with the scent of fresh flowers. Peppermint tea is also a popular choice among Kat and her friends after dinner. Kat often serves it at dinner parties in little glass cups along with a few springs of fresh mint. She loves how the glass cups enhance the vibrant color. It’s refreshing after a heavy meal, yet peppy enough in flavor to stimulate a lively after-dinner conversation.

Ginger tea is also lovely after a meal. Kat simply grates a teaspoon or two of fresh ginger into my cup, depending on how spicy she wants her tea. Then she simply pours some boiling water over it. You can let it steep as long as you like. If you don’t like the idea of drinking pieces of floating ginger, simply put the grated ginger in a strainer or paper tea filter. I personally enjoy the little bits as they float and tickle the sides of my cup! Kat agrees, and likes to munch on the little ginger bits. Feel free to add some sweetener as it can be spicy. But it’s the perfect way to take a deep breath, relax, and digest after a meal.

Just thinking about these teas makes me want to grab a blanket, a good book, and sit by a crackly fire. What do you drink when you’re trying to wind-down in the evening?

Tea and Glamping

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There’s a new form of camping that is sweeping the nation, and I, for one, am a fan! Glamorous + Camping = Glamping!  Gone are the days that a tea cup would fear the rogue cast iron pot or errant log in the campsite. And for Kat, there’s no need to dread a musty sleeping bag on a slowly deflating air mattress.

Voila! The luxurious campground that features beautiful and spacious safari tents, luxurious beds with soft, cool bed linens, cushioned seating, hanging lanterns, and even a dinner box with all the ingredients, tools and implements needed to cook your food over the campfire.

This is an environment where a tea cup can get comfy. Boil some water on the portable gas stove, and set me on a proper, if rustic, dining table as I steep something warm and wild for you.

Here’s a short list of glamp-grounds Kat and I are considering:

Camp Orenda in the Adirondacks offers “Canvas Cabins” (I LOVE that!) with all of the comforts of a luxury hotel: Down comforters, fleece blankets, daily cabin service, including delivery of logs for your own wood-burning stove, and access to an open-flame gourmet dinner menu that looks divine! Each Cabin is nestled thoughtfully in its own private natural sanctuary but with easy access to all of the camp amenities such as yoga, hiking, fishing, canoeing and more.

Dunton Hot Springs in Colorado is a collection of authentically restored log cabins (with a tent cabin or two available as well) that are conveniently located near the local Saloon and Dance Hall. A great private getaway or a fun meet-up adventure with friends, we hear the kitchen will even pack you a custom picnic to take along with you as you explore the area.

El Capitan Canyon in California has a choice of cedar cabins and safari tents in a lush landscape. Willow beds, down-style duvets, and your own grill and fire pit for cooking or roasting marshmallows. Kat could cook her own meals or we could pop over to the Canyon Market and Deli for whatever she needs.

I’m already envisioning myself in these beautiful settings, admiring the forest, watching the birds flit from branch to branch. This is the type of camping a tea cup could get used to!

And, of course, a glamorous outdoor adventure would not be complete without accompanying adventure teas.

First, Fresh & Easy’s Chai Black Tea. I can’t think of a better way to start our morning in the great outdoors than with the fragrance of cinnamon, ginger and anise. Add some milk and sugar, and it’s an adventure with your senses! Sweet, spicy, cozy, and warm.

Then, something special to wind down the day. We’ll have a campfire, a luxurious safari-style tent in the background… this calls for Fresh & Easy’s Rooibos Herbal Tea ! Made from the leaves of the rooibos bush commonly found in South Africa, this tea is caffeine free, and has a wild, sweet, fruity quality to it. The warmth, the soothing sips, the untamed flavors will be just the thing as we talk about what was seen and heard throughout the day and what the plans will be for the morrow.

I can’t wait for the adventure to begin!

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.”

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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?