Q. What is rooibos and is it really free of caffeine?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 06 September 2013.
Tagged: antioxidants, caffeine, Calories, drinks, fluids, hydration, tea, water

Q. What is rooibos and is it really free of caffeine?

A. Rooibos or Red Tea is a herbal infusion made from the leaves and stems of a leguminous shrub (Aspalathus linearis) that is native to South Africa. It's made in the same way as normal tea and is most commonly seen as red rooibus although there is a green rooibos. It has needle-like leaves that produce a hot drink with an attractive flavour and light red-brown colour.

Rooibos which is also known as redbush was traditionally drunk by indigenous tribes before spreading into more general use all over South Africa and then spreading across the world. Once confined to health food stores, it is growing in popularity as it's caffeine-free and low in tannins (bitter-tasting polyphenol compounds in regular tea).

It's not a true tea as it doesn't come from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, unlike black, green, white and oolong teas. Its big attraction is that it tastes almost the same as real tea but doesn't contain any caffeine so is useful for anyone who finds caffeine interferes with their sleep.

Claims have been made that Rooibos has a number of health benefits, but there is currently no convincing data as yet to support these claims. It appears to contain some phyto-chemicals but it's early days in terms of research.

Rooibos turns up in the ready-to-drink flavoured waters segment where it's being used to impart a 'health' image along with ingredients such as aloe vera, vitamins, ginger and herbal extracts.

I like to sip it without any milk from time to time as a caffeine-free offer in the evenings. But I must admit it's NOT the same as a regular cuppa of tea like English Breakfast or Ceylon. Still nice to have as a choice.