With a distinctive red colour and an even more distinctive name, red rooibos tea (pronounced roy-boss) is Afrikaans for ‘red bush tea’, and is used to make the popular herbal tea. Although organic rooibos (otherwise known as Aspalathus linearis) has always been around in its native South Africa, it has fast become a popular herbal tea choice around the world because of its unique flavors, antioxidant levels and other health benefits, as well as the fact that it’s caffeine-free.
As lovers of tea, we felt like it was time to take a deeper dive into this tantalizing red bush leaf, together with a rooibos tea review that’ll go through some of the best choices out there.
How rooibos tea is produced
The interesting thing about rooibos tea, is that it’s kind of like champagne – in the sense that it’s only produced in one area. In this case, that area is the Cederberg region of the Western Cape of South Africa. To prepare the rooibos leaves so that they can be made into a tea they are oxidized, which gives them that famous reddish-brown colour. There are options to get green rooibos tea that has not been oxidized, but this is generally more expensive and a less popular choice.
The health benefits of rooibos tea
Like other herbal teas, organic rooibos has fast become popular in Western countries particularly among the health-conscious markets. Loaded with antioxidants and naturally caffeine-free, the famous red bush tea also has lower tannin levels when compared to black tea, or unoxidized green tea leaves.
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties
As mentioned above, organic Aspalathus linearis is rich in antioxidants which may help to protect cells inside the body from free radicals. Rooibos red tea also contains a flavonoid known as quercetin which has been linked to detoxing the body and helping to reduce inflammation.
One of the things that makes organic rooibos tea a popular choice is that it is naturally caffeine-free, and is a great alternative to green tea and black tea as a result. Green rooibos is also caffeine-free, so go ahead and try this one too!
Better heart health
Cups of rooibos tea also contain a flavonoid called Chrysoeriol which may help with blood pressure, as well as reducing the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol contained in the body. This naturally leads to better heart health and can help prevent heart disease.
The antioxidant levels in organic rooibos tea have also been linked to lessen the symptoms of diabetes, including low energy levels, blood sugar and insulin management. Although animal studies have supported this, human research is yet to confirm the same healthy effects.
The flavonoids and antioxidants found in drinking rooibos teas may inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells through a stronger immune system. Although the evidence is in its early stages, the findings so far do show promise in this area, especially due to the high level of antioxidants .
Help with digestion
Like with other pure herbal teas out there, drinking pure rooibos tea can help with digestive problems. This particular tea has antispasmodic effects which can help reduce abdominal pain and associated issues.
Weight loss and management
The flavonoids in rooibos tea can help with appetite suppression and weight loss. By drinking rooibos tea before and after meals, it can help you feel fuller and even help with the metabolization of fats, resulting in a better chance to lose weight..
Please bear in mind that the above natural benefits are based on animal studies and may not necessarily be the same with human beings. Please do not use rooibos tea as the sole means of treatment for any serious health conditions. Instead, consider it as something that can help, rather than cure.
How to prepare rooibos tea
In South African tradition, rooibos is typically drunk together with milk and sugar, but you can also have it without either. The flavor itself is usually described as being slightly nutty and sweet. If you do choose to have black rooibos tea (without milk), you can leave the tea to brew as long as you like without it becoming too bitter. In fact, some traditional households brew their rooibos for days on end.
Although its casual name is ‘red tea’ in South Africa, several coffee shops have started to sell ‘red espresso’, which is made up of rooibos concentrate. You can also find natural red lattes and red cappuccinos that use rooibos tea in unique ways. And, while we are talking about colour, pure green rooibos has all of the same benefits as the red one, so if you are choosing between black or green tea, it will mostly come down to personal preference. The same goes as to whether you want to have it hot or cold.
At the end of the day, it’s all down to your individual tastes. Experiment with natural sugar, milk, honey and other additions and find your sweet spot of red rooibos goodness. Oh, and you can also choose to have loose leaf options or tea bags, which once again depend on how much time you’re willing to spend on preparation
Top rooibos tea brands
There are a lot of different brand choices out there, but we’ve narrowed down five of the best pure rooibos tea options in the review list below. We’ve tried to get a good variation of choices, as the type you go for will ultimately end up depending on your own personal choices. For instance, you might prefer organic herbal tea bags over loose-leaf, or you might want some extra flavors to help balance the bitterness. Whatever you get, make sure that it comes from South Africa to guarantee authenticity.
Anyway, we won’t go on. Here are some of the best rooibos tea brand choices you can get today.
