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Africa's Red Tea

Smooth, healthful and one of a kind.
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More and more rooibos teas and products containing rooibos are hitting the market as the red tea’s popularity grows. The owners of ZredT, a beverage company based in Baton Rouge, La., have released a certified-organic, ready-to-drink rooibos beverage line, which is steeped no less than 30 minutes for maximum antioxidant content. Available in Unsweetened, Lemon, Vanilla and Ginseng & Honey flavors, the specialty teas also contain added fiber, sourced from organic inulin found in vegetables.

Lisa Brown, a South African native and owner of the Hale Tea Company, based in Richmond Gill, Ga., was used to drinking rooibos hot, but living in the American south led her to experiment with blends of rooibos in iced tea. Now Brown is taking her native rooibos and combining it with other exotic ingredients like acai from South America.

Other products to look out for include cookies featuring rooibos extract from the Khaya Cookie Company and Adagio’s Rooibos Sampler that features a variety of rooibos tea combinations.

Unlike green, white, oolong and black teas, rooibos tea does not come from the plant camellia sineses. Instead, the spiny green leaves of the rooibos bush, native to the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa, are harvested once a year, crushed and fermented, during which time the green leaves turn red. After being sun-dried, the red leaves create what Westerners would refer to as red tea.

Native South Africans have been drinking the tea for centuries. Its distinctive properties not only provide a smooth and complex flavor, but the tea is also naturally high in antioxidants, magnesium and iron and contains no caffeine. Interestingly, the tea releases more antioxidants as it steeps; recommended steeping time is at least ten minutes.  —Dennis Marrero

Dennis Marrero is a regular foodspring.com contributor and is the author of foodspring’s food for change blog.

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