Monday, February 17, 2014

My Cuppa: My Rendezvous with Rooibos!

Sadly, Rooibos is not a person!  Sounds like an exotic name for a man, huh?  Hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s! Yes, it’s only one day, but why end things there? I’m continuing with my February love theme by taking a little detour from tea and talking about one of my favourite tisanes: Rooibos.  Such an appropriate topic of discussion for this month of love with its sexy rouge colour, flowery fragrance, and sweet taste.

You may recall from a previous post that the scientific name for Rooibos is Aspalathus linearis and that it is a member of the legume family. Rooibos, which means "red bush", is grown in a very small area of South Africa. It was produced by the Dutch settlers who needed a substitute to satisfy their tea cravings which was very expensive to ship in from Europe. Though Rooibos has a long history, its popularity in North America has grown fairly recently.

The leaves for Rooibos go through a manufacturing process similar to tea or Camellia sinensis. The leaves are chopped and bruised and then piled into heaps outdoors. Water is added to the heaps as the air is too dry to allow for proper fermentation to occur. Over several hours of turning and rotating the heaps with a pitchfork, the leaves begin to change colour, and the aroma is much like that of oxidized apples. Afterwards, the piles of leaves are spread out evenly and allowed to dry in the sun where it continues to change colour. The final dry leaves take on a deep reddish-brown, needle-like appearance.

I heart Rooibos!

Making a cup of Rooibos is simple:

1.   Bring water to a boil. I like to wait a minutes before pouring the water over my leaves

2.   Measure out amount of Rooibos leaves required. I used 1 teaspoon for 1 cup of water

3.   Pour the heated water over the leaves and allow it to steep for about 5 minutes

4.   Use a sieve to separate the liquor from the leaves. I used my teapot with a built-in filter

5.   Enjoy your Rooibos tisane

Tisane and a good book!

The colour of the liquor is a gorgeous red, the aroma is sweet and floral, and the taste is sweet and mild. There was no bitterness or aftertaste. You may drink Rooibos on its own, or add milk and sugar if you wish. It does not hurt to brew Rooibos longer than 5 minutes unlike some teas which can become bitter. I did attempt a second infusion, but found the liquor too thin and weak. One infusion is perfect.

Try Rooibos on its own or as a blend with teas and other flavours such as vanilla or chocolate. I once had a Rooibos with a fragrance and taste that resembled rosewater. I’d love to make a simple syrup out of it and pour it over baklava! Tea manufacturers are really playing around with Rooibos and creating lattes, espressos, and iced versions of the drink. As well, Rooibos can be used as a cooking ingredient for marinades, cupcakes and frosting, and even smoothies.

Like tea, Rooibos has been purported to have a number of health benefits as well. Studies have shown it to be high in antioxidants, can lower blood pressure, prevent DNA damage, and lower the risk of heart disease. Rooibos is naturally caffeine-free so no worries about a sleepless night!

Ravishing Red!

Though I’ve never tasted nor seen it, there is green Rooibos. The fermentation step is omitted for green Rooibos. The leaves are just cut and dried immediately. I’ll definitely do a write-up on it once I get my hands on a package.

So, put the tea aside for now, make a pot of red-hot Rooibos, perhaps enjoy it with some chocolate-covered strawberries, cozy up with your sweetie and…

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