teALCHEMY travelled far far South to visit Cederberg- the only place worldwide where rooibos grows naturally! Cederberg is a rugged mountain range town just 200 km North of the busy city of Cape Town. Cederberg is warm and sunny almost all year and rooibos bushes like the one below grow wild!
Rooibos plants must be 18 months old before being harvested. When the plants are first harvested in summer, they have small yellow flowers and long green needles. Farmers perform the meticulous task of sorting seeds from the sand around the plants. The needles are then fermented overnight and left in the sun the next day to oxidize. It’s the fermentation process that brings out the plant’s deep amber colour.
In the final stages, the Rooibos is screened, pasteurized and processed on conveyor belts in the factory using machines like the one seen here. So how does your Rooibos get that deep red colour when it begins as a green and yellow bush? Natural enzymes in the plant revealed during the oxidation stage!
In South Africa, it’s common to prepare rooibos tea in the same manner as black tea and add milk and sugar to taste. Other methods include a slice of lemon, and honey for sweetening (instead of sugar). Recently, “red” lattes and cappuccinos are a hot commodity in South Africa, now becoming the rage in cafes all over the world. Here’s one example to try at home.
Cape Town Fog (a variation of London Fog)- Rooibos steeped in steamed milk with vanilla syrup
- 16 oz of milk. (2% or whole)
- 1 shot of vanilla syrup per 16 oz of milk
- 1 bag of rooibos tea
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- Brew a small amount of rooibos tea. Add about ½ cup of boiling water to a mug along with a bag of Earl Grey. The result is a rooibos tea concentrate. Let steep for 2-4 minutes to achieve optimum flavour.
- Heat up milk. Access to a steamer is preferred.
- Add the vanilla syrup. (adjust according to taste)