Rooibos (/ˈrɔɪbɒs/ ROY-boss; Afrikaans: [rɔːibɔs];
Aspalathus linearis), meaning "red bush"; is a broom-like member of
Fabaceae family of plants growing in South Africa's fynbos.
The leaves are used to make a herbal tea that is called by the names:
rooibos, bush tea (especially in Southern Africa), or redbush tea
(predominantly in Great Britain). The tea has been popular in Southern
Africa for generations, but is now consumed in many countries
worldwide. It is sometimes spelled rooibosch in accordance with the
old Dutch. The tea has a taste and color somewhat similar to hibiscus
tea, or an earthy flavor like yerba mate.
The generic name comes from the Greek name aspalathos for Calicotome
villosa, which has very similar growth and flowers to the rooibos
plant. The specific name of linearis comes from the plant's linear
growing structure and needle-like leaves.
1 Production and processing
3 Chemical composition
5.1 US trademark controversy
5.2 Legal protection of the name rooibos
5.3 Threat from climate change
6 See also
8 External links
Production and processing
Green rooibos tea
Rooibos tea in a glass
A rooibos-infused liqueur and rooibos tea
Rooibos is usually grown in the Cederberg, a small mountainous area in
the region of the
Western Cape province of South Africa.
Generally, the leaves undergo an oxidation (often termed
"fermentation" in common tea processing terminology). This process
produces the distinctive reddish-brown colour of rooibos and enhances
the flavour. Unoxidised "green" rooibos is also produced, but the more
demanding production process for green rooibos (similar to the method
by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than
traditional rooibos. It carries a malty and slightly grassy flavour
somewhat different from its red counterpart.
Rooibos tea is commonly prepared in the same manner as black tea and
milk and sugar are added to taste. Other methods include a slice of
lemon and using honey instead of sugar to sweeten. It is also served
as espresso, lattes, cappuccinos or iced tea.
As a fresh leaf, rooibos has a high content of ascorbic acid (vitamin
Rooibos tea does not contain caffeine and has low tannin levels
compared to black tea or green tea.
Rooibos contains polyphenols,
including flavanols, flavones, flavanones, dihydrochalcones,
aspalathin and nothofagin.
The processed leaves and stems contain benzoic and cinnamic acids.
See also: Food grading
Rooibos grades are largely related to the percentage "needle" or leaf
to stem content in the mix. A higher leaf content results in a darker
liquor, richer flavour and less "dusty" aftertaste. The high-grade
rooibos is exported and does not reach local markets, with major
consumers being the EU, particularly Germany, where it is used in
creating flavoured blends for loose-leaf tea markets.
In 1772, Swedish naturalist Carl Thunberg noted, "the country people
made tea" from a plant related to rooibos or redbush. Traditionally,
the local people would climb the mountains and cut the fine,
needle-like leaves from wild rooibos plants. They
then rolled the bunches of leaves into hessian bags and brought them
down the steep slopes using donkeys. The leaves were then chopped with
axes and bruised with hammers, before being left to dry in the sun.
Dutch settlers to the Cape learned to drink rooibos tea as an
alternative to black tea, an expensive commodity for the settlers who
relied on supply ships from Europe.
In 1904, Benjamin Ginsberg ran a variety of experiments at Rondegat
Farm, finally curing rooibos. He simulated the traditional Chinese
method of making Keemun by fermenting the tea in barrels. The major
hurdle in growing rooibos commercially was that farmers could not
germinate the rooibos seeds. The seeds were hard to find and
impossible to germinate commercially.
In 1930 District Surgeon and botanist Dr Pieter Le Fras Nortier
began conducting experiments with the cultivation of the rooibos
plant. Dr Nortier also saw the vast commercial potential the tea held
for the region.
Dr Nortier cultivated the first plants at Clanwilliam on his farm
Eastside and on the farm Klein Kliphuis. The tiny seeds were very
difficult to come by. Dr Nortier paid the local villagers £5 per
matchbox of seeds collected. An aged Khoi woman found an unusual seed
source: having chanced upon ants dragging seed, she followed them back
to their nest and, on breaking it open, found a granary. Dr.
Nortier's research was ultimately successful and he subsequently
showed all the local farmers how to germinate their own seeds. The
secret lay in scarifying the seed pods. Dr Nortier placed a layer of
seeds between two mill stones and ground away some of the seed pod
wall. Thereafter the seeds were easily propagated. Over the next
decade the price of seeds soared to an astounding £80 a pound, the
most expensive vegetable seed in the world, as farmers rushed to plant
rooibos. Today, the seed is gathered by special sifting processes. Dr
Nortier is today accepted as the father of the rooibos tea industry.
Thanks to his research, rooibos tea, originally just an indigenous
drink, became an iconic national beverage and then a globalised
Rooibos tea production is today the economic mainstay of
the Clanwilliam district. In 1948 The University of Stellenbosch
awarded Dr Nortier an Honorary Doctorate D.Sc (Agria) in recognition
for his valuable contribution to South African agriculture.
