I hadn’t even made the association when I ordered this tea for my April review. But I’ve recently been watching Call the Midwife and made it through the episodes filmed on location in South Africa. I’m not a South African, but this was the nation where I fell in love with hot tea.
You see, I grew up in the South where “tea” is iced, sweetened beyond the capacity for a normal human body to process, and is dark and deep and black only.
But when I went to South Africa for a three week singing tour in 2004, I met Rooibos. And I fell in love. And drinking this tea is like going home for me every time – especially when it’s fresh, authentic, and purely Rooibos (i.e. not blended with vanilla and other things).
I’ve had quite a bit of Rooibos since 2004. I’ve tried some in Australia, America, and England and been disappointed with the majority of them. Anything coming from shops like David’s Tea or Argo Tea (or curses be, Starbucks!) just doesn’t do it. They don’t taste like real Rooibos. They taste processed and Americanized. That’s not to say they don’t do some other teas really well (I have a few absolute favorite blends from David’s Tea in particular).
A Little History of Rooibos
Rooibos comes from South Africa in the Cederberg Mountains where the soil is sandy and well-drained and rainy winters and hot, dry summers bring out flavors such as we don’t have here in America.
Interestingly enough, this South African tea does not come from a traditional source we think of when we picture the green fields in Japan and China. Instead, it comes from a legume plant in the Aspalathus linearis family. The plant drops its deep roots and grows and grows despite the horridly hot summer, thanks to the deep roots being able to find nutrients and water.
The tea was first made by the Khosian people of the area. They’ve used the tea as a herbal drink and remedy for centuries until the Swedish botanist Carl Thunberg reported its use in 1772. The peoples shared their knowledge with the early Dutch settlers who came to call it Rooibos, meaning “red bush.” They replaced their expensive imported British tea with it.
Technically, you can get a green Rooibos as well, but it’s much less common than the red.
My Review: An Ode to South Africa
I’m sure true South Africans could give a much more punchy and detailed review than I. Or maybe they wouldn’t. I don’t want to make judgments about someone else’s perspectives. But to the best of my ability, I’ll share my impressions of this marvelous, organic, natural, no-frills, herbal tea.
First, it is herbal. 100% always caffeine free, which is a marvelous thing for many of us. And since I generally hate herbal tea, that’s actually saying quite a lot; that this is literally my favorite tea in the world. There’s no other flavor profile that quite does it for me like a good, natural, untouched Rooibos.
And Bos does that brilliantly.
When I lifted the lid from the tin, my nostrils instinctively went to the edge and breathed in a sweet, earthy waft. The sachets are sealed into foil packs, but the lingering aroma from their packaging is still there and my heart sang. This is Rooibos, I thought, a smile parting my lips.
A friend of mine has family in the Congo. They have to fly in and out of South Africa, so two years ago, when she visited them, she brought me a big bag of 100 sachets of Rooibos. Pure, unrefined, untouched Rooibos. It was an utter delight.
This tin of Bos was like receiving that bag from her all over again, only the quality is a bit better. The brand she had purchased as the “Lipton” of Rooibos there in South Africa (I’ll take their ‘Liptons’ anyday, thanks!). Bos, however, is of much higher quality.
Rooibos means “red bush” tea. It comes from a plant that grows only in South Africa in a specific region and so though it’s more readily available now, it’s hard to come by good quality in America.
Words escape me when it comes to describing the flavor. There’s a delicate, earthen tone to the leaves, but not like most things we describe as “earthy.” There’s no musk, just sweetness and lightness. There’s a hint of woodiness to the aroma and a natural warmth to the flavor that’s soothing and calming, almost like chamomile.
Some people like to add vanilla (I’m looking at you Celestial Seasonings), but I’m a purist. Though, I did first learn to drink it as the British would with milk and sugar.
Ultimately, I’d have to say that if you love Rooibos and can’t get some good, pure sachets, try Bos.