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Updated: Mar. 19, 2014 

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About Rooibos | Varieties of Rooibos | Best (Top-Rated) Rooibos

About Rooibos

Red Rooibos LeafLoose-leaf red rooibos, a typical grade, sold by Wegmans supermarket. Photo by Alex Zorach.
Rooibos is a type of herbal tea made from the Aspalathus linearis plant, a legume native to South Africa. It is often called South African red tea or just red tea, owing to the red color of both the dry leaf and brewed tea. This is distinct from the other use of the term "red tea" to refer to black teas, in reference to the Chinese term "hong cha".

Rooibos is also called redbush tea and sometimes just bush tea, although it is distinct from honeybush, a similar tea from the same region made out of a different plant, also a legume.

Rooibos has a distinctive flavor and aroma, often described as earthy and fruity; it is less bitter than most black tea, but is often described as being among the herbal teas that most closely resembles black tea. Like most herbal teas, it contains no caffeine.

Use in blending with teas, other herbs, and flavorings

Rooibos is frequently used in herbal tea blends, often as a base to impart body or richness. We list herbal teas with rooibos as the dominant ingredient as flavored rooibos. Common ingredients or flavors for blending include vanilla and strawberry, as these blend well with the natural aroma of the herb. Less commonly, the herb can be scented with bergamot to produce a rooibos Earl Grey, or blended with spices to yield rooibos chai or spiced rooibos, a reference to masala chai. Rooibos is also frequently mixed with black, green, or other teas together with other herbal ingredients or flavorings; such blends are listed under miscellaneous blends.

Cultivation and production

The pea-like flowers of Aspalathus linearis betray its status as a legume. Photo by Winfried Bruenken, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5.
Rooibos is grown exclusively in a small region of South Africa's West Cape province where it is native. Both stems and leaves are harvested. In the traditional production method, which makes up the bulk of production, the herb is allowed to oxidize in heaps, in a process somewhat analagous to how black tea is produced.

All finished rooibos has a fine texture, owing to the very small needle-like leaves of the plant, although there is a range of grades with different coarseness. Higher grades have a higher ratio of leaf to stem.

More recently, however, people have begun to manufacture green rooibos, which is produced in a process similar to green tea, more similar to Japanese steamed green teas than Chinese pan-fired teas.

Impact of climate change and poverty

Efforts to cultivate rooibos outside the small region where it grows have proved unsuccessful, as it is dependent on the region's unique climate, soils, and other components of the ecosystem. Rooibos production is being threatened by climate change, and many farmers of rooibos live and operate in extreme poverty, complicating measures to adapt to the changing climate.[1]

Medicinal uses & health benefits of rooibos

Luteolin Molecule
Luteolin is an antioxidant
present in rooibos.
Rooibos is often promoted as having health benefits and/or medicinal properties. As with tea and most herbal teas, these benefits are often overstated, but some of them have been backed to varying degrees by scientific research.

Rooibos is frequently promoted as having antioxidant activity comparable to that of tea; a study validated this for both green and red rooibos.[2] The antioxidant activity of rooibos, has been shown in mice to protect against radiation damage, probably by luteolin and possibly other antioxidants neutralizing the free radicals formed by exposure to gamma rays.[3]

In addition, rooibos is widely used in traditional medicine for respiratory ailments such as asthma. A study on rats found significant dose-dependent bronchodilatory effect, providing a sound basis for its use in treating respiratory conditions.[4] Another study on rats found that rooibos provided significant protection against liver damage, in concentrations equivalent to that typically used when humans drink rooibos tea.[5]

Topical use of rooibos in skin care products

Topical application of rooibos (such as its use in creams, cosmetics, and sunscreen) also shows some promise of health benefits. One study found that rooibos, honeybush and green tea, all had tumor-preventing properties in mouse skin, suggesting that these teas hold promise for preventing skin cancer.[6] More recent work has uncovered likely mechanisms by which topical use of rooibos and honeybush reduce tumour promotion, inflammation, and oxidative stress.[7]


1. Virginia Marsh, Rooibos tea farmers on the front line of climate change, The Independent, Dec. 18, 2009.

2. A. Von Gadow, E. Joubert, C. F. Hansmann, Comparison of the antioxidant activity of rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) with green, oolong and black tea
, Food Chemistry, Vol. 60, No. 1, Sep. 1997, pp. 73-77.

3. Radioprotective effects of antioxidative plant flavonoids in mice, Mutation Research/Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis, Vol. 350, No. 1, Feb. 19, 1996, pp. 153-161.

4. Arif-ullah Khan, Anwarul Hassan Gilani, Selective bronchodilatory effect of Rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) and its flavonoid, chrysoeriol, European Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 45, No. 8, December, 2006.

5. O Ulicná, et. al., Hepatoprotective effect of rooibos tea (Aspalathus linearis) on CCl4-inducedliver damage in rats., Physiol Res, Vol. 52, No. 4, 2004, pp. 461-466.

6. Inhibition of tumour promotion in mouse skin by extracts of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia), unique South African herbal teas, CancerLetters, Vol. 224, No. 2, pp. 193-202, Jun. 2005.

7. Antoinette Petrova, Modulation of ultraviolet light-induced skin carcinogenesis by extracts of rooibos and honeybush using a mouse model: elucidating possible protective mechanisms, (2009). CPUT Theses & Dissertations. Paper 91.

Varieties, Kinds, or Types of Rooibos

Green RooibosGreen Rooibos

Best Rooibos

The notion of the "best" Rooibos is subjective, because different people have different tastes. We present the most often-rated and highest-rated teas in this category, and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Most Often-Rated Teas

Picture of Rooibos


Brand:Adagio Teas
Region:South Africa
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
2 Ratings
Picture of Rooibos (Formerly Red Mellow Bush)

Rooibos (Formerly Red Mellow Bush)

Brand:Numi Organic Tea
Region:South Africa
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
2 Ratings
Picture of Organic Wild Rooibos Pyramid Tea

Organic Wild Rooibos Pyramid Tea

Brand:Equal Exchange
Region:South Africa
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
2 Ratings
Picture of Raw Green Rooibos (Raw Green Bush Tea)

Raw Green Rooibos (Raw Green Bush Tea)

Brand:Republic of Tea
Style:Green Rooibos
Region:South Africa
Caffeine:Caffeine Free
1 Rating

Top-Rated Teas

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