US trademark controversy
In 1994, Burke International registered the name "Rooibos" with the US
Patent and Trademark Office, thus establishing a monopoly on the name
in the United States at a time when it was virtually unknown there.
When the plant later entered more widespread use, Burke demanded that
companies either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use. In
American Herbal Products Association and a number of import
companies succeeded in defeating the trademark through petitions and
lawsuits; after losing one of the cases, Burke surrendered the name to
the public domain.
Legal protection of the name rooibos
The South African Department of Trade and Industry issued final rules
on 6 September 2013 that protects and restricts the use of the names
"rooibos", "red bush", "rooibostee", "rooibos tea", "rooitee" and
"rooibosch" in that country, so that the name cannot be used for
things not derived from the
Aspalathus linearis plant. It also
provides guidance and restrictions for how products which include
Rooibos, and in what measures, should use the name "rooibos" in their
Threat from climate change
The rooibos plant is endemic to a small part of the western coast of
Western Cape province of South Africa. It grows in a symbiotic
relationship with local micro-organisms. Scientists speculate that
climate change may threaten the future survival of the plant and the
R600-million (approximately €43-million in March 2017) rooibos
industry. Some claim that increasing temperatures and decreasing
rainfall may result in the extinction of the plant within the next
Aspalathus linearis (Burm.f.) R.Dahlgren". International Legume
Database & Information Service (ILDIS). Retrieved 6 May 2016 –
^ Muofhe, M.L.; Dakora, F.D. (1999). "Nitrogen nutrition in nodulated
field plants of the shrub tea legume
Aspalathus linearis assessed
using 15N natural abundance".
Plant and Soil. 209 (2): 181–186.
^ Standley, L; Winterton, P; Marnewick, JL; Gelderblom, WC; Joubert,
E; Britz, TJ (January 2001). "Influence of processing stages on
antimutagenic and antioxidant potentials of rooibos tea". Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 49 (1): 114–7.
doi:10.1021/jf000802d. PMID 11170567.
Rooibos tea cappuccino or latte - Cape Point Press". Cape Point
Press. 2014-03-06. Retrieved 2017-07-20.
^ a b Morton, Julia F. (1983). "
Rooibos tea, aspalathus linearis, a
caffeineless, low-tannin beverage". Economic Botany. 37 (2): 164–73.
doi:10.1007/BF02858780. JSTOR 4254477.
^ Iswaldi, I; Arráez-Román, D; Rodríguez-Medina, I;
Beltrán-Debón, R; Joven, J; Segura-Carretero, A;
Fernández-Gutiérrez, A (2011). "Identification of phenolic compounds
in aqueous and ethanolic rooibos extracts (
Aspalathus linearis) by
HPLC-ESI-MS (TOF/IT)". Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. 400
(10): 3643–54. doi:10.1007/s00216-011-4998-z.
^ Krafczyk, Nicole; Woyand, Franziska; Glomb, Marcus A. (2009).
"Structure-antioxidant relationship of flavonoids from fermented
rooibos". Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 53 (5): 635–42.
doi:10.1002/mnfr.200800117. PMID 19156714.
^ Quantitative Characterization of Flavonoid Compounds in
Aspalathus linearis) by LC-UV/DAD. Lorenzo Bramati, Markus Minoggio,
Claudio Gardana, Paolo Simonetti, Pierluigi Mauri and Piergiorgio
Pietta, J. Agric. Food Chem., 2002, volume 50, issue 20, pages
^ Ku, S. K.; Kwak, S; Kim, Y; Bae, J. S. (2015). "
Aspalathus linearis) inhibits high
glucose-induced inflammation in vitro and in vivo". Inflammation. 38
(1): 445–55. doi:10.1007/s10753-014-0049-1.
^ Joubert, E. (1996). "HPLC quantification of the dihydrochalcones,
aspalathin and nothofagin in rooibos tea (
Aspalathus linearis) as
affected by processing". Food Chemistry. 55 (4): 403–411.
^ Rabe, C; Steenkamp, JA; Joubert, E; Burger, JF; Ferreira, D (1994).
"Phenolic metabolites from rooibos tea (
Phytochemistry. 35 (6): 1559–1565.
^ a b Green, Lawrence (1949). In The Land of the Afternoon. Standard
Press Ltd. pp. 52 to 54.
Rooibos Trademark Abandoned". American Herbal Products
^ "Merchandise Marks Act, 1941 (Act 17 of 1941), Final Prohibition on
the Use of Certain Words]" (PDF). Department of Trade and Industry,
Republic of South Africa. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 20 December
Climate change threatens rooibos". News24, IAB South Africa. 27
February 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
Media related to
Rooibos tea at Wikimedia Commons
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