This is a packet of 20 African red tea bags containing pure 100% pure South African Rooibos. Harney & Sons tea contains absolutely no extra ingredients and also comes at a great price. This is one of the best organic rooibos teas for beginners as it is relatively inexpensive and is easier to prepare when compared to loose-leaf herbal tea options.
- 100% organic and South African
- Contains no other ingredients
- Uses tea bags
- Packaged in an aluminum foil-lined pouch to maintain freshness
Twinings is perhaps one of the most well-known tea brands in the world, as well as one of the oldest. Their name for organic quality extends to their cups of South African red rooibos tea, which will be 100% pure and natural, made from individually wrapped tea bags for freshness. If you want to go with a famous brand, you’re not going to get better than Twinings.
- 20 tea bags per box
- Pure south African red tea with no other ingredients
- Naturally caffeine-free
- Expertly blended
- No hassle, easy to brew
- Great reviews
Numi is a family-owned brand that proudly sources fair-trade and environmentally friendly products. Their rooibos tea is 100% organic and high-quality, picked to deliver a mellow flavor and deep color. For the environmentally conscious out there, this is one of the best rooibos choices on the market today.
- 18 herbal red tea bags per box
- Sold in a pack of 3
- USDA Organic and caffeine-free
- Verified fair labor ingredients from South Africa
If you’re a fan of loose leaf tea, then you can’t go wrong with this bulk packet from one of the best rooibos tea brands, Davidson. This hefty 16-ounce bag is packed with high-quality organic green rooibos and comes packed in a foil-fresh packaging that will stay the distance in your cupboard. Although this is a larger investment than some brands, the volume to price ratio is perfect for rooibos enthusiasts.
- 16-ounce bag of organic rooibos
- USDA Organic
- Caffeine free
- A high quality blend
- Packed in a paper/kraft stand up pouch (SUP) with aluminum foil lining to maintain freshness
If you find the taste of raw rooibos a little bitter or boring, The Republic of Tea has you covered. They have a range of lovely blends to choose from, but we think this vanilla infusion is one of the best. Adding a sweeter, smoother vanilla taste to your cup of organic rooibos, it’s a great way to get all of the health benefits, and a treat at the same time. This really is one of the best rooibos brands out there, so make sure to give it a go.
- 100% natural and organic rooibos tea
- 26 tea bags
- Naturally caffeine free
- Blended with real vanilla beans
Which one should you pick?
Flavors – All of the best rooibos teas featured in this list are fantastic in their own right, but choosing which one to pick will ultimately depend on your own flavor preferences. For instance, although most rooibos tea comes plain, there are plenty of flavored options on the market. Natural rooibos has a pleasant, earthy and slightly sweet taste to it, but this may still be too bitter for people who are not quite used to herbal teas. Just remember that they should all be caffeine free. If you generally drink black tea, the strong flavor won’t bother you.
Loose or bagged – For most of us, tea bags are more convenient and mess-free, but they do typically cost more. If you enjoy the ritual of preparing a fresh cuppa, loose leaf tea is usually more affordable, but comes with a little more hassle.
Social factors – Many global tea brands focus on being organic and fair-trade, although these will typically cost more. When picking your tea, you’ll have to think about how much these mean to you, and whether or not you want to pay the extra to support these values. While we always encourage fair-trade choices where possible, sometimes price is a real factor.
Company reputation – Finally, you’ll want to get a good understanding of the overall reputation of the tea brand you ultimately go with. For instance, cheaper brands may have cheaper packing materials and will therefore end being more difficult to store. Keep an eye on online reviews to see what other people think. However, you can rest assured that all of the choices on this list come from reputable brands that we can recommend.
Potential side effects
Like most herbal teas, drinking rooibos tea is generally very safe, and although the negative side effects are extremely rare, it’s worth keeping them in mind if you have any specific health conditions. If you drink too much on a daily basis, you may end up with mild digestive discomfort and cramps, as well as a few too many visits to the bathroom.
If you are pregnant or have any serious medical conditions such as breast cancer, we recommend checking with your medical professional before integrating rooibos tea into your daily routine. However, these risks are very low and you’d have to drink a huge volume of the tea to have any kind of negative effect.
Go forth and enjoy!
So, now you’re an expert on all things South African and drinking rooibos. By picking one of our favorites on our review list you can’t go wrong, but if you have any recommendations of your own, we’d love to hear them. Rooibos does have a slightly unusual flavor, but once you get your combinations of milk, sugar and honey in check, you’ll soon join the millions of people around the world who love this delicious, red tea. Caffeine free, low in tannins, high in antioxidants and with a wonderful, earthy flavor, rooibos tea is a real winner.