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African Red Tea (Rooibos)

The African red tea also known as Rooibos is a red herb derived from the fermented leaves of Aspalathus linearis, a plant indigenous to South Africa.

Many people across the world appreciate it as a substitute to green or black tea. Unfermented green rooibos tea is also available. African red tea has an earthly, delicate, and sweet taste.

The leaves used to make tea contain several antioxidants that help explain some of the health benefits associated with drinking tea. The African red tea is mainly cultivated in a tiny mountainous region of Cederberg, in the South African Western Cape province.

Archaeological records allege that Aspalathus linearis may have been discovered and used by humans thousands of years ago. Even though indigenous pastorals together with hunter-gatherers may have used the plant, it does not imply that they made the beverage we know as the African red tea in pre-colonial period.

The customary technique of harvesting and processing rooibs to prepare infused tea or to adorn rooibs could have started during the pre-colonial era. However, it does not necessarily mean that San and Khoikhoi used this process to prepare a beverage that was consumed for gratification, such as tea.

Production

The initial available ethno botanical accounts of the African red tea date back from the late 19th century. Various authors claim that the tea originated from Cederberg residents. African red tea is a traditional drink of the Khoikhoi and San people who descended from the Cederberg region.

Traditionally, the local inhabitants used to climb the mountains to cut the delicate needle-shaped leaves from wild rooib plants. They would then roll the jute bags bundles and carried them down the steep hill using donkeys. Traditionally, the African red tea was processed by striking the raw material on a flat rock with a profound wooden stick or by using a huge wooden hammer.

The San and Khoikhoi, Indians, together with the colonial inhabitants of Cederberg, contributed to rooibo farming through the use of the traditional rooib knowledge. For instance, medicinal purposes are assumed to have been introduced by Khoisan shepherds and hunter-gatherers community in South Africa before the eighteenth century.

The tea could also have been introduced during the colonial-era by settlers used to drinking Asian tea or similar alternatives.

Leaves usually undergo oxidation, which is often called fermentation process in contemporary tea production. This process leads to the reddish-brown color that differs from orooibs, which in turn enhances the flavor. Utrooibs in form of fresh leaves contain a high vitamin C or ascorbic acid content of ascorbic acid which disappears when the tea is prepared.

Chemical content and Grading

The African red tea does not contain caffeine and has low levels of tannins compared to black tea or green tea. The beverage contains polyphenols such as flavones, flavonols, dihydrochalcones, flavanones, nothofagina and aspalatin. The stem and leaves processed have cinnamic and benzoic acids.

The grades of the African red tea are mostly related to the percentage of sheets or needle to prepare the contents of the mixture. Higher contents of the leaf lead to a richer flavor, darker liquor, and less dusty left over flavor.

High quality rooibs are usually exported thus not available in local markets. The primary consumers of African red tea come from the EU, particularly Germany, where the leaves are used in preparing aromatic blends for baggy leaf teas.

Preparation

The African red tea is commonly fermented, just like black tea, whereby sugar and milk are added to achieve a remarkable taste. Other methods used in brewing the beverage include using a slice of lemon together with honey used as a substitute for sugar to sweeten it. In some occasions, the tea can be served as a latte, espresso, ice tea or cappuccino, or ice tea.

Advantages

The African red tea does not contain caffeine, which in turn makes it an excellent choice for children, pregnant women, as well as people who are receptive to caffeine. It has the ingredients to a great red tea detox as well. Even though caffeine may be liked with some health advantages, it may not be safe for some people to consume caffeine since it can obstruct the sleeping pattern, intensify anxiety, or cause different physical effects, among them being heart palpitations together with nervousness.

Rooibos tea holds shallow levels of tannins, which are compounds that are naturally available in many plant foods such as red wine, green tea and black tea. Tannins play a vital role of iron absorption from the body, particularly non-heme iron type, which comes from foods that are plant-based.

African red tea contains remarkable antioxidants, such as aspalatin as well as quercetin, which are essential for human health since they prevent the damaging of various cells in the body cells by free radicals.