tea drinking

Rooibos has many health benefits Photo: Drew Jemmett / Unsplash

Par-TEA time: making tea cool again

People all around the world are opting for tea as their go-to drink. But how much do you know about it? An expert shares her thoughts.

tea drinking

Rooibos has many health benefits Photo: Drew Jemmett / Unsplash

All over the world, tea sales are rising. But how much do you know about how to actually brew the perfect cuppa? Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council, talked to The South African.

Recently, the assortment of tea on offer in supermarkets has dramatically expanded in the last few years and whole new categories have been added within stores to accommodate all the new varieties! Adele says:

“Ready-to-drink teas, functional teas and specialty teas are now available in all shapes, sizes and flavours. There is also an emergence of new categories, which include tea-infused water, energy drinks, ice cream and even tea-infused alcoholic and malt beverages are also ramping up consumers’ interest in the category.”


But while it has become increasingly popular, very few South Africans know the difference between their teas:

“Most South Africans still have the habit of referring to all leafy beverages steeped in hot water as tea, but strictly speaking, the word ‘tea’ only refers to a beverage that comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is native to Asia. The most common varieties are black, green, white, oolong, purple, Pu-erh and herbal infusions. Black and green teas are all derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant – the leaves are just processed differently. Black teas are oxidised, which gives the tea it’s dark colour, while white teas are left to dry. Oolong is shaken in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise and dry the leaves. Herbal teas are referred to as tisanes (pronounced ti-zahn), since they don’t come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Tisanes are made from leaves, fruit, flowers, roots, berries, seeds and spices. Popular tisanes include hibiscus, mint, chamomile, lemon balm and our homegrown, Rooibos. They also don’t contain caffeine, whereas traditional teas do, albeit in various amounts. Both teas and tisanes cater for specific health needs.”

So… rooibos is not, technically, tea? Not according to Adele. We ask her to explain what rooibos is:

“Rooibos tea comes from the plant called Aspalathus linearis and this plant is actually a fynbos variant and it’s part of the legume family so it grows exclusively in a very small part in the Western Cape in South Africa. Even though we use the leaves of the plant, we can’t nowadays call it tea anymore because it’s more of a herbal infusion!”


How long should you be brewing your rooibos for? And what’s the ultimate brewing temperature?

“For optimal health benefits you can keep your rooibos for 5-10 minutes because that’s when the magic happens. More antioxidants are set free into the warm water and it also will enhance the taste of the tea. Rooibos is a very resilient plant so up to 100°C is fine and you can even keep it up to 15 minutes if you prefer a bit of a colder tea.”

Some of Rooibos’s health benefits include improved heart health, stabilised blood glucose/sugar levels, reduced stress and anxiety and improve certain skin conditions. In fact, Adele suggests applying it directly to your skin in order to see conditions clear up!

It doesn’t hurt that says Rooibos is delicious and its flavour profile unique.

“Most of us have enjoyed Rooibos in a ‘red’, fermented form, but it’s equally satisfying in it’s unfermented, ‘green’ guise. When tasting Rooibos, you will notice three primary aromas i.e. woody, fynbos-floral and honey, followed by secondary aromas: fruity-sweet, caramel and apricot. While red Rooibos has a light, earthy taste, it’s strong enough to hold other ingredients like fruit, herbs, flowers, spices and even chocolate. This allows for it to be enjoyed both hot or cold, in cappuccino, latte or espresso formats. On the other hand, green Rooibos is more delicate and has a vegetal, yet sweet note.”


Oh, and since it’s caffeine free it can be great in children’s diets! In fact, you can give it to your children from about 6 months old or as soon as they start having solids introduced into their diets. It can also be used to clear up nappy rashes if applied directly.

How do you choose your favourite brand of Rooibos? Adele says it’s easy:

“Well, for me it’s always taste that’s very important. You should be looking for a taste that’s like honey and like caramel and fruit. So just try brands out and find the ones that work for you. The best teas are made from leaves so look out for sticks and choose ones that are predominently leafy.”

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