Rooibos is a unique and versatile product that comes from a special part of the world and its people. This section covers a wide range of general topics for you to discover all the different dimensions of Rooibos, from the plant to its commercial innovations. Choose topics from the menu on the left to journey through the Rooibos story.
Nutritional Table for Rooibos Tea
The table below provides the typical nutritional information for rooibos tea (traditional and green rooibos) to be printed on all Rooibos tea packaging in future. It is in line with the latest food labelling legislation published on 1 March 2010 – Regulation 146 of the Foodstuff, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act (Act 54 of 1972) that comes in to effect on 1 March 2011
ROOIBOS TEA: TYPICAL NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION*
Per 100 ml tea
Per single serving (200 ml tea)
Glycaemic carbohydrate (g)
of which total sugar (g)
Total fat (g)
of which saturated fat (g)
Dietary fibre (g)**
Total sodium (mg)
*Provided by the South African Rooibos Council based on analysis at SANAS-accredited laboratories **Fibre content determined with AOAC 985.29 method
Rooibos is naturally free from kilojoules and fat and very low in sodium
Rooibos is naturally caffeine free
Rooibos is a natural source of antioxidants
Rooibos Tea Facts
Rooibos is not a true tea, but a herb. The brew made from the dried Rooibos leaves is therefore a herbal infusion (known as a tisane) rather than a tea, but is widely known as Rooibos tea.
Rooibos has a distinctive colour, flavour and aroma, which differentiates it from most other teas. The flavour can be described as slightly sweet and fruity.
The vibrant amber colour of Rooibos comes from the natural colour that develops during the post-harvest “fermentation” (oxidation) process, brought about by natural enzymes in the plant.
Rooibos is a pure and natural product as it contains no colourants, additives or preservatives.
Rooibos has no kilojoules.
Rooibos is available as plain or flavoured tea, as loose leaves or in tea bags. It is often blended with other herbal teas.
Rooibos is graded according to colour, flavour, and cut length.
Rooibos ages well and can be stored for long periods without any deterioration in quality, flavour and taste.
In many countries Rooibos is enjoyed as a hot or cold beverage without milk, with or without sweeteners. Many South Africans enjoy Rooibos as a hot beverage with milk, sweetened with sugar or honey.
Green Rooibos is made from the same plant as traditional Rooibos. The only difference is in the processing. For traditional Rooibos, the green leaves and stems of the plant are crushed and “fermented” before drying. The fermentation step is actually an oxidation process brought about by enzymes and chemicals naturally present in the plant. In the case of green Rooibos, the fermentation process is skipped, and the “green” leaves and stems are dried directly. Different processes are used to prevent oxidation.
Green (unfermented) Rooibos infusion has a lighter tan/yellow colour and a very mild “green” taste reminiscent of green tea.
Green Rooibos has higher levels of antioxidants than traditional fermented Rooibos and demonstrates even higher antioxidant and – in some cases – antimutagenic (cancer-fighting) activities.
Most green Rooibos is exported. It is used as a tea and in extract form in beauty and nutraceutical products. (A nutraceutical is any food substance that provides medical or health benefits, including the prevention and treatment of disease.)
Organic Rooibos is grown without the use of any artificial fertilisers or pesticides.
The organic status of the product is monitored by various international organizations that provide organic certification.
The botanical (scientific) name for the Rooibos plant is Aspalathus linearis.
The plant (and the products made from it) is widely known as Rooibos (pronounced ROY-BOSS). In some countries it is also called “redbush” or “African red tea”.
Rooibos is a fynbos species within the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of only six recognised floral kingdoms of the world.
REGIONS WHERE ROOIBOS GROWS
Rooibos is a unique product from a unique area. The plant is indigenous to the Cedarberg region, north-west of Cape Town, where the local communities have been using it to brew tea for centuries. This is the only place in the world where Rooibos grows naturally. The region’s hot and dry summers, winter rainfall and coarse sandy soil is ideally suited to the Rooibos plant. The Cedarberg region’s rock art heritage, geology and biodiversity attract scientists from all over the world. It is also a popular adventure sport and eco-tourism destination.
Clanwilliam, Graafwater, Citrusdal, Van Rhynsdorp, Nieuwoudtsville and Wupperthal are some of South Africa’s Rooibos-producing towns.
Emerging farmers near Wupperthal and Heiveld also harvest some of the wild Rooibos growing there.
Rooibos Farming - From Seed to Shop
Rooibos seeds are sown between February to March and the seedlings transplanted a few months later. It takes about 18 months before plants can be harvested for the first time. Each spring the plant is covered with small yellow flowers. Each flower produces a small legume with a single seed inside. The Rooibos seeds pop out when they are ripe and can therefore be difficult to collect. Early Rooibos farmers got hold of the local wisdom that ants harvested the seeds and that they could collect Rooibos seeds from anthills. Today, most farmers collect the seeds by sifting the sand around the plants.
