Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

About Rooibos Tea, Black Tea and Tea Tree Oil

Tea was introduced to Africa for the first time in 1687. Rooibos tea lovers know a Russian living in South Africa promoted the red bush Rooibos tea.

Rooibos pronounced Roy-bos or red bush tea is a South African tea with a reddish-brown color.

The year 1904 was a special year for all Rooibos tea lovers, Benjamin Ginsberg a Russian business person living in South Africa started promoting the red bush, Rooibos tea.

Aspalathus linearis is a shrub found in the western mountainous parts of the Western Cape that Rooibos (pronounced Roy-bos) or red bush tea is grown. Rooibos tea is made from selected forms of the shrub, which is found mainly on the Cederberg Mountains north of Cape Town centered on the town of Clanwilliam.

Red bush Rooibos tea.
Red bush Rooibos tea.

South African rooibos tea is a herbal tea that is non-caffeinated with a reddish-brown color. Rooibos has a high level of antioxidants and is considered a healthy tea. The leaves are used to make the herbal tea also called red bush tea. Rooibos is a popular drink in Southern Africa for generations. Rooibos tea is made the same as black tea.

Drinking herbal tea brewed from fresh rooibos is an easy way to get nature's healing strength into your body. Rooibos teas can be hot, at room temperature or iced. There are no hard and fast rules about rooibos tea brewing. Everyone’s tastes and preferences are different.

Some like strong rooibos teas and others prefer mild or lightly flavored infusions. You can also buy your rooibos dried from health food stores, and this is an excellent source for more exotic herbals. Dried rooibos will have a stronger flavor.

Try these three simple dried rooibos tea recipes combinations for one cup 8 ounces of warmish hot water.

1. 1 teaspoon dried peppermint leaves and 1 teaspoon dried rooibos.

2. 1 teaspoon dried rooibos and 1 teaspoon lemongrass.

3. 1 small piece ginseng root and 1 teaspoon dried rooibos.

Black Tea Plants in South Africa.

Tea plants grow well in tropical and subtropical climates. Tea was introduced to Africa for the first time in 1687 at the Cape of Hope and later in 1851 at the Botanical Gardens of Durban in Natal. Here, the crop was grown on a few hundred hectares after the failure of the coffee crop, which was destroyed by rust in 1877.

It is in Malawi, however, that as of 1891, the first large-plantations were established. Tea cultivation in eastern Africa started during the 1920s. Kenya is the world’s largest producer of black tea. Black teas originated in China, where they are known as red tea, but now come from many growing regions throughout the world.

South Asia, along with China and Kenya, produce the majority of the black tea, globally. Because of their large size, China and India have great diversity in climatic conditions, allowing them to produce an assortment of leaves at different locations and elevation.

The tea plant will grow into a tree of up to 16 m tall if left undisturbed, however; cultivated plants are generally pruned to waist height for ease of plucking. The leaves are dark green and usually 5 to 10 cm long and 2 to 5 cm wide.

The leaves vary considerably in size and shape, according to the variety. Oil glands occur in the substance of the leaf and contain an essential oil to which the flavor of the tea is largely due. The under surface of the young leaves is thickly covered with fine hairs that entirely disappear with progressing age.

What is Tea Tree Oil?

Oil glands occur in the substance of tea leaves and contain essential oils however, this is not the essential oil tea tree oil is made from. Tea tree oil is made from the leaves of the Australian tea tree also known as the melaleuca tree or paperbark tea tree.

The primary uses of tea tree oil have historically capitalized on the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions of the oil. Legend has it that the oil was considered so important for its medicinal uses that Australian soldiers were supplied oil as part of their military kits during World War II and that brush cutters were exempt from national service.

The melaleuca tree is one of South Florida's most invasive species. Melaleuca was introduced into Florida in the early 1900s from its native environment of Australia to dry up the Everglades' swampland and transform it from wasteland to farmland.

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