What Is A Rooibos Tea?

Rooibos tea is an herb that people brew into a reddish-brown drink for its unique flavor and potential health benefits. So, what is a Rooibos tea? 

Traditional organic rooibos tea in rustic style - What is a Rooibos tea
Rooibos is an herb tea

Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) tea isn’t technically tea at all. It’s an herb that people brew and drink like tea, making it an excellent caffeine-free option. The reddish-brown herbal infusion offers prospective health benefits in moderation, with relatively no negative impact. 

What Is A Rooibos Tea?

Rooibos tea comes from a South African shrub that can be dried and brewed to make a reddish-brown drink. The color and origins led tea enthusiasts to nickname the herbal infusion red bush tea or African red tea.

Like other herbal teas, Rooibos doesn’t come from a tea plant (Camellia sinensis), but the leaves are picked and processed the same way. Then, you can brew them with hot water in a teapot or tea bag to yield a tasty and beneficial beverage. Some tea makers blend the Rooibos with other teas and herbs to create complex flavors.

Rooibos Tea and tea-strainer
Red Rooibos tea leaves

In the tea world, Rooibos is relatively new. It dates back to the 1700s when Dutch settlers substituted the South African herb for black tea to save money. However, rooibos tea didn’t hit the mainstream population for a few centuries. 

Today, Rooibos can be red or green, and some tea makers make a concentrated version that mimics coffee drinks. Additionally, powdered rooibos leaves can add flavor and color to food, and some cosmetic companies use the herb in their products. 

Benefits of Drinking Rooibos Tea

Since the early 2000s, Rooibos tea has gained popularity, and the top tea brands in the world carry some varieties of herbal infusions. The sudden rise in popularity has less to do with flavor and more to do with reported several health benefits related to drinking these teas. 

Not only is the herbal drink a caffeine-free alternative to actual tea, but it’s also low in tannins. While tannins occur naturally in tea, coffee, and red wine, they leave stains on your teeth and may interfere with the body’s ability to process iron.

Rooibos tea also has loads of antioxidants, especially in the green varieties. The antioxidants in Rooibos tea contain polyphenols which can reduce inflammation and stress. Drinking Rooibos tea can temporarily boost the presence of these antioxidants in the body and help protect cells. Additionally, the antioxidants found in Rooibos teas are vital to heart health and good cholesterol levels.

Rooibos tea helps lower blood sugar levels

Though evidence is somewhat inconsistent, drinking Rooibos tea might help people with diabetes in terms of blood sugar levels and vascular health. Swapping Rooibos tea for other beverages can also lower blood sugar and help with weight loss. It has no calories and might boost metabolism in some people. 

There are reports of Rooibos tea easing allergy symptoms and digestive problems. Though this information is predominantly anecdotal, there is a long history of teas, especially herbal infusions, supporting the traditional management of these conditions.

Potential Side Effects & Risks

Like almost anything you can consume, Rooibos tea has the potential to cause an allergic reaction. 

Some also report an increase in liver enzymes, resulting in further complications. Use caution and talk to your doctor before ingesting Rooibos tea if you have liver issues.

There are also some reported drug interactions with Rooibos teas. If you take an ACE, a liver medication, or Lipitor for cholesterol, you may be at higher risk for an adverse reaction. Common medications associated with these conditions are ibuprofen, Warfarin, Zofran, and Celexa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you still have questions about what rooibos tea is? Check out these frequently asked questions and answer for more information.

How Does Rooibos Tea Taste?

Without additives, rooibos tea tastes a little nutty and earthy. The red varieties have sweeter undertones, while the green herbal infusions taste grassy, like traditional green tea. Add milk after brewing for extra creaminess and flavor.

What’s The Difference Between Red And Green Rooibos?

Red Rooibos tea is oxidized, meaning the leaves were exposed to oxygen to draw out the color and flavor. You get a sweeter taste from the reddish leaves. Green Rooibos tea is steamed and immediately dried to limit oxidation. The green leaf produces a grassier flavor, like green teas. 

If you liked this article check out Best Green Tea Brands.


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.