Commonly called African red tea, the product has been popular in South Africa for generations and is now consumed in many countries. We have included Honeybush in this list because it is similar to rooibos, both coming from the legume family, but they are distinct plants.
Rooibos and Honeybush are both caffeine free but have many of the same health properties as tea.
In 1903, Benjamin Ginsberg (a Russian settler to the Cape and descendant of a famous tea family) realised the potential of rooibos and began trading with the local Khoisan people who were harvesting it. He sold his "Mountain Tea" to settlers in the Cape and shortly became the first exporter of rooibos using contacts from the family tea business.
In the 1930s, Ginsberg convinced a local doctor to experiment with cultivation of the plant. The attempts were successful, which led Ginsberg to encourage local farmers to cultivate the plant in the hope that it would become a profitable venture. The first attempts at large volume cultivation were a disaster due to the small size of the seeds. They are no larger than a grain of sand and so were difficult to find and gather. This resulted in the seeds soaring to an astounding $156 a pound, which was far too expensive for local farmers.
Fortunately for Ginsberg, who employed collectors of the seeds, one woman had found a rather unusual source of supply. While other collectors only brought in matchbox-sized quantities of the seed, she continually delivered large bags and was eventually persuaded to share her secret. She chanced upon ants dragging seed one day, while she was searching for the minute seeds. She followed their trail back to their nest and, on breaking it open, found a granary. Since then, rooibos has grown in popularity in South Africa and since about 2002 or so, has gained considerable momentum in the worldwide market.
200 ml (about 7 ounces) of brewed Rooibos contains the following nutrients:
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