Updated: Apr 27
"The telling of a story, like virtually everything in this life, was always made all the easier by a cup of tea." -Precious Ramotswe
UNITED AIRLINES NOW HAS DIRECT FLIGHTS FROM NEW YORK TO CAPE TOWN
While pregnant in 1998, before there were wellness remedies and meditation apps, I suffered incurable insomnia. I spent most nights reading and the one book that most caught my imagination was The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
This book is 256 pages of perfect African phraseology and timing. The story of Precious Ramotswe, her life and her detective agency made me giggle and smile during those long nights. It also made me imagine Africa; warm sun beating on red clay roads, eating pumpkin, not just in pies, and red bush tea.
Imagine the delight, arriving in Cape Town for the first time 10 years later, desperate for a cappuccino and discovering a little something called a Red Steamer at the Constantia Village Mall's Seattle Coffee. I know...nothing in that sentence is screams Africa.
But in that tall-sized paper cup, I discovered Mma. Ramotswe; her traditional figure, her clever brain,
and her propensity to solve all problems with a fresh cup of bush tea.
Rooibos (roy-boss), translated from Afrikaans means red bush.
This spiky bush with yellow flowers is from the fabaceae plant family that grows in South African fynbos. Fynbos is a small belt of naturally occurring scrub brush found throughout the Western Cape of South Africa, primarily in the Cederberg mountains. On first inspection, fynbos looks like flat, unimpressive green/brownish vegetation lacking in interest. But looking closer you will see that the fynbos is varied and very productive, with flowers blooming at different times over the course of the year. South Africa's national flower, the protea is a fynbos. One of South Africa's current leading export is as well. Rooibos.
The Cederberg mountain region is the only place in the world where you will get Rooibos. and the country exports over 6000 tons worldwide each year.
Its cultivation dates back to the 17th century. However, some evidence shows that early hunter-gathers used the plants medicinally. It is unclear if they prepared teas.
Pre-Colonial indigenous peoples of the Cape harvested the plant by cutting off the stems, pulverising them on rocks with wooden hammers then leaving the mulch in the sun to dry. When added to water, the tea produces a deep red colour. The cultivation process has not changed much since then.
Modern cultivation of rooibos began in the 1930 with Benjamin Ginsberg in Clanwilliam, SA. In Clanwilliam you will find the Rooibos Route tour. This tour is like wine tasting, only with red tea. Visit a Rooibos farm and experience firsthand the planting, harvesting, chopping, fermenting and processes of rooibos tea.
Touch, smell and feel the plant in nature. Planting takes place during the winter rainfall season (July-August). Harvesting season is during our hot summer months (January-March). Then, visit a rooibos factory and see the process of grading, sieving, sterilising and packing of rooibos tea.
If farming isn't your thing, try pampering yourself with products made from natural rooibos. Sample lovely cosmetic products & soaps. Also, treat your family and friends with rooibos baking and preservatives to take home. Finally, enjoy a wine and rooibos food pairing. Delicious and unique!
Finally, if you love food history, visit the Old Gaol Museum for a look at the history of the Clanwilliam, SA's 7th oldest town, and it's number one product. The Rooibos Room features original product packaging, the rooibos samples of Benjamin Ginsberg and the original tools they used in harvesting and packing of rooibos. The Rooibos tour is a fun slice of history and a great alternative to wine tasting. It would also be a great way to sober-up the day after a day of wine tasting!
Rooibos has gained world-wide popularity as it has many of the benefits of green tea, without the caffeine. It is refreshing and can be consumed either warm with lemon, as you would take black tea, iced, or as mentioned before, with foamed milk, cappuccino style.
Rooibos is not only for drinking, and you will find many beauty products now include rooibos in their list of natural ingredients. The free radicals and anti-oxidants found in the plant help to repair damage to the face and soothe irritations cause by sunburn, eczema or excessive dryness of the skin.
Here are some of the health benefits of rooibos tea:
1. Rooibos is low in tannins and caffeine and oxalic acid free. Caffeine can cause stress and sleeplessness with some consumers. tannins can interfere with nutrient absorption, such as iron. oxalic acid can increase the risk of kidney issues. good alternative to black and green tea black and green tea both contain tannins caffeine and oxalic acid
2 The tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals and could limit the body's risk of heart disease and cancer.
3. Happy heart health. Rooibos and it's antioxidants may help manage blood pressure by inhibiting angio-tensin converting enzyme or ACE. ACE indirectly increases blood pressure by causing blood vessels to constrict. in cases of over-weight patients, drinking six cups of rooibos a day decreases bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. the same has not been proved with patients at a healthy weight. healthy cholesterol levels help guard against heart attacks and strokes.
4. Rooibos may reduce cancer risk. Antioxidants such as quercetin and luteoline, which are present in rooibos, can kill cancer cells and prevent growth. however, the levels of these antioxidants are very small per cup, and one can find fruits and vegetables that are better sources.
5. Rooibos can help control diabetes. the tea is a natural source of aspalathin, which studies suggest to have an anti-diabetic effect.
Some studies also suggest that rooibos is good for bone health, improved digestion, sleep issues and allergies. These benefits have yet to be proven, though this does not mean that the claims are false. This simply means that more human testing needs to be done in order to 100% verify health benefit claims. There are some claimed side effects, though the tea is delicious and safe to drink. One must always do their own research before committing to any new health regime.
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