During the summer harvest, the plants are cut to about 30 cm from the ground. After three to five harvests, the Rooibos plantation must be re-established.
The harvested shoots are bound into sheaves and cut to less than 4 mm. The green leaves and stems are either bruised and “fermented” in heaps (to produce traditional Rooibos) or immediately dried to prevent oxidation (for green Rooibos). The “fermentation” process involves oxidation, brought about by enzymes naturally present in the plant. During this process the product changes from green to a deep amber colour and develops its distinctive aroma. After fermentation the Rooibos is spread out to dry in the sun.
The Rooibos is sorted and graded according to length, colour, flavour and aroma. All Rooibos, whether for domestic use or the export market, is steam pasteurized to ensure a product of high microbial quality. The product is then sent in bulk (loose tea leaves) to various packers and exporters in South Africa.
Rooibos and the Environment
Rooibos comes from a unique environment, famed for its diversity of animal and plant life, spectacular rock formations and rich cultural heritage.
The mountainous Cederberg area lies about 200km north of Cape Town in South Africa’s Western Cape province. It is a popular destination for eco-tourists, archeologists, astronomers, rock-climbers, as well as wildlife and hiking enthusiasts. It is also the only place in the world where Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) grows naturally.
The Cederberg Wilderness Area is a protected reserve with World Heritage status and recognised as global biodiversity hotspot. The area is famous for its rock formations, composed of sandstone and share formations (deposited between 500 and 345 million years ago), of which the best known are the Wolfberg Cracks, Wolfberg Arch, Maltese Cross and Stadsaal Caves. The Cederberg boasts a spectacular gallery of indigenous rock art, found in caves and under rock overhangs. The art is between 300 and 6 000 years old, part of the rich legacy left by the Khoi and San people who inhabited the area from early on.
Vegetation in the Cederberg is a mixture of mountain fynbos (Afrikaans for “fine bush”) and Succulent Karoo plants, with more than 1 800 different plant species, including the endemic and rare snow protea and the Clanwilliam cedar tree. Fynbos is so unique in terms of its plant groups that it is recognised as part of one of only six floral kingdoms of the world – the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Animals commonly found in the area include baboons and various antelope, with the Cape Leopard the Cederberg’s largest predator. Other animals include more than 100 bird and 15 snake species, as well as the Armadillo girdled lizard, an endemic reptile of the area. The Cederberg Mountains form the main catchment area for the Olifants-Doorn River system and is also home to the richest variety of endemic fish south of the Zambezi.
* Information sourced from CapeNature and its Project Management Unit for the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor .
The Rooibos industry forms a special part of the Cederberg’s tourism attractions. Many Rooibos producers and manufacturers offer Rooibos farm tours, factory visits, tea tasting, rock climbing, rock art viewing, as well as a large variety of accommodation and other tourist facilities. Find out more about rooibos tours at www.clanwilliam.info
Rooibos provides income and employment to more than 5 000 people and earns an estimated R500 million per year.
On average, about 12 000 metric tonnes of Rooibos are produced in South Africa per year. South Africans consume 4 500 to 5 000 tonnes and the rest exported.
The increasing global demand for Rooibos pushed exports up to more than 6 000 tonnes per annum.
Rooibos is exported to more than 30 countries across the globe. Germany, The Netherlands, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are the biggest importers of Rooibos.
Rooibos tea is steam pasteurized before packing.
The Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) of South Africa ensures that all exported Rooibos products pass a plant health and safety inspection and are certified to be free of bacteria and impurities.
The world’s only museum in honour of Rooibos is in Malaysia, just outside Kuala Lumpur. The “Dr Nortier Rooibos Museum” opened in June 2000. It is named after Dr Le Fras Nortier, a South African medical doctor who promoted the agricultural potential of Rooibos to the world. The museum showcases the history, production and uses of Rooibos, as well as some of the cultural history of South Africa, especially of the Cape Malays.
In Japan, Rooibos is called “Long Life Tea” and considered an anti-ageing beverage. Many Japanese women also believe that Rooibos tea offer special benefits during pregnancy.
“Rooibos is the yoga of tea- drinking. It’s smooth, gentle and caffeine-free, ideal for people who are sleep-deprived.” The Independent on Sunday , Jan 25, 2004, Natasha Goodfellow
“The wonderful flavor and startling versatility make Rooibos worth the praise it has received, a mainstay for the converted and a must-try for the not-yet enlightened.”
