Rooibos (Red Bush)

Latin name: Aspalathus linearis (N.L.Burm.) R.Dahlgr

Family: Fabaceae (pea family)

Common names: Rooibos, rooibosch, red bush, bush tea, red bush tea

Part used: Whole leaf and stem

Key constituents: Polyphenols; dihydrochalcones; flavonoids (including Aspalathin, quercetin, dihydro-orientin and dihydro-iso-orientin); the processed leaves and stems contain benzoic and cinnamic acids, and nothofagin.


Rooibos is a shrubby legume that grows up to about five feet in height. It has a stem from which needle-like leaves grow from about one foot from the ground. Rooibos is a member of the legume, or pea, family and native to the mountain slopes of western Cape Province, South Africa.1

The leaves and stems are harvested in the summer and can be used to make tea in two different ways. Firstly, the leaves and stems can be cut, bruised and aerated (formally though inaccurately called ‘fermented’) or immediately dried to prevent oxidation. The oxidised type is called red tea because of its colour, while the non-oxidised type which contains more of the health promoting polyphenols is green in colour and called green rooibos tea (should be distinguished from ordinary green tea).
The traditional oxidised tea is processed today in much the same way as the indigenous people processed it hundreds of years ago, including the sun-drying step, but the tools are more sophisticated now.

Rooibos tea is caffeine free, low in tannins, high in vitamin C and bursting with flavonoid antioxidants and other helpful plant compounds including Aspalathin which is typically not found in other plants.2

It has been popular in southern Africa for generations and is now enjoyed around the world. Rooibos is brewed in the same manner as black tea and can be drunk with milk and sugar to taste, or with a slice of lemon and/or sweetened with honey.



1 Standley L, Winterton P, Marnewick JL et al. Influence of processing stages on antimutagenic and antioxidant potentials of rooibos tea. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49(1):114-7.


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