Looking for a caffeine-free alternative to tea? Look no further than Rooibos and Honeybush! These South African herbs are great substitutes for caffeinated green or black tea due to their similar flavor profiles. In addition, they have some pretty awesome flavors and properties of their own as well.
Rooibos, Aspalathus linearis, also commonly known as Red Bush, is part of the South African plant family Fabaceae. This is a naturally caffeine-free, shrub-like plant that is grown on the Western Cape of South Africa. The leaves of the Rooibos plant are cut and are either oxidized, producing what we know as Red Rooibos, or are unoxidized, producing what we know as Green Rooibos. In teas and tisanes, oxidation is the changing of the leaf color, which plays a large role in the different flavors. The oxidation process begins once the leaves are picked or cut, and is either arrested in some leaves or allowed and encouraged in others. Another example of oxidation is when you take a bite out of an apple, the spot where you took the bite will turn brown after some time. Because Red Rooibos is oxidized, it has a reddish brown color and rich flavor reminiscent of black tea, which is also oxidized. The Red Rooibos infusion is commonly described as a woody, mineral, and slightly sweet in flavor. Green Rooibos is unoxidized, so it retains a more green-ish leaf color and a lighter, brighter, grassy flavor.
We love both Red and Green Rooibos for their unique flavors and use them both in multiple blends. Unlike traditional tea, Camellia sinensis, Rooibos has very low levels of tannins, creating little to no astringency. While we love to add a little bit of honey, many Rooibos drinkers don't need to add any sweeteners because of the smooth, naturally sweet flavor. Additionally, many people choose to drink Rooibos because of the associated health benefits. For one, both Red and Green Rooibos are caffeine free, making these tisanes great to drink all day, especially in the evening. Rooibos is high in antioxidants and minerals, and is also sought after for its soothing properties.
Honeybush, or Cyclopia intermedia, is a cousin to Rooibos. This herb is commonly known as Honeybush because the flowers of this plant smell of honey. It is also part of the Fabaceae plant family and is commonly grown on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Honeybush leaves are oxidized after they are cut, producing a dark brown color and a full-bodied woodsy, sweet and slightly dark fruit flavor.
Similar to Rooibos, Honeybush has very low tannin levels, which produces a smooth, easy-to-drink brew, free from astringency. This tisane is also sought after for it's health benefits, including its high antioxidants. Also naturally caffeine-free, Honeybush is another great option for drinking all day and into the evening.
Curious about all three? Try our Tea Time for Africa sampler pack! This sampler features 1 ounce bags of Red Rooibos, Green Rooibos, and Honeybush so you can compare the flavors and decide which of these is your favorite. And don't forget to try them hot or iced - we find both delightful!