Rooibos tea - a very special essence

Other terms abroad include ‘redbos tea’ and ‘koopmans tea’ (merchant’s tea). Next to these, there are also a number of other, sometimes very fanciful names which lack all connection to redbush tea.

This tea is gradually coming to enjoy an increasing popularity, including in our geographical region. Present in many people’s memory as a milder alternative to black tea or even coffee (rooibos tea contains no caffeine) and due to the fruity-sweet and nonetheless calorie-free taste, redbush tea can be enjoyed at any time of the day and by any group of people (by both children and pregnant persons).

Revered in South Africa for centuries as an elixir of health, rooibos tea is being mentioned more frequently in scientific circles and among doctors and therapists due to its health-benefiting properties. However, the South African apartheid system had to weaken for redbush tea to find its way into the West.


Redbush Tea – the history of its discovery

Redbush tea was first mentioned in the western world in the year 1772, in one of the books of the botanist Thunberg, who for the first time reported on the preparation of a needle leaf tea by the Khoikhoi, a native people of the mountainous region north of Cape Town.

In 1904, the Russian tea trader Benjamin Ginsberg travelled through South Africa and purchased the rooibos tea from the Khoikhoi to sell it for profit in Cape Town. But it was only in 1930 that the redbush plant was analysed for its health-bringing qualities by Dr. Petter la Fras Nortier and cultivated commercially.

In 1954, a state-run supervisory authority was established with the name ‘Redbos Tea Control Board’ whose task it was to monitor the quality and quantity as well as hygiene in the cultivation and sale of redbush tea.

Rooibos tea was originally a popular drink with everyday people, without requirements for any philosophical background or even imperial ceremonies, as is familiar to us with green tea, for example. Rooibos tea is close to the people, down-to-earth, tasty and healthy. Period. That’s it!


Rooibos tea and its naming

‘Rooibos’ is the South African name for ‘redbush’ (‘rooi’ = red, ‘bos’ = bush), which is why redbush tea is usually called ‘rooibos tea’. Among the others names are ‘Bushman tea’ and ‘Massai tea’.

Rooibos tea – botanical information

Rooibos (Latin ‘Aspalathus linearis’) is a member of the legume family (Fabaceae) and originates in the mountainous regions of the South African province, Western Cape. Around 200 species belong to this family, although only ‘linearis’ is considered edible. The rooibos plant requires a temperate climate, coarse, sandy soil and a damp and relatively cool location.

Redbush – the appearance

The rooibos bush reaches a height of 1-2 m, is wide and rod-like and is heavily branched. A number of thin branches grow from the sides of the limbs. The name ‘rooibos tea’ or ‘redbush tea’ comes from the red colour of the redbush branches. The leaves of the redbush bush are green and their shape reminds one of pine needles; they are about 60 mm long and about 1 mm wide.


Rooibos tea – the harvest

The redbush bush can be used for about 10 years as a tea supplier and can be harvested for the first time after 18 months. The harvest time begins in January and extends into March; the second sowing is harvested from June to August. 

Rooibos tea – the taste

The fruity-sweet and at the same time mild taste of rooibos tea is due to its fermentation process, in which the tannins are transformed into flavour ingredients. The taste does not lose its effect on the taste buds even when unsweetened.

In contrast to green tea, it also tastes good to small children and even infants, where it works very well against colic without unnecessarily stressing the body. This is due to two flavones that occur exclusively in rooibos. These make rooibos tea sweet without sugar and calories. Nearly 100 aromatic oils ensure the fruity aroma of redbush tea. Rooibos also contains no caffeine and can therefore be enjoyed daily by every target group and at any time of day, even by the litre.


Active ingredients of rooibos tea

Rooibos tea offers an abundant number of different active ingredients which provide it with an impressive effect on innumerable ailments and illnesses.

To this day, researchers have already been able to provide evidence of 200 individual active substances in rooibos tea, including vitamins, rutin, minerals, trace elements, flavonoids, flavone, phenolic acids, numerous antioxidants and essential oils.

Among these ingredients are, specifically:

-                   Vitamin C

-                   Calcium

-                   Magnesium

-                   Potassium

-                   Sodium

-                   Iron

-                   Copper

-                   Fluorine

-                   Rutin

-                   Zinc

-                   Alpha hydroxy acid

-                   Polyphenols

-                   Phenolic acids

-                   Quercetin

-                   Quercitrine


Minerals and trace elements in rooibos tea

The remarkably high number of different minerals and trace elements in rooibos tea makes it qualified as a much-beloved sports drink, because, as is well known, we lose numerous minerals through our sweat during sports. The loss of minerals, however, leads to decreased performance and muscle cramps. This can be avoided, though, with some cold glasses of redbush tea before, during and after exercise! Rooibos tea also tastes fruity-sweet and refreshing even unsweetened, and the minerals contained in it are quickly absorbed, similarly to a traditional isotonic drink.

Mineral content in a cup of rooibos tea

One cup of redbush tea (3 g in 200 ml) delivers the following mineral amounts:

Mineral/trace element

Amount in mg



















In addition, 99 aroma oils could be identified in rooibos.

Rooibos without caffeine and with little tannin – the special feature

In contrast to all other types of tea, rooibos tea is characterised by a total lack of caffeine and also contains only traces of tannin. Next to the already-mentioned benefits which allow one to drink redbush tea around the clock, even by the litre—and this by every group of person, from infants to seniors—, there are benefits which arise from cutting out the negative effect of caffeinated drinks:

Disadvantages of caffeinated drinks:

-       Dehydration risk. In the heat, caffeinated drinks can cause the body to dry out with results ranging from exhaustion to circulatory collapse.

-       With strong coffee drinks, the risk of addiction with withdrawal symptoms increases.

-       Insomnia can develop, especially in children.

-       Caffeine carries the risk of high blood pressure.

-       The mineral metabolism of the bones can be disrupted (the balance of calcium and phosphorus becomes disturbed).

-       Migraine attacks could occur.

-       The whole body in general can become acidified.

-       Existing stomach ulcers and gastritis can be worsened by the acids that are created.

The polyphenols contained in redbush tea

Especially recently, polyphenols have enjoyed a great amount of attention from researchers, as they can be of excellent service preventatively and curatively for the ‘scourges of modern humanity’ like cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and other illnesses.

Among the polyphenols contained in rooibos tea are:

-                     Flavonoids

-                     Flavanols

-                     Flavons

-                     Flavanons

-                     Anthocyane

-                     Hydroxybenzoic acid

-                     Hydroxycinnamic acid


-                Antioxidants in redbush tea

The antioxidants (radical catchers) in redbush tea, which protect our cells every single second from numerous attacks by free radicals, are:

-                         Vitamin C

-                         Rutin

-                         Flavons

-                         Flavonoids

-                         Nothofagin

-                         Luteolin

-                         Quercetin

-                         Orientin

-                         Isorientin

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