The Rooibos plant is a small shrubby bush that only grows in South Africa. The bush grows anywhere from 1/2 to 1 metre in height, with very thin, needle-like leaves. The leaves are green, but turn the characteristic red after fermentation.
The Rooibos seeds are precious, because the plants produce few of them. The seeds also pop out of the fruits as soon as they are ripe, making harvest difficult. Many farmers still raid anthills looking for Rooibos seeds.
It is a rather delicate plant, and the cultivation has not changed much over the years. The plants thrive best when left alone in their natural soil. The farming of Rooibos has always been very close to nature and remains so today.
The locals have known that Rooibos can be used to make a delicious beverage for a very long time, but it was only 'discovered' in 1904 by a Russian immigrant named Benjamin Ginsberg. He was a settler in the area and thought that the tea was so enjoyable that it should be available to people everywhere. He was the first to market Rooibos tea.
Rooibos tea is a distinctive red color and its taste is also unique with a very sweet and slightly nutty flavor.
Rooibos has no caffeine and is low in tannin, so it can be enjoyed all day long without any unpleasant side effects. This also makes it a great tea for pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Various studies have shown the many health problems that can be helped by drinking Rooibos tea:
Acts as an anti-spasmodic agent, to relieve stomach cramps and colic in infants
Can be used to treat hay fever, asthma and eczema
Placed directly on the skin, it can slow the aging process
Boosts the immune system
Rooibos tea contains no oxalic acid, so it can safely be consumed by people who are prone to kidney stones.
There are so many minerals in the tea, that it can almost be considered a nutritional supplement:
Alpha-hydroxy (great for the skin)