Rooibos Tea

What is it?

Rooibos tea (pronounced roy-boss) is technically not a tea but rather a tisane brewed from the bark of a South African shrub unique to the mountainous area close to the Cape of Good Hope. In 1772, botanist Carl Thunberg observed that "tea was made from the red bush," but it took until 1904 before rooibos was commercially traded.

What's the story?

Rooibos "tea" is naturally caffeine free, high in both antioxidants and vitamin C. It has few tannins and therefore no bitter aftertaste.

Who's buying it?

Devany Vickery-Davidson, manager of The Spice and Tea Exchange, reports a diverse group of customers seek out chai and blood-orange rooibos teas. Pregnant women, those on a variety of medications where caffeine is to be avoided and those who wish to avoid caffeine in their diet are among the rooibos enthusiasts.

Who's selling it?

The Spice and Tea Exchange at 170A Church St. sells both the chai blend and blood orange-smoothie rooibos. The cost is $4.89 an ounce and also is available in 4-ounce tins for $17.95.

Quotable

Rooibos tea is on the menu at The Russian Tea Room in New York City. Dan Torres of Cafe Pedlar (NYC) reports that it is the "new pomegranate juice." Vickery-Davidson shares with us that the tea was made popular due to shortages during World War II but it is now being rediscovered by a new tea culture that seeks out rooibos "because of sensitivities, sleep issues and medications."

How to drink it

Rooibos tea is prepared like any ordinary tea. Sugar, honey and milk can be added: the tea sold at The Spice and Tea Exchange requires "only water."

Deidre Schipani