Chris Cason, Tea Muse , May 2004
Rooibos Product and Application Innovations
Rooibos is extremely versatile. Here are some of the ways to get your daily Rooibos boost:
Try flavoured or blended Rooibos tea as an alternative to regular Rooibos. Almond vanilla, apple spice, strawberries and cream, cinnamon-orange, cherry-banana and mint are just a few of a wide range of flavours to look out for.
Quench your thirst with an iced Rooibos in a variety of flavours such as apple, lemon or pineapple.
Experiment with green Rooibos, also available as a chai tea. (Chai tea is traditionally loose leaf tea boiled in a pot with milk and water.)
Order a delicious “Rooibos Latte” or “Rooibos Cappuccino” “hot or iced ” available at most coffee shops. These innovative new products are made from Rooibos in a novel espresso format.
Keep instant Rooibos on standby as an ultra-convenient and economical thirst-quencher.
Look out for fruit juices, yoghurts and sweets containing Rooibos extracts.
Use Rooibos in your cooking as a basis for stews and marinades.
Rooibos is used more and more in skincare and household products such as soap, foam bath, body scrub, bath salts, moisturisers, toners and facial masks, as well as room and linen fresheners.
Did you know?
Actually, you might not yet know… that Rooibos features in weird, wonderful and often unexpected places, be it music, best-selling books, wine, desserts, or the stomach of a celebrity hippo! This section is for those fans who previously thought Rooibos is “only” a herbal tea and specialty ingredient that is unique, tasty, wholesome, pure, natural, refreshing, special, one-of-its-kind…
At the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Cape Town (voted Africa’s leading spa resort by the 2007 World Travel Awards), you can tuck into Rooibos ice-cream, as part of their Fynbos inspired menu.
In fact, Rooibos ice-cream was even served at the wedding of celebrity couple Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones.
Canadian band The Stills has a song with Rooibos in its title, named after the inspiring tea that guitarist/singer Tim Fletcher had been drinking lots of.
Simon Le Bon, lead singer of top 80s band, Duran Duran, never goes on stage without drinking a cup of Rooibos first. (Then it must be good for the voice as well!)
Italian company, Bvlgari, has a series of tea-based perfumes with a hot seller called Eau Parfumee au The Rouge . This unique fragrance features notes of bergamot, orange, pink pepper, fig pulp, Yunnan red tea, walnut, musk, and of course Rooibos.
At one of the largest bull insemination stations in Europe, Munchen Grub, Germany, you can find a bull called Rooibos!
Jessica, a South African celebrity who’s appeared on Korean, Japanese and German television, the movie Mr Bones, etc. is known for downing as much as 20 litres of Rooibos tea a day. One can’t expect anything else from a hippopotamus, adopted and raised by the very much “human” Joubert family of Hoedspruit in the Limpopo Province. (Check Jessica out on www.youtube.com or her own website at www.jessicahippo.co.za)
At Stellar Winery, situated at Trawal north of Cape Town in Rooibos country, Hanepoot grapes are dried on a bed of straw and Rooibos tea before being crushed and made into organic wine. This infuses the grapes with the fragrance of Rooibos for their dessert wine aptly called “Heaven-on-Earth”. This might just be the secret recipe that helped Stellar to numerous awards at the BioFach International Organic Wine Awards in 2007.
Precious Ramotswe, main character of the widely acclaimed best-seller series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is a real Rooibos tea addict. The books, written by Alexander McCall Smith, are set in Botswana and the fictional female detective never fails to entertain her clients and guests with a cup of Rooibos. “This is a tea for people who really appreciate tea. Ordinary tea is for anyone,” Mme Ramotswe says. A mini-series adapted from the books is now showing on UK television and is set to make Rooibos even more famous!
The world’s largest flavour company, Givaudan, named Rooibos as one of THE flavours to watch in its 2007 annual forecast called FlavourVision.
Rooibos can be used as a natural dye due to its rich red colour.
If you’re looking for some extra flavour in your cooking, Rooibos can be used as a base in stews or soups or even meat marinades.
Ready for some gardening? Rooibos tea can be mixed into the soil; improving drainage and helping plants grow. Snails don’t like Rooibos (they must be the only ones) so sprinkle some rooibos ‘dust’ on the surface of the garden and you’ll see them ‘run’.
Rooibos Espresso (trademarked as red espresso) has caught the world’s eye as an innovative product that makes tea trendy and cappuccinos healthy. It is Rooibos tea specially ground to be used in espresso machines and has won various awards such as the America Specialty Coffee Association’s ‘Best New Product’ in the Specialty Beverage category in 2008.
The Cederberg area, where Rooibos is grown, is one of the richest regions of Southern African rock art. The rock art, left behind by the San people who originally inhabited the area, is said to be from 300 to 6000 years old. Maybe drinking Rooibos tea inspired them.
Let us know if you find Rooibos somewhere else unexpected and we’ll add it to this list!