I have a number of addictions. Perfume comes first (of course); tea is probably a close second. I drink green tea all day long, sometimes as many as 8-9 cups. I taper off the green tea around 5 or 6 pm and switch to various herbal blends. Rooibos tea (pronounced "ROY-bus", aka red bush tea) is one of my favorite evening teas.
Rooibos is available in a green (un-oxidized) form, but is more usually sold oxidized, and the color of the leaves (and the steeped product) is a deep reddish-brown. It's caffeine-free and rich in antioxidants; more importantly, it tastes good. Wikipedia describes the taste as sweet and slightly nutty, I would describe it as smooth and woody, almost bark-like. You can drink it plain, but it blends beautifully with all sorts of fruits, flowers and spices, and perfume fans who love getting samples in the mail will be happy to hear that many tea merchants have sampling programs. Here are a few scented varieties of rooibos worth trying:
Ayala Moriel recently introduced an organic Immortelle l'Amour rooibos tea (shown above) to match her Immortelle l'Amour gourmand fragrance. The tea was developed by Inner Alchemy Tea Co. of Vancouver, and includes orange peel, vanilla bean, cinnamon and calendula petals. This is a warm, mildly spicy blend, with generous amounts of vanilla — it nearly qualifies as a dessert on its own. In South Africa, where rooibos originated, it is often taken with cream or milk. Ayala Moriel also recommends a touch of maple syrup. I prefer my rooibos straight up so didn't try it that way, but I'm sure it is delicious. A 70 gr tin is $30 at ayalamoriel.
Rooibos Pretoria from Upton Tea is a long-time favorite of mine; I re-order it regularly. The rooibos is blended with hibiscus, rose petals, blue mallow blossoms and sunflower petals, and the taste is warm and flowery but not overly sweet. Best of all, it fits my standard test for a perfect rooibos: it tastes wonderful with chocolate. 125 gr in a foil packet is $6.60 at uptontea (samples available).
Adagio's Rooibos Jasmine was interesting to try — I adore green tea with jasmine — but I'm not sure I would ever buy it. The fragrance is attractive, but to my mind, the delicate taste of the jasmine is overwhelmed by the heavier, darker taste of the rooibos. But it's worth a try for jasmine freaks, and Adagio has lots of other rooibos blends, ranging from Almond to Cocomint to Peach. If you have a sweet tooth (or want to introduce a child to rooibos) try the Caramel. A 4 oz tin of the Jasmine is $6 at adagio (samples available).
Harney & Sons' African Autumn (shown at right) blends rooibos with cranberry and orange for a nicely tart tea with a compelling aroma. They also make a Rooibos Chai, but I haven't tried it yet. African Autumn is $13 for a 4 oz tin at harney (samples available).
Philadelphia's House of Tea sells a lovely Rooibos With Violets blend. It also has marigold flowers, lemongrass and orange pieces, and it's organic. Like the Rooibos Pretoria above, it makes a great accompaniment to your favorite dark chocolate. $6 for 2 oz at houseoftea.
The venerable French tea merchant Mariage Frères makes several rooibos blends. Thé Rouge Richmond, with cinnamon and orange, is one of my favorites, but admittedly it doesn't have as much bite as I'd like, and I usually shave some extra cinnamon into the cup. It is hard to find in the US. I used to buy it at sloanhall, but their website has been down and out for ages. Thé Rouge Bourbon, a basic blend with vanilla, is much easier to come by (try theculturedcup or porterouge), but you can find basic rooibos with vanilla much cheaper elsewhere (try Adagio, listed above).
How to brew rooibos
Pour just-boiling water over the rooibos and let steep for 6-10 minutes. Some people feel the flavor improves with longer brewing (10+ minutes), but I'm not one of those people. I usually set a timer for 8 minutes.
Really proper people, I am sure, make their tea the proper way, in a real tea pot. I am way too lazy for such a production; I use mesh baskets that sit right inside the mug. This is one of my favorites (and if you're truly as lazy as me, you need lots of them so you don't have to keep cleaning them every time you want a new cup). The People's Brew Basket runs around $4-5, and can be found at many kitchen supply stores, or online at kitchenkapers or republicoftea.
Have a favorite rooibos tea? Please comment!
Coming soon: scented green teas & oolongs