Rooibos(pronounced 'roy-bos'), a tea made from the red bush plant of South Africa, is often recommended for those who are avoiding caffeine. But what is it- and why is it so popular?
Enjoyed for generations in its native country, the tea made with rooibos isn't a tea at all. This is because it does not contain the leaves of camellia sinesis, the tea plant, but is made up of a finer, more needle shape leaf. This means that rooibos is a caffine-free herbal infusion, similar to fruit teas and yerba mate. However, unlike other herbal and fruit teas, it works well with milk and so could suit those who are not quite ready to give up on their traditional brew.
With a light, slightly sweet taste, rooibos is delicious as a stand-alone caffeine-free infusion in its own right but also works exceptionally well as a base for other flavours, especially citrus and spice combinations. Classically, though, rooibos is most often paired with vanilla for a smooth, sweet flavour that can be enjoyed at any time of day. It's a great drink to enjoy after a heavy meal, as some believe that it can help soothe a sore stomach- but even if there's nothing in that theory, it's a wonderfully soothing drink when you want a little comfort without a caffeine buzz.
Prepared in much the same way as tea, rooibos can and should be brewed for slightly longer (about five minutes) in boiling water. Milk, sugar and honey can be added to taste as you would with milk. It also lends itself to latte and iced tea recipes- so have fun and experiment!