When i started into tea as a hobby, i’d never heard of Rooibos, let alone had any idea how to pronounce it (I’ve since heard it said four different ways). So what the heck is this thing and why does it have a whole category of tea to itself?
Rooibos (roy-bos) is an Afrikaans word for a South African red bush plant that’s a cousin of linearis. It’s been popular locally since time immemorial but probably “discovered” in Western colonial/ethnographic literature by Carl Thunberg in 1772. Dutch settlers first popularized it as an alternative to black tea. While we’re poking fun at European colonists, if one grew up drinking refined Darjeeling and Assam everyday, it could be quite the challenge to switch to locally brewed rooibos.
Bushman’s Skinny Tea (one of my crazier discoveries) was dug out of the random small batch spice packets found at the entrance to the Ann Arbor Spice Merchants (second floor of Kerrytown Shops). If it wasn’t labeled, most people probably couldn’t identify this as tea. It looks sort of like a curry powder colored bag of reddish brown crushed grasses and pine needles.
In scent Bushman’s Skinny is totally rooibos, which is to say kind of a very weak spice tea with a musty quality. If you happen to have a facial tissue handy, I highly encourage you to take a huge whiff of the unbrewed tea: it’s kind of intoxicating. But unlike a lot of other Rooibos, this one doesn’t have any special additive necessary to make it attractive to a contemporary Western consumer. The taste is replete with sawdust like powder and unfined ground salts. It has a smoky, even stingy aftertaste. Suffice it to say, it’s exotic.
Bushman’s Skinny tea is really made from honey bush rooibos, hoodia gorgonii cactus, citrus herbs, safflowers and jasmine buds. I couldn’t have told you there was jasmine in this tea. As a matter of fact, you could proably hide almost anything in this tea… Caution: may cause lip smacking and ridiculous googly eyes.